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Josh Reviews Brockmire Season Two!

September 6th, 2018
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Season one of Brockmire was one of my favorite television discoveries from last year, so I was super-excited for season two!  I loved these eight new episodes, and I continue to highly recommend this show!

Brockmire stars Hank Azaria as disgraced former major league announcer Jim Brockmire.  The show charts Brockmire’s attempts to rebuild his life and return to a big league announcing booth, years after a drunken outburst destroyed his career.  While most shows with that sort of premise would probably depict a main character who is now trying to live life on the straight and narrow, the crazy beauty of Brockmire is that the main character is still a pompous, profane alcoholic jerk.

After only two short seasons, I think Brockmire might be my favorite live-action role of Hank Azaria’s career. It feels like the role he was born to play. The role is a perfect showcase for Mr. Azaria’s impeccable comedic chops.  The man can deliver a punchline like nobody else on television.  But the show also feels like the payoff to all of the dramatic work that Mr. Azaria has done over the past two decades.  Attempting, I suspect, to demonstrate that he can do more than lots of funny voices on The Simpsons, Mr. Azaria has done a number of straight drama projects over the years.  Often, frankly, these didn’t interest me, because personally I got far more enjoyment from Mr. Azaria’s being funny than his being serious.  But Brockmire feels like the perfect combination of all of Mr. Azaria’s strengths.  He is able to be supremely funny, while also seemingly effortlessly carrying the dramatic weight needed to make the character, and the show, feel real.  Brockmire season two goes to some dark places (more on this in a moment), and Mr. Azaria is incredible in the way he is able to plumb the dark depths of where Brockmire is at this season.  In the finale, Mr. Azaria has a dramatic scene with Tyrel Jackson Williams as Charles — this is a moment of pure heart-wrenching drama, no comedy in sight — and Mr. Azaria is absolutely incredible.

At the end of season one, we saw Brockmire make a choice that I, as an audience-member who had been rooting for the character, thought was terrible.  I’d expected the start of season two to hit the reset button and quickly undo that choice.  For so many years, that was the way that television worked.  But, thankfully, the Brockmire team went in a different direction, and all of season two is spent exploring the fallout of that choice, and the ways in which Brockmire’s life slowly unravels.  It’s a bold approach, and one that I applaud.

It did, though, have two somewhat unfortunate side-effects.  The first is that this second season is less funny than the first.  It’s still very, very funny, don’t get me wrong.  But as the season unfolds, the comedy becomes more bittersweet as we see the effects of Brockmire’s hedonistic, self-centered life-style.  Because Mr. Azaria (and the show) plays the Brockmire character so real, it gets harder to laugh at his alcoholic antics.  The second side-effect is that Amanda Peet’s character of Jules James has only a very small role to play this year.  That was a big bummer for me, because Ms. Peet was a critical part of why season one was so great, and I really missed her from the show.  (The season two finale gives me hope that Ms. Peet’s Jules will be back in a central role in the next season.)

On the other hand, Ms. Peet’s absence allowed Tyrel Jackson Williams’ character Charles to step into the forefront as almost the co-lead of the show, and Mr. Williams was terrific.  I loved the way this season explored Brockmire and Charles’ co-dependent relationship, and I also loved that this season gave Charles a lot of agency on his own as a character.  Watching Charles get pushed around by Brockmire was still funny, but it was also gratifying to see Charles be able to break off and be successful on his own, and also to eventually put his foot down and stop tolerating Brockmire’s self-destructive behavior.

In season two, I quite enjoyed the new character of Raj (Utkarsh Ambudkar), Brockmire’s broadcasting partner slash competitor.  I loved the way the two characters could bounce between being friendly partners and at each other’s throats.  I also loved seeing Becky Ann Bakler (Jean Weir from Freaks and Geeks!!) pop up a few times as Brockmire’s sister.  She was fantastic.

Brockmire is a fantastic creation.  It’s incredibly funny while also being very real as a drama.  This show could easily have been just a silly farce — and that might have been great, too!  But I love the unique tone that the show manages to strike.  And, at the risk of repeating myself, it’s worth watching just for Hank Azaria’s magnificent lead performance.  I am thrilled the show has already been renewed for a third and fourth season (which will, apparently, wrap up the story).  I can’t wait.

For those interested, click here for a wonderful interview by Rolling Stone TV critic Alan Sepinwall with Brockmire’s creator and show-runner Joel Church-Cooper.

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