The Righteous Gemstones Mocks the Devotion in All of Us

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From Danny McBride, who co-created Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals with creative partner Jody Hill, comes his first solo series, The Righteous Gemstones.

The series focuses on a family of televangelists whose personal lives don't fit the notion that religious leaders are as pious as their persona would suggest.

Read on to find out if it's time well spent or if you'll be praying for the exit.

The Gemstones Tall

McBride's characters past and present are similar in that they have suspiciously high regard for themselves.

The Righteous Gemstones is packed with characters who boast enormous self-confidence, and if you've ever peeked into the world of televangelists, it seems a common trait.

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The Gemstones are a family of such evangelists who profess to live the life of God while spitting in the face of good morals when they step away from the pulpit.

At the TCA Summer Press Tour, McBride noted that televangelists aren't being singled out for religious purposes. Instead, the Gemstones are on display as hypocrites who present themselves one way and behave vastly contrary to that appearance.

The Gemstone Men

If that's the objective, then the Righteous Gemstones doesn't live up to expectations. Even their on-stage shenanigans present them as entitled and self-absorbed, craving attention as they deliver the word of God.

I entirely understand what McBride is trying to achieve here, but I'm not sure that using televangelists as his agent of hypocrisy is the right avenue.

So showing the Gemstones in all of their nasty glory doesn't go far toward "lampooning hypocrisy," as McBride said the series is wont to do because there aren't a lot of opportunities through the first six episodes exploring the contrary.

That isn't to say you will not find some of the crazier antics for which McBride is noted, nor is it to say some of the characters don't offer a deeper emotional connection even while engaged in some scurrilous activities.

Eli Gemstone

The family is led by patriarch Eli Gemstone (John Goodman) who rules over the empire and his family of two sons, a daughter, and several grandchildren as he clutches to the memory of his dearly departed wife, Aimee-Leigh (Jennifer Nettles) who was the clear star of the family and the enterprise.

McBride plays Jesse Gemstone, the undisputed leader of Eli's children and heir apparent for the throne. Continuity in the family business is always a great denominator for children of any empire, and it's no different for the Gemstone family.

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Youngest son, Kelvin (Adam Devine) reaches followers with his youthful, rock star approach. Often sporting acid-washed jeans, Kelvin is amassing a credible younger following and even has a true believer in Keefe Chambers (Tony Cavalero) who acts sort of like his Christian consigliere.

Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) flounders in the presence of her overbearing father and brothers while aching for their recognition as something more than their only female blood relative.

Jesse Gemstone

The series takes viewers on a journey with this family and their ascension to religious esteem while examining what the loss of Anna-Leigh meant for both.

How the empire grew to such success is discovered, at least in part, during six episodes.

It's with that backstory that the audience gets a feel for who these people were before fame claimed them and how they might be if all had not gone in their favor -- if a corrupted vision of the faith they purport to represent can really be considered "favor."

Walton Goggins is also aboard as Baby Billy Freeman, brother of the late Aimee-Leigh and a worthy if not worthwhile competitor for the devoted.

Kelvin Gemstone

The family dynamic gets tested when father-of-three and husband, Jesse, gets blackmailed and uses his friends and siblings to go to war against the blackmailer to rather disastrous results.

Overall, the characters are despicable, but when allowed to show their heart without lashing out at the imagined injustices they suffer being so wealthy and revered, you can almost imagine how, under different circumstances, they could be, dare I say it, likable.

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McBride is excellent as Jesse, but he's always enjoyable in roles he creates. Jesse has an almost cartoonish swagger when he walks that made me laugh every time Jesse moved on screen. McBride's dedication to such a simple but telling character trait is admirable.

Goodman, although terrific as usual, is more of a supporting player, offering the younger generation an opportunity to shine in his presence. Devine and Patterson are well suited to their quirky characters, and Goggins imbues Baby Billy with a touching amount of charm.

Kelvin Gemstone

The Righteous Gemstones isn't for the faint of heart as there is a lot of profanity, sexual situations, and a surprising amount of violence surrounding this sanctimonious bunch, but the comedy wouldn't work as well without all of that.

Jumping into a relatively crowded landscape of succession-oriented families with the most outrageous of the bunch, The Righteous Gemstones joins heightened drama Yellowstone and airs on the same night as HBO's unwittingly authentic satire, Succession. 

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While not as relatable as Eastbound and Down or Vice Principals, The Righteous Gemstones is an admirable effort from McBride and premieres Sunday, August 18 at 10/9c immediately following Succession only on HBO.


Editor Rating: 3.75 / 5.0
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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