The Righteous Gemstones: The Righteous Gemstones
August 19, 2019 10:32 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

The new series from the team behind Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals. Upon returning from a baptism marathon in China with his father Eli and brother Kelvin, Jesse Gemstone receives a video from blackmailers seeking to sully his reputation. Eli moves forward with plans to expand the Gemstone empire as he continues to mourn his late wife Aimee-Leigh.
posted by JimBennett (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Holy moly this was probably the most fun hour of TV I've seen in ages.
posted by General Malaise at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm fascinated that HBO would put this back-to-back with "Succession." Both are shows where I hate all the characters, but one I find funny and the other... not really. It doesn't help that every every person Danny Mcbride plays is a monstrous douche-bro.
posted by Marky at 2:26 PM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I haven't watched either Eastbound & Down or Vice Principals, and I'm not sure if this comparison makes me want to watch them more or less:
If either Eastbound & Down or Vice Principals were immediately off-putting for some, The Righteous Gemstones would seem a more fitting way to enter McBride’s loud, chaotic universe. It’s not nearly as purposefully unpleasant, as the season premiere, “The Righteous Gemstones,” mines more comedy out of strange family dynamics than it does cruel competition or toeing the line of what’s politically correct. There’s plenty of room for the show to go down that road at some point, but it’s remarkable how tame “The Righteous Gemstones” is compared to the series premieres of McBride’s past work.

Tame is a relative term, of course. There’s still plenty of crude humor here—it’s also an hour-long show, shifting away from the half-hour format that, arguably, kept Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals grounded by necessitating economical storytelling. There’s an incest joke early on, and plenty of punchlines involving dicks. But this is hardly the punishing humor that made Vice Principals a masterpiece of black comedy. Rather, “The Righteous Gemstones” feels like a more fine-tuned approach, one that’s perhaps less likely to dabble in the surrealism of Vice Principals and instead tell a more streamlined story...though one built on a foundation of curse words and childish antics.
Any way, I'm glad that this isn't "punishing humor," but a mildly absurd extension of what I expect to be the actual inner workings of MegaChurches, without blackmail from what might actually be The Devil (he cracked his jaw back into place!).

I'm an easy sell/ mark, so I found the fact that Brother Pastor Johnny Sessions was a woodworker was an amusing religious wink (Got Questions, a Biblical Q&A site).

And I'm not a Biblical scholar by any means, so I can't provide more context to the quoting of Luke 10:19 than link to Luke 10 (Bible Hub), if you want to read the verse as part of the larger chapter.

But In reading on, I could see a message to/about Kelvin, and maybe Judy:
21 At that time, Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and declared, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was well-pleasing in Your sight.

22 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”
So will Kelvin, and maybe Judy, do well, because they're the more innocent ones here? I expect there is more religious symbolism and meaning packed into this, but it's been a while since I was religious.

Parting note: it sounds like the early screeners of this were edited to be 30 minute episodes, per this A.V. Club Pre-Air review --
The Righteous Gemstones might be the only 30-minute show that would benefit from a longer runtime.
So maybe it was designed as 12 episodes, but re-edited and presented as 6?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

nah the pilot was shot as an hour long episode but the rest of the season (9 more episodes, not 6) will be half hour-is episodes,though danny said HBO was generous with allowing them to go over time if they needed to. he also said the series mostly uses the megachurch as a backdrop for the epic family drama he's trying to tell, i'm not sure how explicitly allegorical the show will get but it's always possible they ramp that up in later seasons, too.

i think if you liked this episode you would like their other shows. vice principals is mean spirited but becomes something completely unexpected in it's second season, and eastbound is, for my money, one of the greatest comedies of the modern age of television.
posted by JimBennett at 12:20 PM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ah, thanks for the info JB. And I'll check the others out.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:53 PM on August 20, 2019

Several moments made us laugh out loud, particularly when the scenes when Jesse kisses his sons goodnight. I am so hoping that we get to see Gideon this season.
posted by Ber at 1:02 PM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think kids turned me into a real sap, because those scenes kinda got me. I worry that my kids will be too cool for dad's affection, or worse, become homophobic despite everything we teach them. And Gideon? Was he like Pontius, but all grown up and able to move away from his hypocritical, crazy home? Or did something happen.

I imagine we will see him (unless that's a string that carries through into next season). I was bad and went to IMDb to see if a Gideon was listed in the cast, and at this time, there is not.

Also, Pontius is an interesting choice of names. As is Kelvin (Wikipedia x2), for that matter. Jesse and Judy are pretty broad/ generic names, and Abraham, well, that's a proper biblical name.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on August 22, 2019

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