'Brockmire' may just be the best comedy on television.
'Brockmire' may just be the best comedy on television.
Photo courtesy of IFC

Brockmire Isn't Really a Baseball Show, Just a Great One

As I’ve sung the praises of IFC’s Brockmire to anyone who will listen, and some who probably aren’t listening but are simply being courteous, a common refrain often emanates in response: “Yeah, but it’s a show about baseball, and baseball is boring.”

Two things…

1. Baseball is not boring; check out this season’s Astros squad for proof.
2. Calling Brockmire a baseball show is like calling Jerry Maguire a football movie. Technically, you could probably make the argument, but anyone familiar with either could quickly disprove your hypothesis.

Brockmire just wrapped its first season of eight episodes on IFC. The show, relatively speaking, is a hit. It’s IFC’s highest-rated original series of all time, as well as the most time-shifted new comedy on cable television. Taking into account live-plus-three-day viewership, Brockmire averages approximately half a million viewers per week, making it a veritable breakout success by IFC standards.

So confident was IFC in its first-year comedy that it greenlit a second season before the first season even premiered. That paid dividends, both commercially and critically. In addition to being a little mini-hit for the small cable network, Brockmire has been lauded by a wave of critical praise, particularly for star Hank Azaria's performance as the foul-mouthed, drug-and-alcohol-fueled Jim Brockmire.

So, yes, Brockmire is kind of a success story. But with a second season already planned for 2018 — and with all episodes to date available for free on IFC's website — the show should be bigger. Sure, it’s not going to be an NCIS-level juggernaut that keeps hordes of suburbanites glued to their televisions weekly for the latest in procedural drama.

And, no, it’s not going to be Breaking Bad either, a cable show that began in obscurity and ended as a cultural phenomenon. Brockmire is a small show about a small man in a small town, not one meant for twist endings and “how will it end?!!” levels of suspense. It’s the textbook example of a piece of pop culture that knows what it does well, and does just that. And damn, does it do that really well.

For those unfamiliar with Brockmire – and there are many – the show’s premise is rather straightforward. Jim Brockmire is a radio play-by-play guy for the Kansas City Royals, a true rising star within the world of baseball broadcasting. Of course, it all goes to hell when Brockmire loses his job after an on-air meltdown triggered by his wife Lucy’s predilection toward really weird sex with really random people who aren’t Jim Brockmire.

From there, Brockmire goes off the grid for the better part of a decade before being lured back to the game by Julia James (Amanda Peet), owner of the low-level minor-league franchise Morristown Frackers. Brockmire is even outfitted with a social-media intern (Tyrel Jackson Williams), who makes it his mission to get Brockmire back into the public consciousness. This is a good thing, considering the Frackers don’t exactly have a radio affiliate; instead, Brockmire basically serves as a glorified PA guy with a hackneyed Internet radio broadcast in his arsenal.

At first glance, Brockmire seems harmless enough. Nice haircut, clean-shaven, good smile — Azaria is quite handsome in a really approachable sort of way. Of course, once he pulls from his first handle of whiskey and the profanities begin flying, this facade is quickly tossed to the wayside. Jim Brockmire is a profane, fall-down drunk who has no respect for everyone, himself included.

A few choice Jim Brockmire quotes from Season 1:

Let's not make baseball out to be any more important than it really is. It's just a diversion that keeps us from pondering our own personal hells. So what do you say, folks? How about we kill another three hours on our slow and painful march to the grave? All right, top of the first. Should have a good one here this afternoon.

Most of all, I like that we seem to have the same exact level of functional alcoholism.

Knowledge and assumptions, those are like Loggins and Messina. They seem similar, but time proves one of them to be completely worthless.

And while Brockmire — which began as a Funny or Die sketch — certainly tells the story of a drunken play-by-play man, his drunken boss turned love interest and the young social-media intern who serves as the show's moral compass, Brockmire isn’t some one-note story about a guy paving his own path to hell with booze, cocaine and questionable morals.

Rather, the show has heart. Jim Brockmire isn’t a bad guy, but rather a guy who’s been screwed over in life so many times he's become jaded. He isn’t malicious — well, except maybe to fellow baseball announcer Joe Buck. Hell, he’s actually a pretty decent boyfriend to Peet’s team owner, who is perhaps just as damaged and cynical as Brockmire himself.

Brockmire is never going to be a water-cooler show on the level of Game of Thrones or House of Cards. The show is far too weird, the humor too off-putting for some; plus, IFC isn’t exactly HBO or Netflix. And while time will tell if the show can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump in following up what was a hit of a rookie campaign, Azaria and crew seem to have a firm grasp on what the show is and aspires to be.

Sure, Brockmire isn’t really about baseball, and it sure as hell isn’t boring. Instead, it might just be the best comedy on television.

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