A few years ago, Danny McBride was at home in South Carolina when he was called up by Kanye West. The rapper wanted the very white actor/screenwriter to play him in the movie of his life. They then spent the day together, fishing and playing Fortnite. Now, as West seems to have become the pastor of his own church, McBride has launched The Righteous Gemstones, a black comedy series about an oddball family of superstar evangelicals. Coincidence?
We were there first! McBride says, laughing. Great minds think alike, I guess.
Its no surprise West was drawn to McBride. For much of his career, McBride has written about and portrayed difficult men who mask insecurity, self-loathing and heartache beneath layers of bluster and bravado. Thanks to cult series such as Eastbound & Down and Vice Principals, hes also become one of our greatest comic storytellers. Much like Seth Rogen, his co-star in the comedies Pineapple Express (2008), This Is the End (2013) and Sausage Party (2016), McBride makes entertainment to get stoned to soaking you in colour, silliness and deliberate provocation, before hitting you with sudden profundity. 
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In a lot of comedies, and movies especially, I would start out laughing in the first act and Id be invested by the second act, but then by the third act I rarely gave a s***, the 43-year-old explains. It was always some convoluted climax that just [fell apart]. For me, I want to make things that add up to more than a punchline. In order to do that, you have to have heart in there, it has to be about something ultimately. I dont want someone to know what theyre gonna get. I like to sucker-punch people once they sit down. 
Sitting in a London hotel room, McBride is both heavily reminiscent of the characters that have brought him fame, as well as far removed. He speaks with the same gruff and breathless delivery as many of his wrong-headed creations, and occasionally mirrors their hard-done-by cynicism when it comes to his critics. Yet hes also personable, upbeat and politically astute in a way that they often arent. Dressed in a leather jacket, trainers and a shirt decorated in an illustration of a cowboy, McBride embodies Deep South grit by way of a luxury clothing store.  
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1/30 30. Homeland (season 1, 2011)
Few dead horses have been more flogged, but if you stretch your mind back enough, it is possible to remember a series with a fantastic premise that kept us guessing for 12 whole episodes. The question: had returning war hero Sgt Brody (Damian Lewis) been radicalised in a foreign jail cell? CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) thought so, but she had plenty of problems of her own. I still think it would have been better if he’d detonated at the denouement. Twisty, compelling, briefly essential. (EC)
2/30 29. Mum (2016-2019)
The slow-burning relationship between Cathy (Lesley Manville), a widow and mother of superhuman forbearance, and her late husbands best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) elevated what could have been a run-of-the-mill suburban comedy into a beautifully composed portrait of friendship, grief and mid-life romance. (FS)
3/30 28. Handmaid’s Tale (2017- )
Hulus adaptation of Margaret Atwoods 1985 novel, set in a pious patriarchal state, lost its way in the second series, but the first, which arrived a few months after Trump entered the White House, was a triumph. As Offred, Elisabeth Moss seethed under her mask of impassivity, while the rich palette gave us a dystopian nightmare as imagined by the 17th-century Dutch school. (FS)
4/30 27. Money Heist (2017- )
Perhaps the trashiest show on this list, but trash of the highest grade, Money Heist is Netflix’s most popular non-English series, a hit across Europe and South America, with 34m accounts watching this year’s Part 3 in its first week of release. A mysterious mastermind known as The Professor gathers together a crew of misfit criminals to execute a robbery on the Royal Mint in Spain. Tense, funny, clever and often completely preposterous, La Casa del Papel has only been held back by its off-putting English title. (EC)
5/30 26. Rick and Morty (2013- )
It unfortunately inspired some of the worst fans on the internet, but that shouldn’t detract from Rick and Morty’s inventiveness. Ostensibly a parody of Back to the Future, about the adventures of a young boy and his alcoholic, mad scientist grandfather, the cartoon uses its set-up to put its heroes in an endless number of frenetic, frequently insane situations. Blink and you miss a gag and two pop-culture references. (EC)
6/30 25. The Returned (2012-2015)
This exquisite French series is about the dead trying to return to their old lives in a secluded mountain town dispensed with the usual gory zombie tropes, instead dwelling on the human instincts of these confused beings specifically their desire to love and be loved ­ and the grief experienced by those they left behind. (FS)
7/30 24. Catastrophe (2015-19)
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney were a masterful double act in this sitcom about a holiday fling resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. The pairs attempts to build a life together yielded scabrous gags about sex and post-partum leakage, a cameo from the late Carrie Fisher and an underlying tenderness that resisted spilling into sentimentality. (FS)
8/30 23. Killing Eve (2018-)
A wicked cocktail of comedy and humanity, shock and gore, the first series of Killing Eve, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was a subversive joy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer played, respectively, a spy and an assassin whose continental game of cat-and-mouse was a blood-spattered love story for the ages. Sadly, when Waller-Bridge handed off writing duties in the second series, the magic wasn’t quite the same. (FS)
9/30 22. Borgen (2010-2013)
The Killing may have started the Scandi craze, but it aired in Denmark in 2007, so it doesn’t count for these purposes. Borgen was everything The West Wing wasn’t: a cliché-resistant drama that showed politics in grating reality, with plenty of plausible schemers in slick outfits and a wonderful central performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister trying to balance principles with power. (EC)
10/30 21. Detectorists (2014-17)
Following the exploits of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook), dedicated treasure hunters and members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, Detectorists was about people and their passions, community and camaraderie. Its a wonderfully tranquil meditation on male companionship. (FS)
11/30 20. The Americans (2013-2018)
Where other series burn brightly and fade after a couple of years, FX’s Cold War spy drama took its time. Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell, married in real life, shone as the Russian couple working as spies in suburban Washington DC. The tension built over six seasons to a magnificent finale, rewarding those who stuck with it. (EC)
12/30 19. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
The premise is one of the most intriguing in television: people struggling to come to terms with something called the “Sudden Departure”, a mysterious event in whichtwo per cent of the world’s population simply disappeared. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s drama received iffy reviews at first, but its reputation grew through its second and final outings, with writing and performances that explored the full depth of the setup without losing the pervasive air of mystery. (EC)
13/30 18. The Crown (2016- )
The third series is a noticeable drop-off in quality, but for two series The Crown achieved a number of unexpected feats. It made viewers genuinely interested in the Royal Family, and not in a Prince Andrew “should they go to prison?” kind of way. With sumptuous sets and costumes and some excellent performances, especially Claire Foy as the young monarch, this remains the high-water mark of Netflix polish proof that money can, sometimes, buy you love. (EC)
14/30 17. The Great British Bake Off (2010- )
Reports of the death of TVs baking behemoth have been greatly exaggerated: despite host departures, a channel move and the off-screen antics of a certain perma-tanned judge, this big-hearted competition in which friendships are forged and adults weep over sagging soufflés remains the ultimate feel-good reality show. (FS)
15/30 16. The Trip (2010- )
Two men bicker over bottles of fine wine. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydons low-key, semi-improvised and implausibly funny tours of high-end European restaurants saw the pairs insecurities deliciously laid bare as they discussed sex, ageing and ambition. Michael Winterbottom directed. (FS)
16/30 15. Happy Valley (2014- )
This Yorkshire-set, Bafta-festooned series gave us Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), a pleasingly complex, no-nonsense police sergeant up to her neck in rapists, murderers, addicts and the odd ailing sheep, together with some superbly earthy dialogue courtesy of writer Sally Wainwright. (FS)
17/30 14. Girls (2012-2017)
Without Girls there is no Fleabag or Adam Driver, and it would probably merit inclusion on those two facts alone. But Lena Dunham now attracts as much opprobrium as praise, and it’s easy to forget how new her breakthrough comedy felt in its naturalistic depiction of young women in New York. This was Sex and the City for people who spent more time on Instagram than at work, created by people the same age as those they were portraying. Its look and feel have cast a long shadow. (EC)
18/30 13. Sherlock (2010- )
Witty, inventive and dazzling to look at, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatisss relocation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories to the present day worked beautifully, as did the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the high-functioning sociopath Holmes and Martin Freeman as the put-upon army veteran Watson. While later series would drift, the first three were unbeatable. (FS)
19/30 12. Chernobyl (2019)
A five-part drama about a nuclear disaster in 1986 is not the most promising prospect for a night in with a bottle of wine. It is a tribute to the writer, Craig Mazin, and director, Johan Renck, as well as its cast, especially Jared Harris, that Chernobyl managed to be totally gripping, with frequent moments of stark, horrendous beauty. (EC)
20/30 11. Atlanta (2016- )
At first, the musician and comedian Donald Glover’s series about struggling rappers in Atlanta looked like a familiar, safe kind of sitcom about loveable losers. But it quickly evolved into something fresh: a smart, occasionally surreal examination of life at the margins of America, whose angry heart never spilled into preachiness or got in the way of the jokes. (EC)
21/30 10. Love Island (2015- )
Who could have anticipated a dating show in which twenty-somethings sit around in microscopic swimwear would tell us so much about the human condition? Gaslighting, bromances, the complexities of girl code Love Island delved beneath the spray tans and schooled the nation on modern manners. (FS)
22/30 9. Patrick Melrose (2018)
An electrifying study of addiction, trauma and the corrupting power of privilege, based on the autobiographical books by Edward St Aubyn. Benedict Cumberbatch played the feckless antihero grappling with his past and trying (and mostly failing) to be better than the wretched aristos that raised him. (FS)
23/30 8. The Vietnam War (2017)
Ken Burns’s epic 10-part documentary followed up his other conflict opuses, on The Civil War and The War, with a detailed story about Vietnam. Using new interviews from both sides as well as archive footage, the documentary shows in unrelenting detail a catastrophe that unfolded in slow motion. Some critics accused it of underserving the experience of the Vietnamese civilians. But it left viewers in no doubt that not only did the US leadership pursue it long after it was a lost cause, but they knew from the start it was unwinnable. (EC)
24/30 7. Black Mirror (2011- )
Charlie Brooker sent every other TV critic, or at least one of them, into a spiral of envy by proving not only that it was possible to cross over into creation, but to do so in style. Black Mirror’s taut near-future tales of techno-dystopia are almost always interesting, even if they sometimes fall short of their ambitions, as with the high-concept recent film, “Bandersnatch”. The best episodes, like 2016’s tour de force, “San Junipero”, are gripping examinations of human connection in a world where interactions are increasingly by screens. (EC)
25/30 6. Blue Planet II (2017)
The first of the Attenborough documentaries to speak directly of the human impact on the natural world, this kaleidoscopic ocean odyssey provided a visual feast of clam-cracking tuskfish, alien-looking pyrosomes and anthropomorphic ­dolphins, while reminding us how it could all be lost. (FS)
26/30 5. BoJack Horseman (2014- )
Only in a world of Netflix budgets can you imagine a concept as wild as BoJack Horsemans getting off the ground. It’s a cartoon set in LA, ostensibly a comedy about celebrity, except half the characters, including its lead, are anthropomorphised animals. Halfway through its final season, which has been split into two, its initial zaniness has given way to something darker and more interesting. Lurid colours and visual wit dress one of the most humane explorations of depression, addiction and cycles of abuse. (EC)
27/30 4. Fleabag (2016-19)
What began, in its first series, as an enjoyably acid-tongued portrait of modern womanhood became a fully fledged masterpiece in the second. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag gave us perfectly calibrated scenes of familial dysfunction and sexual longing the latter memorably culminating in the Priests simple, thrilling instruction: Kneel. (FS)
28/30 3. This is England (2010-15)
The first spin-off series from Shane Meadows 2007 film, about a gang of ex-skinheads from the Midlands, was set during the 1986 World Cup, and remains one of the great British dramas, depicting working class lives with humanity and humour. This is England 88 and 90 followed, both of them similarly infused with heart and soul. (FS)
29/30 2. Succession (2018- )
Said to have been a decade in the making, Succession is worth every minute spent on it. Brian Cox enjoys a dream of a late-career role as Logan Roy, the ageing media tycoon unwilling to relinquish control of his company to any of his ungrateful and talentless children. There’s oblivious eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), troubled addict Kendall (Jeremy Strong), scheming daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and abrasive youngest Roman (Kieran Culkin), along with a host of hangers-on, partners and support staff. None of them seem to have the right stuff. It’s an intriguing set-up, but Succession is lifted by its script, performances, locations, costumes, music and direction, which place it firmly in a tradition of laughing at our rulers, where the mirth comes tempered with the knowledge that these are really the people in charge. (EC)
30/30 1. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Yes, the final series went a bit weird. Maybe the final two series. A case could be made that the TV adaptation was never as emotionally resonant when it went beyond George RR Martin’s novels. The final series were only disappointing compared to what had come before, which was a fantasy on an unprecedented scale that managed to be grandiose without slipping into melodrama. An invented universe with necromancers, dragons, magic swords and ice zombies was notable for its plausible realpolitik. At a time when viewing tastes were meant to be becoming more atomised, Game of Thrones was global event TV, which made household names of the Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys and provided a whole generation of English character actors with a regular income. (EC)
1/30 30. Homeland (season 1, 2011)
Few dead horses have been more flogged, but if you stretch your mind back enough, it is possible to remember a series with a fantastic premise that kept us guessing for 12 whole episodes. The question: had returning war hero Sgt Brody (Damian Lewis) been radicalised in a foreign jail cell? CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) thought so, but she had plenty of problems of her own. I still think it would have been better if he’d detonated at the denouement. Twisty, compelling, briefly essential. (EC)
2/30 29. Mum (2016-2019)
The slow-burning relationship between Cathy (Lesley Manville), a widow and mother of superhuman forbearance, and her late husbands best pal Michael (Peter Mullan) elevated what could have been a run-of-the-mill suburban comedy into a beautifully composed portrait of friendship, grief and mid-life romance. (FS)
3/30 28. Handmaid’s Tale (2017- )
Hulus adaptation of Margaret Atwoods 1985 novel, set in a pious patriarchal state, lost its way in the second series, but the first, which arrived a few months after Trump entered the White House, was a triumph. As Offred, Elisabeth Moss seethed under her mask of impassivity, while the rich palette gave us a dystopian nightmare as imagined by the 17th-century Dutch school. (FS)
4/30 27. Money Heist (2017- )
Perhaps the trashiest show on this list, but trash of the highest grade, Money Heist is Netflix’s most popular non-English series, a hit across Europe and South America, with 34m accounts watching this year’s Part 3 in its first week of release. A mysterious mastermind known as The Professor gathers together a crew of misfit criminals to execute a robbery on the Royal Mint in Spain. Tense, funny, clever and often completely preposterous, La Casa del Papel has only been held back by its off-putting English title. (EC)
5/30 26. Rick and Morty (2013- )
It unfortunately inspired some of the worst fans on the internet, but that shouldn’t detract from Rick and Morty’s inventiveness. Ostensibly a parody of Back to the Future, about the adventures of a young boy and his alcoholic, mad scientist grandfather, the cartoon uses its set-up to put its heroes in an endless number of frenetic, frequently insane situations. Blink and you miss a gag and two pop-culture references. (EC)
6/30 25. The Returned (2012-2015)
This exquisite French series is about the dead trying to return to their old lives in a secluded mountain town dispensed with the usual gory zombie tropes, instead dwelling on the human instincts of these confused beings specifically their desire to love and be loved ­ and the grief experienced by those they left behind. (FS)
7/30 24. Catastrophe (2015-19)
Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney were a masterful double act in this sitcom about a holiday fling resulting in an unplanned pregnancy. The pairs attempts to build a life together yielded scabrous gags about sex and post-partum leakage, a cameo from the late Carrie Fisher and an underlying tenderness that resisted spilling into sentimentality. (FS)
8/30 23. Killing Eve (2018-)
A wicked cocktail of comedy and humanity, shock and gore, the first series of Killing Eve, written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was a subversive joy. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer played, respectively, a spy and an assassin whose continental game of cat-and-mouse was a blood-spattered love story for the ages. Sadly, when Waller-Bridge handed off writing duties in the second series, the magic wasn’t quite the same. (FS)
9/30 22. Borgen (2010-2013)
The Killing may have started the Scandi craze, but it aired in Denmark in 2007, so it doesn’t count for these purposes. Borgen was everything The West Wing wasn’t: a cliché-resistant drama that showed politics in grating reality, with plenty of plausible schemers in slick outfits and a wonderful central performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the Prime Minister trying to balance principles with power. (EC)
10/30 21. Detectorists (2014-17)
Following the exploits of Lance (Toby Jones) and Andy (Mackenzie Crook), dedicated treasure hunters and members of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club, Detectorists was about people and their passions, community and camaraderie. Its a wonderfully tranquil meditation on male companionship. (FS)
11/30 20. The Americans (2013-2018)
Where other series burn brightly and fade after a couple of years, FX’s Cold War spy drama took its time. Matthew Rhys and Kerri Russell, married in real life, shone as the Russian couple working as spies in suburban Washington DC. The tension built over six seasons to a magnificent finale, rewarding those who stuck with it. (EC)
12/30 19. The Leftovers (2014-2017)
The premise is one of the most intriguing in television: people struggling to come to terms with something called the “Sudden Departure”, a mysterious event in whichtwo per cent of the world’s population simply disappeared. Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s drama received iffy reviews at first, but its reputation grew through its second and final outings, with writing and performances that explored the full depth of the setup without losing the pervasive air of mystery. (EC)
13/30 18. The Crown (2016- )
The third series is a noticeable drop-off in quality, but for two series The Crown achieved a number of unexpected feats. It made viewers genuinely interested in the Royal Family, and not in a Prince Andrew “should they go to prison?” kind of way. With sumptuous sets and costumes and some excellent performances, especially Claire Foy as the young monarch, this remains the high-water mark of Netflix polish proof that money can, sometimes, buy you love. (EC)
14/30 17. The Great British Bake Off (2010- )
Reports of the death of TVs baking behemoth have been greatly exaggerated: despite host departures, a channel move and the off-screen antics of a certain perma-tanned judge, this big-hearted competition in which friendships are forged and adults weep over sagging soufflés remains the ultimate feel-good reality show. (FS)
15/30 16. The Trip (2010- )
Two men bicker over bottles of fine wine. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydons low-key, semi-improvised and implausibly funny tours of high-end European restaurants saw the pairs insecurities deliciously laid bare as they discussed sex, ageing and ambition. Michael Winterbottom directed. (FS)
16/30 15. Happy Valley (2014- )
This Yorkshire-set, Bafta-festooned series gave us Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire), a pleasingly complex, no-nonsense police sergeant up to her neck in rapists, murderers, addicts and the odd ailing sheep, together with some superbly earthy dialogue courtesy of writer Sally Wainwright. (FS)
17/30 14. Girls (2012-2017)
Without Girls there is no Fleabag or Adam Driver, and it would probably merit inclusion on those two facts alone. But Lena Dunham now attracts as much opprobrium as praise, and it’s easy to forget how new her breakthrough comedy felt in its naturalistic depiction of young women in New York. This was Sex and the City for people who spent more time on Instagram than at work, created by people the same age as those they were portraying. Its look and feel have cast a long shadow. (EC)
18/30 13. Sherlock (2010- )
Witty, inventive and dazzling to look at, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatisss relocation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories to the present day worked beautifully, as did the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the high-functioning sociopath Holmes and Martin Freeman as the put-upon army veteran Watson. While later series would drift, the first three were unbeatable. (FS)
19/30 12. Chernobyl (2019)
A five-part drama about a nuclear disaster in 1986 is not the most promising prospect for a night in with a bottle of wine. It is a tribute to the writer, Craig Mazin, and director, Johan Renck, as well as its cast, especially Jared Harris, that Chernobyl managed to be totally gripping, with frequent moments of stark, horrendous beauty. (EC)
20/30 11. Atlanta (2016- )
At first, the musician and comedian Donald Glover’s series about struggling rappers in Atlanta looked like a familiar, safe kind of sitcom about loveable losers. But it quickly evolved into something fresh: a smart, occasionally surreal examination of life at the margins of America, whose angry heart never spilled into preachiness or got in the way of the jokes. (EC)
21/30 10. Love Island (2015- )
Who could have anticipated a dating show in which twenty-somethings sit around in microscopic swimwear would tell us so much about the human condition? Gaslighting, bromances, the complexities of girl code Love Island delved beneath the spray tans and schooled the nation on modern manners. (FS)
22/30 9. Patrick Melrose (2018)
An electrifying study of addiction, trauma and the corrupting power of privilege, based on the autobiographical books by Edward St Aubyn. Benedict Cumberbatch played the feckless antihero grappling with his past and trying (and mostly failing) to be better than the wretched aristos that raised him. (FS)
23/30 8. The Vietnam War (2017)
Ken Burns’s epic 10-part documentary followed up his other conflict opuses, on The Civil War and The War, with a detailed story about Vietnam. Using new interviews from both sides as well as archive footage, the documentary shows in unrelenting detail a catastrophe that unfolded in slow motion. Some critics accused it of underserving the experience of the Vietnamese civilians. But it left viewers in no doubt that not only did the US leadership pursue it long after it was a lost cause, but they knew from the start it was unwinnable. (EC)
24/30 7. Black Mirror (2011- )
Charlie Brooker sent every other TV critic, or at least one of them, into a spiral of envy by proving not only that it was possible to cross over into creation, but to do so in style. Black Mirror’s taut near-future tales of techno-dystopia are almost always interesting, even if they sometimes fall short of their ambitions, as with the high-concept recent film, “Bandersnatch”. The best episodes, like 2016’s tour de force, “San Junipero”, are gripping examinations of human connection in a world where interactions are increasingly by screens. (EC)
25/30 6. Blue Planet II (2017)
The first of the Attenborough documentaries to speak directly of the human impact on the natural world, this kaleidoscopic ocean odyssey provided a visual feast of clam-cracking tuskfish, alien-looking pyrosomes and anthropomorphic ­dolphins, while reminding us how it could all be lost. (FS)
26/30 5. BoJack Horseman (2014- )
Only in a world of Netflix budgets can you imagine a concept as wild as BoJack Horsemans getting off the ground. It’s a cartoon set in LA, ostensibly a comedy about celebrity, except half the characters, including its lead, are anthropomorphised animals. Halfway through its final season, which has been split into two, its initial zaniness has given way to something darker and more interesting. Lurid colours and visual wit dress one of the most humane explorations of depression, addiction and cycles of abuse. (EC)
27/30 4. Fleabag (2016-19)
What began, in its first series, as an enjoyably acid-tongued portrait of modern womanhood became a fully fledged masterpiece in the second. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fleabag gave us perfectly calibrated scenes of familial dysfunction and sexual longing the latter memorably culminating in the Priests simple, thrilling instruction: Kneel. (FS)
28/30 3. This is England (2010-15)
The first spin-off series from Shane Meadows 2007 film, about a gang of ex-skinheads from the Midlands, was set during the 1986 World Cup, and remains one of the great British dramas, depicting working class lives with humanity and humour. This is England 88 and 90 followed, both of them similarly infused with heart and soul. (FS)
29/30 2. Succession (2018- )
Said to have been a decade in the making, Succession is worth every minute spent on it. Brian Cox enjoys a dream of a late-career role as Logan Roy, the ageing media tycoon unwilling to relinquish control of his company to any of his ungrateful and talentless children. There’s oblivious eldest son Connor (Alan Ruck), troubled addict Kendall (Jeremy Strong), scheming daughter Shiv (Sarah Snook) and abrasive youngest Roman (Kieran Culkin), along with a host of hangers-on, partners and support staff. None of them seem to have the right stuff. It’s an intriguing set-up, but Succession is lifted by its script, performances, locations, costumes, music and direction, which place it firmly in a tradition of laughing at our rulers, where the mirth comes tempered with the knowledge that these are really the people in charge. (EC)
30/30 1. Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Yes, the final series went a bit weird. Maybe the final two series. A case could be made that the TV adaptation was never as emotionally resonant when it went beyond George RR Martin’s novels. The final series were only disappointing compared to what had come before, which was a fantasy on an unprecedented scale that managed to be grandiose without slipping into melodrama. An invented universe with necromancers, dragons, magic swords and ice zombies was notable for its plausible realpolitik. At a time when viewing tastes were meant to be becoming more atomised, Game of Thrones was global event TV, which made household names of the Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys and provided a whole generation of English character actors with a regular income. (EC)
On screen, McBride is most associated with aggrieved masculinity. He often plays men once at the very top of their fields, but who have subsequently crashed down to earth; forced to face their own insignificance. Kenny Powers, the self-sabotaging baseball pitcher crawling back to his hometown on Eastbound, remains his richest work, but The Righteous Gemstones looks set to achieve similar creative highs.
Part capitalist farce, part dark soap opera, its sprawling and genre-hopping. McBride, Adam DeVine and a revelatory Edi Patterson are the feuding siblings of the title, raised by a father (John Goodman) still haunted by the death of the family matriarch, and famous on the American megachurch circuit. What follows is a tale of blackmail, sexual dysfunction and wince-inducing violence one that traces the same thematic contours as McBrides previous work, and refuses to bend to stereotypes about faith or the southern USA. 
I dont have some sort of agenda to normalise the south, but ultimately Im writing about what I know, he explains. I feel like a lot of times when people write about the south, theyre people who live in New York or Los Angeles and they have no insight into the subtle, intricate things. Theyre very generic and sort of one-note. Like I dont walk around the south and see Billy-Bobs with hay [hanging] out of their mouths and wearing overalls. I see tanning salons next to karate dojos and strip malls, you know what I mean? I think it makes for a more engaging story than just latching onto cliches and stereotypes. 
Part capitalist farce, part dark soap opera: Adam DeVine, Danny McBride and Edi Patterson in The Righteous Gemstones (Sky Comedy)
Raised by a mother and stepfather who both worked on a military base in central Virginia, McBride suggests that his ability to find comic mileage in manliness stems from his upbringing. Along with close friends and regular collaborators Jody Hill and David Gordon Green, with whom McBride co-wrote the 2018 Halloween reboot and its two forthcoming sequels, McBride bore witness to the decline of more traditional forms of masculinity, while embracing progressive ideas of how to be a man.
We got our first VCR when I was in third grade and then I think we had cable TV around the same time, he remembers. I feel like, for a lot of guys in my generation, it went from like, Go outside and play to like, Theres also this dope-ass thing to do inside. All these things that maybe worked for males of a previous generation [were going away], and the world was starting to change a little bit, but there were still enough male figures around that were so embedded in this typical idea of masculinity. So then you grow up thinking, I dont want to be into sports Id rather just play video games or watch movies. Like Im not into hunting, and I went to art school, so I think Ive always been a part of this culture that Ive never really felt 100 per cent comfortable in. 
In some regards, he continues, that was what we were doing with Kenny Powers. Like, the way hes living his life and these antiquated thoughts about machismo and what it takes to be a man, its getting him nowhere its not serving him in the long run.
Antiquated thoughts about machismo: McBride as Kenny Powers in Eastbound & Down (HBO)
Convincing television financiers that these kinds of characters were worth investing in was a struggle, however. When I first started coming up in writing and even with Eastbound, there was a big idea from Hollywood that main characters had to be likeable, he remembers. It was just something I didnt subscribe to. He credits British comedy, notably Alan Partridge and Fawlty Towers, for teaching him the power of characters who were jerks, but compelling enough that you were still weirdly invested in their happiness at the end of the day.
McBrides late-Noughties cinematic rise was charmed. There were initial setbacks, of course, notably when he moved to Los Angeles in the early Noughties in the hope of being discovered  only to find work as a waiter and a substitute teacher. His low-budget screenwriting debut, however, managed to get into the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. The Foot Fist Way, which he wrote with Hill and Ben Best, cast him as a karate instructor whose life spirals out of control after he discovers his wife gave another man a drunken handjob. It was quickly bought for distribution by Will Ferrells Gary Sanchez Productions and became a minor sensation within comedy circles. 
From there, McBride fell in with industry power players such as Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Judd Apatow, portrayed a pyromaniac effects coordinator in Tropic Thunder (2008), and provided scene-stealing support in comedies like Hot Rod (2007) and 30 Minutes or Less (2011), and the sci-fi sequel Alien: Covenant(2017). There were also starring roles, too, most significantly Your Highness (2011), the dumb but hilarious medieval comedy that also featured James Franco, Natalie Portman and a necklace made out of a minotaurs penis. It bombed, and the critics, McBride suggests, relished going to town on it.
When critics dont like a comedy, they almost take it f***ing personally, he says. Theyre almost mad that they dont get the joke. I feel like theyre just more vicious, whereas when they dont like a dramatic movie, I feel like they dont have their knives out as much. Doing something like Alien, whether people liked it or not, they always seemed engaged with the filmmaking or took it more seriously. But I feel like we really got boned on Your Highness. We made an R-rated movie for 13-year-olds. It was ahead of its time!
Dumb and hilarious: Natalie Portman, Danny McBride and James Franco in Your Highness (Universal Pictures)
Critical bias appears to be a bugbear for McBride, especially the controversy that surrounded Vice Principals. It was a show about male insecurity and resentment, which gradually evolved into something deeper and darker, but was written off early on in some corners. Broadcast in the midst of Donald Trumps campaign for president, the pilot climaxed with its two main characters (played by McBride and regular co-star Walton Goggins) setting fire to the home of a black woman they believed had unfairly taken their dream job. Vice Principals marinates so much in its own outrageousness, wrote Vulture, that its depressingly easy to imagine that some people will laugh at the shows antics for all the wrong reasons.
McBride felt much of the criticism was misguided. A lot of the people who had an issue with it didnt watch the whole show, he says. So your job is to examine this art, but youre making an assumption and then running with it and printing it.
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The funny thing is when Gemstones was coming out, none of the people who bashed on Vice Principals were even reviewing TV shows anymore. Were just like, Yeah, Im around, and youre not around so 
Then again, he adds, That just comes with the territory. You cant, as a writer, expect to have that privilege and then say, No ones allowed to get mad at me about it. If youre trying to push the boundaries of comedy, youre an idiot to not expect people to push back.
The Righteous Gemstonesis on Sky Comedy and NOW TV from 5 February. NOW TV is the exclusive home of HBO box sets and originals in the UK