There are moments in television where you want to root hard for the underdog. With IFC’s first season of Brockmire, you just want to watch the world burn down around them.
The Funny-or-Die production is a character study into the absurdity of baseball, small-town America’s economic misery, and what happens if you let people get in their own way.
Brockmire is the creative expansion of a Funny or Die/YouTube video that traverses the embattled career of fictional baseball commentator Jim Brockmire, played by Simpsons’ legend Hank Azaria.
In the first five minutes of season one, you know exactly what team you’re asked to support. Brockmire, full Sazerac rye whiskey bottle at hand, recounts in the opening minutes during a Kansas City baseball game how he walked in on his wife’s infidelity just hours ago – and within a few four-lettered descriptions of her kink – proceeds to have an on-air meltdown that makes MSNBC seem tame during its commentators’ 2016 election night.
Ten years later – after a long drug- and sex-addled romp around the world – Brockmire finds himself the unfortunate play-by-play commentator of a minor league baseball team in small-town Pennsylvania.
Here’s the catch. Forget the visions of holding a one-man booth commentary role like Major League Baseball greats Ernie Harwell or Vin Scully. Brockmire has been resigned to broadcasting to local fans who attend games in the stands. No radio. The owner wants her commentator to only broadcast inside the stadium to a paying audience.
And what a team the Morristown Frackers are.
The local team, owned by Jules James (Amanda Peet) finds itself at the mercy of a bad financial debt that could see the stadium forfeited to a local financial scam run by a natural gas company.
But forget about the plot. Brockmire is a character study into how much misery loves company.
It is a comical descent into the hopes that things will go well, when we know better. That formula once required a laugh track in the 1990s with television shows like Frasier. You will find yourself laughing uncomfortably at the depth of the human condition, and then embracing the ambition of Brockmire’s attempt to rebuild his image, despite his debilitating drinking and lack of empathy to those around him.
While Peet plays a wonderfully indifferent baseball owner and lover to Brockmire, the star of the show is the utterly naïve and socially awkward nerd Charles, played by Tyrel Jackson Williams.
Once known for his kid-friendly television shows, Williams dives head first into the sex-addled, drug-fueled madness that requires him to support a middle-aged man who can’t keep his hand off the bottle. His coming-of-age moments, from his first interaction on the field with the stimulant Khat to his limited “sexual” interaction with a local town visitor, diverts the show to unexpected humor when it is needed during the show’s broader character exploration.
Azaria has done a successful job at extending a former bit at Funny or Die into a season-long experience. Unfortunately, looking back, there are few quotable lines. Instead, the show shines best in its silence, like the seconds when Brockmire reaches for the whiskey bottle or attacks a car dealership’s inflatable mascot while an insane song about driving a “car to Jesus” plays in the background.
This show requires a stiff drink and some patience, both of which will be rewarded.