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Josh’s Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017 — Part Five!

And so, we arrive, at last, at My Five Favorite Episodes of TV of 2017!  (Click here for part one of my list, click here for part two, click here for part three, and click here for part four.)

5. Brockmire: “Rally Cap” (season one, episode one, aired on 4/5/17) — We enter my TOP FIVE with what is probably my favorite new show of 2017, Brockmire.  Hank Azaria stars in the role he was born to play as Jim Brockmire, a disgraced, alcoholic former baseball announcer hired to do play-by-play for a tiny minor league baseball team in a small, middle-American town.  This is a brilliant comedic set-up, and Hank Azaria bites into the role of the brash, profane, and deeply broken Brockmire with aplomb.  Mr. Azaria can make anything sound funny with his “baseball announcer” voice, but the miracle of the show is how they are able to slowly craft Brockmire into a fully-realized character, not just a one-dimensional punchline.  Amanda Peet has perfect chemistry with Mr. Azaria as Jules, the baseball-loving team owner who hired Brockmire.  Every single one of their scenes together is dynamite.  I almost put episode six, “Road Trip,” on this list, for the insane and hysterical scene in which Brockmire accidentally snorts Jules’ abortion pill, but in the end I had to go with this first episode, which was a note-perfect introduction to these characters and this world.  It also contains the moment which made me laugh harder than almost anything else I saw on TV in 2017: a drunken Brockmire’s post-it-note suicide letter, which he asks Jules to give to his ex-wife who humiliated him (“She’ll know what it’s in regards to”).  It was very dark and jaw-droppingly hilarious.  I loved it.  (Click here for my full review of Brockmire season one.)

4. The Good Place: “Michael’s Gambit” (season one, episode thirteen, aired on 1/19/17) — Far too many TV shows these days are built around twists or “surprises” that the audience figures out way before the show wants us to, resulting in disappointing and anticlimactic story-telling.  So bravo to Parks and Recreation’s Michael Schur for crafting this incredible first season of The Good Place, which culminated in this staggeringly good twist that reshaped everything we thought we knew about the show.  The first season of The Good Place was fantastic even before the twist (which is where most shows built around twists fail), and it holds up marvelously well even when you know the twist, because of how perfectly everything fits together (which is where most OTHER shows built around twists fail!).  I loved this season from start to finish, but it was … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Brockmire Season One

In IFC’s new series Brockmire, Hank Azaria stars as the titular Brockmire.  Once a major league baseball play-by-play announcer, Brockmire had a spectacular public flame-out after discovering that his wife had been cheating on him.  After disappearing for ten years, Brockmire is hired by Jules James (Amanda Peet) to do play-by-play for the mostly-ignored minor league team she owns in a small middle-American town.

Brockmire is fantastic, my favorite new show of 2017 so far.  The series is hilarious, ribald and fall-on-the-floor funny, while not being afraid to explore its dark, broken main character.  The ensemble is spectacular and, at only eight episodes, the first season zips along at a rapid clip and doesn’t overstay its welcome.  I loved every second of it.

The series is a tremendous showcase for Hank Azaria.  His “broadcast announcer” voice could have been a one-off joke (the character previously appeared in a “Funny or Die” short), but Mr. Azaria and the show’s wonderful writers dig deeply into the character and create a real person out of that incredible voice.  We still get plenty of jokes based on the idea of how silly that broadcaster voice sounds outside of the context of calling a baseball game (Brockmire’s announcer-like narration of sex with Jules is a high-point of the show), but Mr. Azaria is able to also create a fully-rounded character.  This is a fiendishly complex circle to square, and Mr. Azaria makes it look easy.  I love this performance, and I love this character.  Outside of The Simpsons, I think Jim Brockmire has already become my very favorite Hank Azaria role.

Amanda Peet is also terrific as Jules, the woman who hires Brockmire to help save her team.  She and Brockmire share a love of baseball and a love of alcohol, and the pairing of the two is what gives life to the series.  Ms. Peet is so funny, able to go toe-to-toe with the great Mr. Azaria in the series’ big comedic moments, and also in its big dramatic ones.  Their chemistry is terrific.

Tyrel Jackson Williams completes the main threesome as Charles, the young internet-savvy kid hired by Jules to help promote Brockmire and get some attention for her mostly-ignored minor league team.  Mr. Williams makes an art out of looking some combination of surprised, amused, and horrified by what comes out of Brockmire’s mouth.  He is so funny without even saying a word, just using his expressive eyes.  Of course, he’s also great when he does get to deliver dialogue.  Charles represents the voice of normalcy between the loony Brockmire and Jules, but over the course of this first season we also get to see Charles be bizarre and funny.

I … [continued]