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“Going From Drunk Asshole to Sober Asshole Isn’t the Dramatic Makeover You Think it is” — Josh Reviews Brockmire Season Three!

September 25th, 2019
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I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about Brockmire season three, which I devoured quickly upon its release last spring.  I absolutely adored season one and season two of Brockmire, and season three did not disappoint!  This is one of my very favorite shows currently being made!

Brockmire has charted the slow climb back up of Jim Brockmire, a disgraced former baseball announcer who years ago destroyed his life and career in a drunken on-air rant after discovering that his wife was cheating on him.  The show is one of the funniest shows on TV today, while also at the same time being a deeply moving story about real, flawed humans beings doing their best to get through the day.

As I’ve said in all of my previous Brockmire reviews, the main reason to watch Brockmire is to see Hank Azaria give the greatest performance of his career in this, the role it seems that he was born to play.  Mr. Azaria is magnificent, able to deliver devastating punchlines as the show’s jokes come fast and furious, while at the same time mining deep, moving pathos out of the story of this former scumbag inching his way, maybe, towards something better.  Every moment Mr. Azaria is on screen is a master’s course in comedic and dramatic acting.  It’s truly extraordinary.

The show’s season one set-up felt like something that could have lasted for many years, with Brockmire working as an announcer for a podunk team in a tiny town, flirting with local bartender Jules (Amanda Peet).  I was surprised in season two that the show shifted locations, as Brockmire got a new job working for a minor league team in New Orleans.  I was excited to see the show and the characters move forward, though I missed having Jules as a series regular.  Here in season three, the show has again reinvented itself, as Brockmire has gotten sober and gotten himself a job back in the Major League, calling games for Oakland.  (The show doesn’t actually mention the A’s by name.)  I miss Jules (who returns for one episode) and Charles (who was elevated to the series’ second lead in season two, but who, like Jules, only appears in one episode here in season three).  On the other hand, I think it’s incredible that the show doesn’t rest on its laurels.  Too many TV shows insist on staying put in their status quo year after year.  I think it’s fascinating and exciting that Brockmire has reinvented itself completely with each new season.

Not just the show, but the main character himself!  In the first season, Brockmire was an alcoholic and drug addict, and much of the humor … [continued]

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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 … [continued]

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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]