Review: Hank Azaria delivers a play-by-play comedy with ‘Brockmire’
When baritone baseball announcers such as Vin Scully or Bob Uecker weren’t at work, did they still speak in ball parkisms?
Apparently actor, comedian and show creator Hank Azaria also pondered this question, and IFC’s “Brockmire” is the indirect result.
With Azaria’s fictional character Jim Brockmire, the play-by-play monologue continues outside the stadium – be it at the bar, in the bedroom or within the confines of his own head.
Brockmire and his banter, originally made for the Web series “Funny or Die,” are now at the center of a new comedy debuting Wednesday that follows a former Kansas City Royals game announcer after a very public fall from grace a decade earlier.
In the pilot’s opening moments we learn that it was a night like any other at the stadium, narrated by The Voice of Kansas City — “Folks, welcome back to the bottom half of the eighth inning, or as it’s better known, the Gerry’s Gelatin home run inning. Gerry’s Gelatin: nutritious, delicious and fun. Ge, ge, ge, ge Gerry’s!” — until an increasingly drunk Brockmire began lamenting his own tragic story in between his game commentary.
“I went home to surprise my wife on our anniversary, and please imagine my surprise when I came home to find half a dozen naked folk sprawled out in my living room in what can only be described as a desperate and hungry kind of love making. Right in the middle of it was my wife, Lucy... [back to the baseball game] fastball misses just low, count goes full, three and two.”
No getting over that and Brockmire didn’t; he fled the country in search of work overseas, where he found a job in Manila as a cock fight announcer.
The show’s narrative begins as the shamed sports commentator is making his reluctant comeback at the bottom of the minors with Morristown, Pa.’s down-and-out Frackers.
He was hired by the team’s owner, Jules (Amanda Peet), who is determined to make her city’s team great again (if they ever were great), never mind that they haven’t won a game in ages and most of the town would rather spend their disability checks on meth than a ticket to the ballpark.
Brockmire faces an equally steep climb. Far from forgotten, his 2007 meltdown went viral while he was overseas; the worst day in Brockmire’s life has reached a new generation of fans, many of whom use his wife’s name as shorthand when describing a particular sex act. The newfound fame, however, is not the kind of notoriety Brockmire needs to reestablish his career.
But it’s the only reason his young assistant-intern Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams) knows Brockmire’s name. The nerdy recluse, who has no interest in radio or baseball, grew up watching Brockmire’s humiliating meltdown on YouTube, so feels he knows at least something about the man he’s now working for.
The series pokes fun at just about every baseball cliché there is – the deep-voiced announcer in the loud sports jacket, rituals that must be performed before each game in order for the team to win (in this case, it’s imperative for Jules and Jim to have sex), the Japanese pitcher and famed Latino hitter whose stars have faded.
Azaria and Peet are great, together and separately. Both bring a humor and sympathy to characters that might otherwise prove difficult to tolerate, let alone like.
He’s jaded, despondent and broken. She’s less broken and harbors too much hope to be jaded. Jules has taken out a second mortgage on her bar to buy the team. She believes the team, the town and Brockmire can be redeemed.
In case this sounds saccharine, Jules also thinks offering free cold medicine (an ingredient often used in making methamphetamine) at the gate is a great promotional idea. “Because we don’t judge you like those snooty pharmacists,” announces Brockmire to the sparsely populated stadium.
But what makes “Brockmire” so funny – Azaria constantly seeing the world through the eyes of a baseball commentator – can also make it overly reliant on that one joke. Brockmire never drops the play-booth persona, and at times this can wear very thin.
Still, it’s, er, pitch-perfect satire if you’re a baseball fan, or have a nostalgic attachment thanks to radio broadcasts of the game that still sound like they’re beamed in from 1957. Azaria gives baseball’s voice a back story, and it’s entirely out of left field.
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
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