A tel­e­van­ge­list fam­ily doesn’t have a prayer in ‘The Right­eous Gem­stones’

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Ontv - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

On the sur­face, the Gem­stones are a fam­ily of tel­e­van­ge­lists who have been do­ing God’s work for two gen­er­a­tions and are beloved by mil­lions. But be­neath it, they all suf­fer from the very hu­man frail­ties of lust, envy and greed.

And that’s what gets them in trou­ble in “The Right­eous Gem­stones,” a halfhour com­edy se­ries from Danny McBride (“East­bound & Down,” “Vice Prin­ci­pals”) that pre­mieres Sun­day, Aug. 18, on HBO. Here, McBride stars as Jesse Gem­stone, the old­est child and heir ap­par­ent to the Gem­stone em­pire run by fa­ther Eli (John Good­man, “The Con­ners”), a man with solid busi­ness sense who has been left bro­ken by the death of his dear wife Aimee-Leigh (coun­try artist Jen­nifer Net­tles).

Also fig­ur­ing into min­istry’s equa­tion are youngest child Kelvin (Adam Devine, “Pitch Per­fect”), a pseudo hip­ster and per­sis­tent thorn in Jesse’s side; and Judy (Edi Pat­ter­son, “Vice Prin­ci­pals”), who se­cretly lives with her fi­ancé and dreams of es­cap­ing the fam­ily com­pound.

But those prob­lems are minute com­pared to what sur­faces in the pre­miere episode – a video show­ing Jesse with hook­ers and oth­ers in var­i­ous states of un­dress par­tak­ing in drugs and plea­sures of the flesh. And when black­mail­ers de­mand pay­ment to keep the video from go­ing pub­lic, Jesse and his sib­lings set about try­ing to make the whole thing go away, keep­ing the min­istry’s name clear and pre­vent­ing Dad from find­ing out, lest Jesse lose what he sees as his birthright. Of course, that doesn’t go too well.

“I think he sort of imag­ines that one day this will all be his,” McBride ex­plains, “but I think he sort of lacks the moral com­pass for it. And he’s strug­gling with the idea that he might be like handed the king­dom that he’s not re­ally cut out to lead.”

It turns out he’s not a great leader in his own home ei­ther. He’s un­faith­ful to his de­voted wife Am­ber (Cas­sidy Free­man, “Long­mire”), a for­mer jour­nal­ist, and his kids hate him. He is also some­thing of a kid him­self, bick­er­ing child­ishly with his sib­lings and not com­port­ing him­self as some­one who seeks great re­spon­si­bil­ity and to do the Lord’s work.

As for Eli, he is just an empty shell of a man deal­ing with his wife’s death the only way he knows how – by throw­ing him­self into the busi­ness.

“That’s the only thing he had and he doesn’t re­ally do that very well,” Good­man says. “He’s pretty shat­tered. Yeah, he’s kind of I guess look­ing at his kids more to hope­fully take over but I don’t think he re­ally be­lieves that . ... It ba­si­cally comes down to fo­cus­ing on a ca­reer and the church in­stead of the chil­dren and the seeds of that bear bit­ter fruit.”

Danny McBride stars in “The Right­eous Gem­stones,” pre­mier­ing Sun­day on HBO.

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