When the principal (Bill Murray) of North Jackson High retires to take care of his ailing wife, his two vice principals attempt to fill the power vacuum. But for the students of NJHS, this could be an absolute disaster because these two men are train wrecks.
On one side, the rule-oriented Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) dictates behavior with his loud, profane barking at students, faculty, and staff; on the other, Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) shallowly covers his ambitious scheming with schmoozing. These two foul-mouthed administrators each believe that they will be the next principal – until the School Board sends in college professor (and actual educator) Dr. Belinda Brown (Kimberly Herbert Gregory) into the the school. Suddenly, rather than vying for different elements of the school to like them better than the other, they are united against this common threat.
While the show has its funny moments, the overall trajectory is a downward spiral of self-destruction and brokenness. Vice Principals is like a school-based sitcom with Married with Children mixed in: we watch this kind of comedy to feel better about ourselves. Frankly, McBride and Goggins are spot-on as absolutely ridiculous and over-the-top creeps, even when they’re not burning down Brown’s house. Their inability to appropriately interact with other people is even worse.
One of the saddest (and sometimes funny) side stories is Gamby’s ‘family’ life. He has no friends at school and can’t seem to connect with Amanda Snodgrass (Georgia King), the new English teacher he has his eyes on. But he tries to stay involved in the life of his daughter, which draws him into the circle of his ex-wife, Gale (Busy Philippe), and her new husband, Ray (Shea Whigham). The thing is that Ray might be the most wholesome person on the show, and Gamby can’t see it because his whole vibe is so messed up!
HBO’s new comedy hits on dysfunction, and thrives on brokenness. I doubt it’ll be used in an educational snippets in schools, but some educators may find that the uncensored take on school is really what their inner monologue wants to say. Vice Principals proves that sometimes, what we don’t say could be as important as what we do say.