In the season two premiere of IFC’s Brockmire, title character Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) is given a rude awakening just when he thought his plan was coming together. But the truth has never been easy for the drunken, crooning vest-donning baseball announcer. In fact, he seems to always live in a separate dimension, defying and daring all that’s in front of him. Now with his dream job — calling MLB games again after a decade of disgrace — his popularity is split. Those that like baseball, don’t like his popular podcast which helped his promotion to call Triple-A games, and those that like his podcast don’t like baseball.
The Venn diagram drawn has a small sliver of an intersection. Brockmire’s the guy that clings to that section, unwilling to accept data-driven analysis, the old-school baseball guy that he is. Luckily, the show doesn’t operate in the same way. Brockmire may be a man of baseball, but the show itself is not. Sure, there are were a few A-list cameos to show up like last season’s penultimate episode with Joe Buck among other real-life announcers. Jokes like a Mike Piazza-themed gift basket for one of Brockmire’s girls in rotation will go unappreciated by baseball Luddites, while junkies like myself eat those moments up. But in all, the show remains a unique character portrait and workplace comedy.
Inspired by a character Azaria debuted in a Funny or Die sketch, the show could easily run dry on the gimmick of an announcer who never turns off his velvet voice, speaking entirely in anecdotes and rhymes. The first season avoided diving into directionless parody by attaching Brockmire to Jules (Amanda Peet), a similarly broken love interest. The two left on more than rocky terms and Jules is appropriately missing in action, putting Brockmire back at square one.
Now season two is off to a strong start, developing the character even further as he inches closer to career redemption. But will he have to fully redeem his character first to reach that place? He’s set up for an existential crisis, something his assistant Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams) clearly sees while Brockmire is absorbed by himself, hiding behind a cocktail of bottles.
Because of the personal and relationship conflicts, Brockmire’s progessively unruly behavior is actually a service to the story. Few shows could get a good laugh using a terminally ill child as a punchline. Brockmire is one of those shows. When Brockmire practically hooks himself up to an alcoholic IV while hosting a make-shift Make-A-Wish kid at a game, the reaction is not just to laugh but to find some pity. Brockmire’s wholly unaware he’s diving back into what got him fired before, and at the same time, his podcast fans who flock to sold-out tapings of 90-minute impromptu monologues feed his fiery and addictive personality. Add in Brockmire’s new, surprising competition, Raj (Utkarsh Ambudkar), a young and universally-liked announcer, and the show digs its teeth even deeper in Brockmire’s interpersonal and internal dilemmas alike.
Can Brockmire exist without a bottle in his hand? Or is he fueled by his popularity, needing to be liked? It’s up to the audience to answer those questions as Brockmire only dives deeper into his self-righteousness and grandeur, and Charles does his best to get his unexpected mentor back on track. Even after his latest near-meltdown in the booth where he’s most comfortable, Brockmire rejects what he really needs to help fix himself and instead turns to horse tranquilizers. It’s a great punchline but an even stronger character arc, surely setting him up for failure as Raj continues to swoon the front office, leaving Brockmire with baskets of squatty potties and olive oil no one wants.
Brockmire is slowly turning into a hilarious Greek tragedy, solidifying itself as one of the funniest shows on TV now.
It will satisfy baseball junkies looking for more moments in the booth, but it has also found a firm footing in a universal story using a self-absorbed caricature as its base. At the very least, Azaria’s complete ownership of the character is good for a couple hardy one-liners, but the second season is promising much more than that so far
Overall Grade: 8 out of 10
Brickier Season 2 airs Wednesday nights on IFC.