Replacement of boardrooms with mega churches, private planes and limousines with handlebar-studded Cadillacs and glittering party buses, and gorgeous suits and designer dresses with leopard-printed shoes and white cowboy hats, The righteous gems is an insane Southern state televangelist variation over Succession.
Returning to HBO for his second season on Jan. 9, Danny McBride’s alternately absurdist and heartfelt insults from those who sell religion for profit are a akin to the cable network’s dramatic powerhouse, filled with toxic masculine dysfunction and hostile tensions between legitimate sons who want. to inherit the empires of their fathers (and deserve their love) while establishing their own independence. In the same way as McBride’s Eastbound & Down and Deputy Superintendents, it’s a portrait of pathetically mad, narcissistic men and the aspiring women who can not resist them, and in its recent course it rises in almost every respect.
As can be seen from the opening scene of the second season, The righteous gems has also not lost its penchant for full-frontal nudity, and the fact that its first shot of a penis is accompanied by someone remarking, “Hey, that’s a nice cock!” shows that it greatly enjoys its childishness. Such joy is part of the fun of the McBrides show, which (produced and directed by longtime collaborators David Gordon Green and Jody Hill) exhibits an overwhelming desire to do the craziest thing possible at any given time. It pertains to the abundance of funny plot lines that run through this nine-episode narrative, but so does its dialogue, which overflows with profane insults that appear to have been fabricated by legally demented individuals. Which, of course, is the case, at least fictitiously, since the gems and their many friends and enemies are all cut from a similarly deceived garment.
A brief prologue in the premiere episode reveals that Gemstone Patriarch Eli (John Goodman) first lived as a Memphis wrestler, known as Maniac Kid, and that in his spare time he used to break fingers for his promoter boss Glendon (Wayne Duvall) with the help of the man’s son Junior. Nowadays, Junior (now played by Eric Roberts with snake oil salesman charm) appears in Eli’s life and immediately revives his more limb-snapping violent side, thereby strengthening his sense of strength and making him drop all thoughts of handing over the keys to his rich over to his children. Unsurprisingly, it does not go down well with his eldest son Jesse (McBride), who along with the loyal schematic wife Amber (Cassidy Freeman) is keen to take control of the family ministry. To show he’s worthy, Jesse enters into a partnership with Texas TV player Lyle Lissons (Eric André) to build a tropical Christian resort called Zion’s Landing. The problem is, he needs $ 10 million to do it, and he does not have the money, and he can not convince his father to lend them when he claimed he managed this business on his own.
As a hassle who is more independent and less talented than his father, Jesse’s dilemma is that he wants to put Eli out on grass and yet desperately needs his help and desires his approval, and that push-pull is the lifeblood of The righteous gems, whose new narrative is filled with further divisions between parents and offspring. Jesse’s brother Kelvin (Adam Devine) is still trying to prove his manhood to Eli through fiercely homoerotic means, this time via a Good Squad of hypermuscular minions overseen by his strange reformed satanic boy toy BFF Keefe (Tony Cavalero). Sister Judy (Edi Patterson) falls into her own nurturing dynamic with Tiffany (Valyn Hall), the pregnant hill wife of Baby Billy (Walton Goggins, who steals every scene), who herself has a dark story of paternal abandonment. Junior has long been alienated from his violent pop Glendon. And like Jesse, Lyle is a “firstborn” who pushed his own father out of the way to take over his religious organization.
All ind The righteous gems has got an ugly father who will not give the necessary affection and help, and thus give birth to self-hatred, bitterness and psychotic behavior – and when that is not the case, the series exhibits its characters as simply direct clowns who are hung up on their manhood. Nowhere is the series’ spread of macho attitudes more amusing than with Judy’s creepy husband BJ (Tim Baltz), whose name is an ironic commentary on his masculine nature, and who is eager to demonstrate his loyalty to the Gemstone clan by being baptized against the wishes of his own agnostic family. It culminates in a lavish ceremony and party where BJ wears what is perhaps the most entertaining quirky outfit of recent times, and it reinforces the notion that he is Tom Wambsgans in this clan if Tom was a ridiculously feminine idiot who was obsessed with expressing his Y chromosome value while making sure to speak and act in gender-specific terms.
“BJ wears what is perhaps the most entertaining quirky outfit of recent times … he is this clan of Tom Wambsgans, if Tom was a ridiculously feminine idiot obsessed with expressing his Y-chromosomal value at the same time as he makes sure to speak and act in gender-respectable terms.”
The appearance of the curious New York reporter Thaniel (Jason Schwartzman) is a catalyst for even more chaos, though The righteous gems really thrives thanks to its litany of select one-liners; Repeating any of them here would be anticlimactic, since the beauty of McBride, Green, and Hill’s triumph on a small screen is the way it broadcasts its exaggerated exclamations in appropriately obscene and absurd scenarios. McBrides Jesse is the corrupt soul in these cases, his arrogant greed and ambition is almost as great as his pathetic longing for confirmation from both his father and his peers (whom he mocks). He is complemented by one of the best casts on television, where Patterson in particular has proven more than willing to match his male colleagues in the me-first vulgarity department. Her Judy is just as intimidatingly disturbed as her other cock-swingers, making her ties to BJ often the series’ best source of comedy.
The gems may be horrible people, though The righteous gems nevertheless have empathy for their pitifulness and treat them less like hateful villains than like funny idiots who are driven and / or bred to trample on competition to get what they want and to use Christ (and the goodness of the pious ) as a means for their own purposes. It’s hard to imagine that devout Americans – the kind who attend arenas every Sunday to hear the word of God, or watch Joel Osteen and his like on television preach to the masses – kindly accept this portrayal of the church, which is everything other than flattering. That said, even they might find a delight in McBride and the company’s brand of unbridled humor, where everyone is a wandering punchline who is ultimately destined to receive a punch – or, as in the season’s funniest youth play, a bang of baby vomit on face.