Josh Reviews Brockmire Season One
In IFC’s new series Brockmire, Hank Azaria stars as the titular Brockmire. Once a major league baseball play-by-play announcer, Brockmire had a spectacular public flame-out after discovering that his wife had been cheating on him. After disappearing for ten years, Brockmire is hired by Jules James (Amanda Peet) to do play-by-play for the mostly-ignored minor league team she owns in a small middle-American town.
Brockmire is fantastic, my favorite new show of 2017 so far. The series is hilarious, ribald and fall-on-the-floor funny, while not being afraid to explore its dark, broken main character. The ensemble is spectacular and, at only eight episodes, the first season zips along at a rapid clip and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I loved every second of it.
The series is a tremendous showcase for Hank Azaria. His “broadcast announcer” voice could have been a one-off joke (the character previously appeared in a “Funny or Die” short), but Mr. Azaria and the show’s wonderful writers dig deeply into the character and create a real person out of that incredible voice. We still get plenty of jokes based on the idea of how silly that broadcaster voice sounds outside of the context of calling a baseball game (Brockmire’s announcer-like narration of sex with Jules is a high-point of the show), but Mr. Azaria is able to also create a fully-rounded character. This is a fiendishly complex circle to square, and Mr. Azaria makes it look easy. I love this performance, and I love this character. Outside of The Simpsons, I think Jim Brockmire has already become my very favorite Hank Azaria role.
Amanda Peet is also terrific as Jules, the woman who hires Brockmire to help save her team. She and Brockmire share a love of baseball and a love of alcohol, and the pairing of the two is what gives life to the series. Ms. Peet is so funny, able to go toe-to-toe with the great Mr. Azaria in the series’ big comedic moments, and also in its big dramatic ones. Their chemistry is terrific.
Tyrel Jackson Williams completes the main threesome as Charles, the young internet-savvy kid hired by Jules to help promote Brockmire and get some attention for her mostly-ignored minor league team. Mr. Williams makes an art out of looking some combination of surprised, amused, and horrified by what comes out of Brockmire’s mouth. He is so funny without even saying a word, just using his expressive eyes. Of course, he’s also great when he does get to deliver dialogue. Charles represents the voice of normalcy between the loony Brockmire and Jules, but over the course of this first season we also get to see Charles be bizarre and funny.
I cannot emphasize enough how funny this show is. Every single episode has a number of brilliant moments. From Brockmire’s brief post-it-note suicide letter in the pilot (which he asks Jules to give to his ex-wife — “She’ll know what it’s in regards to”) to the sequence in which Brockmire mistakes Jules’ ground-up abortion pill for cocaine and snorts it in episode six, “Road Trip,” the show is filled with comedy gold. There is clever wordplay (Brockmire’s constant, fast-spoken asides about the crazy situations he got into during his lost decade) and physical comedy (Amanda Peet trying and failing to swallow a pill in “Road Trip” is astonishing) and all sorts of other silliness.
And, as I noted above, there is also honest character development that does not shy away from the emotional truth of these two broken alcoholics (Brockmire and Jules). There are some serious moments in the series, and in particular I was surprised by how dark the show went in the final moments of the season. That was a bold choice, off-putting but also in keeping with the reality of who these two people are. I am glad that will not be the last we see of these characters (as season two is already in the works), and I can’t wait to see where this show goes next.
If you haven’t yet watched Brockmire, I highly recommend you check it out. Writer Joel Church-Cooper, director Tim Kirkby, Hank Azaria, and the other talented men and women involved with this show have created a wonderfully unique and memorable comic achievement. Don’t miss it!