It might be time to add HBO back to your cable package. The network has spent the better part of the last two years stockpiling shows from seemingly all parts of the Hollywood gene pool, and the fruits of those labors are just about to start paying off in 2009. To wit: HBO has just announced the starting dates for two of their more highly anticipated shows in the new year, Eastbound and Down and The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
A long list of comedy heavyweights are involved with Eastbound and Down. Danny McBride of Pineapple Express fame ("You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherfucker!") stars as a former major league baseball star who becomes a disgraced small-town gym teacher; funnymen Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are two of the producers (Mr. Ferrell also makes an appearance on the show); and Jody Hill directs the pilot. If you don’t know Mr. Hill from the cult hit The Foot Fist Way (also starring Mr. McBride), chances are you’ll be reading a lot about him after the Judd Apatow-produced Observe and Report storms through theaters this April. Phew! This show has a ton of pedigree, doesn’t it? We’ve seen clips from Eastbound and Down, and while we still don’t fully understand the drawing power of Mr. McBride (or his mullet), it does look like an ideal show for HBO to use to broaden its horizons. For too long the network has pigeonholed itself with either light, inside-Hollywood comedies (Entourage, Extras, Curb Your Enthusiasm) or heavy, Shakespeareanish dramas (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, The Wire). Eastbound and Down is goofy, slapsticky and, most importantly, southern. That has to count for something! Look for it to premiere on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 10:30 p.m., following Flight of the Conchords.
Meanwhile, if dick jokes aren’t your strong suit, perhaps you might be more interested in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. Based on the popular series of novels by Alexander McCall Smith about a female-owned detective agency in Botswana, the show will be the last chance for anyone to see new material from the late Anthony Minghella; the Oscar winner helmed the pilot before passing away last spring. (Incidentally, the late Sydney Pollack is a producer on the series as well.) The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency stars Jill Scott and is a collaborative effort between HBO and the BBC, so you know it must be good. And like Eastbound and Down, it also represents another opportunity for network diversification. We’re pretty sure there isn’t another show on television that The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency resembles. Look for it to premiere on March 29.