‘You’re brutal Brockmire till the day you die.’
I normally don’t do reviews. I’m not very good at them. I tend to ramble, try to hard to be funny and generally lose the point of what I’m trying to say. Also, I always get the ‘best’ of something or the ‘worst’ of something to review. Very rarely do I get the ‘most representative of the work as a whole’. As a result, I end up recommending things that end up being crap, or else I appear to be pretty out of the loop, unable to appreciate genius. It probably doesn’t help that my tastes are a bit off and slightly mean-spirited. There’s a cruelty to my sense of humor.
So, yeah. Let's talk about baseball and Brockmire.
Brockmire, premiering on IFC April 5th (TODAY), is the story of Jim Brockmire, (Hank Azaria), a former MLB color commentator who suffers a phenomenal on-air meltdown followed by a decade long free-fall from grace. Having spent the better part of those 10 years out of country, Brockmire is unaware that he’s become internet famous during that time. Hoping to capitalize on that fame is Jules (Amanda Peet), who has brought Jim back to the states to help sell her super-small market (beer-league) baseball team via a ‘…multi-platform distribution dealy’.
Yeah….you’ve probably guessed that that isn’t going to happen. At least not right away, I’ve only seen the one episode. But I’m eagerly waiting for more.
I watched the premiere last week because it popped up in my Facebook feed. I’ve always liked Hank Azaria, never a dull performance. I like baseball, what the hell?
I was hooked from the very first word.
Brockmire, the character, is baseball the way I know it: on the radio. I don’t watch games on TV, but I love to listen to them over the air. It’s very soothing. You flip on the radio, and no matter the inning or the score, you’re immediately involved. Not because the announcer is in your face, but quite the opposite. There’s an easy grace to good play by play. A story here, a hit there. More story, and now the bases are full. Anecdote, joke, drama….and the innings is over. Here’s a word from our sponsors.
Remember how my sense of humor is a little cruel? Well, take the most awful, embarrassing moment in your life and describe it in that voice. Throw a little color in there while you’re at it. ‘My wife’s a whore and the count evens out at 2 and 2’
And that’s basically the setup. A story of failure told one inning at a time. If it wasn’t for Azaria’s pitch perfect performance, it would be terribly sad and cruel. I mean, it is. Brockmire life is at the lowest of tides. His life sucks and his present situation ain’t great, but there’s a weird, compellingly optimistic, energy to Azaria’s Brockmire. You continue to root for him even though you know his season is over.
Which is why I’ve watched the first episode four times.
Azaria’s performance aside, the first episode is a first episode, so it’s mostly about setup. We meet Jules, Brockmire, and some of the supporting cast. Brockmire’s meltdown plays out wonderfully as his professionalism slowly leaves the building. His apology, seen in a viral video clip, is another great moment in an episode full of them. Going on my best/worst tendencies, I hope I’m seeing the worst and the show continues to get better and better with each episode. It has that kind of upside.
Tempering that hope, however, are a couple things. The first, is that we’ve seen fish out of water in a quirky town style comedies before in shows like Newhart or Northern Exposure. Granted, the main characters weren’t drunken world travelers, but still. And it’s not like we’ve seen shows about drunken world travelers…or just drunks, or very flawed humans. If we stick to baseball, he’s Buttermaker. On another network, this show would have been forced down our throats after The Big Bang Theory. I think they did try that and called it The Odd Couple. Isn’t it time for us to give up on Chandler Bing?
My biggest concern, however, is the baseball. Brockmire is convinced to stay with the team based on an ‘aggressive’ base loading strategy. It’s funny and inventive, but now that it’s been done, it has to be topped and that's the challenge. If they don’t top it, the baseball becomes boring and the show will suffer. Go too far, and the baseball becomes unrealistic, like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play basketball. It’s going to be a tough balancing act. Hopefully the writers do the right thing and play to their strengths (Brockmire’s pain) while keeping the baseball shtick to a minimum. There’s a lot of good pieces to build around here, and I really want this show to be more than Major League as seen through Bob Eucker’s eyes.
For now, however, I will continue to tune it with an eye on the pennant. Hope Jim makes it.
Brockmire can be seen on IFC on Wednesday nights.