McBride Hits Another Home Run with The Righteous Gemstones

The Righteous Gemstones

Well into the second generation of a grand televangelist tradition, the world-famous Gemstone family is living proof that worship pays dividends in all sizes. Patriarch Eli, the man most responsible for the tremendous success of the family's megachurch, is in mourning over the loss of his wife. Jesse, the eldest of the three grown Gemstone siblings, looks to lead in his father's footsteps, but finds his past sins jeopardizing the family ministry. Next in line comes middle sister Judy, who secretly lives with her fiancé and dreams of escaping the Gemstone compound. Rounding out the dysfunctional trio is pseudo-hipster Kelvin, the youngest of the preachers and a thorn in Jesse's side. As the family battles numerous threats to their renowned religious empire, they continue to spread the good word... and make a solid buck doing so.

What if Danny McBride redid East Bound and Down—but this time with Kenny Powers as a pastor? Created by McBride, the series initially seems content to coast on the humor of that premise. But it gradually cracks the cynicism with which it frames its characters and their work, offering poignant glimpses into their inner lives. The Righteous Gemstones is a hilariously compelling and somewhat humanizing study of a preaching family, their faith and the world they strive to proselytize.

McBride has a flair for comic set pieces: the series opens with a very funny scene at a mass baptism in what turns out to be a Chinese wave pool–complete with sirens, flashing lights and a pop soundtrack. McBride's Jesse Gemstone, whose seems to have stepped straight out of the Tammy Faye Bakker era, is a perfect characterization of that time period and nails his character to a tee.

The Righteous Gemstones premiere episode's hour-long length gives it time for proper world-building, teasing out future characters. Both Walton Goggins and Dermot Mulroney appear to be serious scene-chewers for the full season, which IMDb suggests will be an 8 episode run.

The Righteous Gemstones can be seen every Sunday at 10pm on HBO.

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