Sunday, April 22, 2018
TV and Media

Review: IFC's sports comedy 'Brockmire' is a funny and foul ball

"That ball cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery because it just got tattooed!" yells legendary baseball announcer Jim Brockmire in probably one of the best home run calls ever. Brockmire is a fictional character in IFC's newest comedy, premiering at 10 p.m. Wednesday. (You can watch the first episode for free here.)

Brockmire builds off a Funny or Die video from a few years ago where real-life sports announcers discuss Jim Brockmire's epic on-air meltdown. While broadcasting a major league, Brockmire hilariously gives a profane play-by-play of his wife's lurid affair. (The details are not suitable for a family newspaper).

It's a funny gag, but can it sustain an entire series?

Thanks to Hank Azaria, it does, and Brockmire is a home run. (I'll show myself out.)

Azaria, the voice of a zillion Simpsons characters, is a prolific actor, with multiple movie and TV (and even Broadway) credentials, and recently won an Emmy for a guest role on Showtime's Ray Donovan. So while absolutely nailing the iconic 1970s smooth sports announcer voice — the show is based on the idea that baseball announcers use that same game-time inflection in their daily lives — he turns Jim Brockmire into baseball's Don Draper.

Following a 10-year bender, the disgraced "Voice of Kansas City" apprehensively returns to the booth. Brockmire has become a viral sensation ("Keep it Brockmire!"), so Jules (Amanda Peet), owner of a scrappy minor-league team, hires him to restore "the worst town in America." Wrecked by fracking and a drug problem, the fictional Morristown, Penn., needs a win.

And so does Brockmire.

"You know what's not helping my suicidal depression?" Brockmire, with a glass of rye in his hand, asks Jules. "Calling baseball games into an empty stadium and having my own words bounce back into my face like some sort of haunting metaphor for life's futility."

But Jules is determined to give the town its next best high: nostalgia. And have some fun with her new hard-partying partner.

Sharing a strong love for baseball — and booze — Jim and Jules begin a sexual relationship, which at first, seems to fuel a Frackers winning streak. Their raunchy romp in the booth before a game accidentally airs over the loud speakers to the crowd. (Now's a good time to mention this is an TV-MA/R-rated show.) But, ultimately, the self-destructive alcoholics develop genuine feelings as Brockmire slowly revives the scrappy baseball team, as well as himself, maybe.

Unlike the Mad Men anti-hero, Jim Brockmire's rage and despair constantly give some tear-inducing laughs. However, like Mad Men, Brockmire wonders if people will learn from his or her mistakes. By wallowing in the lowest point in his life, Brockmire's pain is palpable, but the show finds balance in just how dang funny and pathetic its characters are.

Brockmire steps back up to the plate with a new podcast with help from the town's social media whiz kid Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams), a 20-something who locally has the most followers on Vine. Brock Bottom is immediately featured on NPR's This American Life, but Brockmire isn't impressed. "That guy's voice (Ira Glass) is like a human nap." Coming from the smooth Southern voice of Jim Brockmire, ouch.

It's a success, and the podcast gets more fans in the stands. And Brockmire is closer to getting back to the major leagues.

And even though Major League Baseball wanted nothing to do with the series because of its TV-MA rating, Joe Buck of Fox Sports, will play himself in later episodes. And Jim and Joe's best-friend rivalry comes with hilarious low-blows, pranks and even a solid "your mom" joke.

Brockmire's success is in its crude jokes through emotionally grounded humor, all wrapped in the comforting nostalgic sounds of America's favorite pastime.

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