It takes genuine passion to make you interested in something you don’t normally give a shit about. “Friday Night Lights” did it with football and IFC’s “Brockmire” aims to make its titular character’s religious love of baseball just as contagious. It’s much riskier to write a show around being the butt of the entire world’s joke relatable than, say, three roommates who just can’t get a date. “Brockmire” is genuine and strange and totally engaging, and it’s already been renewed for a second season.
In the ghost town of Morristown, Pennsylvania there are a few key players. There’s the titular Brockmire (Hank Azaria), an outsider returning from an implied disgusting international sojourn. Brockmire has been brought to Morristown by the optimistic Jules (Amanda Peet), Brockmire’s boss/bartender/eventual girlfriend. Finally there’s Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams), a sweet millennial “Internet wiz kid” who grew up laughing at and quoting clips of Brockmire’s historic meltdown. That historic meltdown happened ten years ago in 2007 when Jim Brockmire was at the height of his career as a baseball announcer and came home to his wife Lucy “Lucy-ing” their neighbor (slang in this universe for a woman with a strap on having anal sex with a man), which led to Brockmire’s on-air tirade and subsequently his on-air termination. Then came his removal from society.
A little Funny or Die video called “In the Booth with Brockmire” lay the foundation for the show’s premise. The “Brockmire” sketch was part of Funny or Die’s faux sports retrospective series “GameChangers” but ironically, that episode wasn’t even the break-out. That title goes to “The Rant Writer”, an episode about the playwright behind athlete’s most incoherent, offensive rants at unfortunate press conferences which earned itself a mini-sequel. However, the Funny or Die staff stayed on for the evolution of “Brockmire” to TV. Some facts laid out in the original sketch are adjusted (in the sketch, Lucy was merely sleeping with another man while in the IFC show Lucy is a self-proclaimed “sexual astronaut”). Backstories were also made more elaborate, but some of the best lines are verbatim lifted from the 2010 viral video (“it’s lost inside my wife’s big, fat cheating vagina” in reference to an out of bounds baseball). “Brockmire” is the rare example of an idea being well executed as a brief sketch and also when drawn out into a full-on series. Think about how many comedies would flop when squeezed into such a short format and how many great sketches would drag as TV shows.
In the original sketch, Brockmire narrates the progress of his poops like a baseball game. In the show, he does the same for his actions, whether alone or while having sex. To his core, Jim Brockmire is the voice over an intercom, be it a radio at a BBQ or streaming online, and the show is about living as someone who can’t turn it off. That’s not a foreign theme to comedy in the slightest, where the comedian as a person and the comedian’s persona can bleed together into one exhausting but exciting goop.
The largest difference between the show and the four minute long sketch is the amount of fleshing out for this universe. The attention to detail in the world of “Brockmire” really does feel meticulous; consistent cutaways to the one guy who might live in the stadium, or how Charles’s Vines have famous fans like DJ Khaled, or that Morristown is in constant threat of being engulfed in flames because of all the fracking occurring just below ground. Pennsylvania Shale Company is the oil corp that provides the only jobs in town while polluting everything, and their stunts to run Jules out of business provide some of the most hilarious, weird little details about town life.
“Brockmire” is part of a generation of extremely sarcastic, non-stop comedies that attempt to hit on poignant truths. “Rick and Morty” consistently does it, “BoJack Horseman” consistently sets aside time for meaningful moments and “Brockmire” inserts those instances with little restraint (as a side note, “Rick and Morty” also began as a sketch in the Channel 101 showcases before becoming an Adult Swim show). Some moments are inappropriately gorgeous, like Brockmire reminiscing that hanging out with Papi, a now retired baseball great, made you feel like “you could climb Everest as long as he was in front of ya throwin’ down the rope”. Others are weirder, like Brockmire being invited to an orgy with Fracker’s all star-player Uribe and two probably teenage Walmart employees, but evading it to find Jules to tell her “baseball makes me want to exist but you, you make me want to live”. Besides the total shift in tone between scenes, earlier in the episode Brockmire and Jules justified pursuing each other because it brought the team good luck. Those two factors make it an extremely jarring switch from a flippant beginning to a very tender ending.
Brockmires’ soliloquies can feel mandatory and the stream of consciousness style overwhelms some of the best comedy in the episode. A lot of the funniest moments don’t belong to Brockmire; he’s just too obviously the wacky character. The main relationship is between Brockmire and Jules, but Charles the intern might be the best character in the whole show. He’s a sweet, naive kid so it takes some solid antagonizing for him to retaliate against Brockmire, but that relationship is even more fun to watch than the constant combat of two fiery equals (Brockmire and Jules). For today’s comedies pairing a millennial and a character as out of the loop as Brockmire technological illiteracy can be an easy punchline. However, “Brockmire” navigates this intergenerational dichotomy especially well through their friendship. Even if the show’s premise generously overestimates the lifespan of a viral video (would people really be quoting a video from 2007 ten years later? would no one have quoted it at Brockmire years ago, no matter what continent he was in?), the shame of having millions of “people laugh at the worst moments of my life” feels potent and real. The same can be said of the show’s theme: the futility of your everlasting legacy being an unchanging highlight of a few bad minutes instead of a successful career.
It’s unclear if the audience should want to see Brockmire succeed when the show does destitution so well. More plausibly, others around Brockmire will flourish and in the best case scenario he won’t hurt too many of them. For a viral video turned TV show, it’s fitting that the premiere amassed over 2.3 million views online and a very happy byproduct that IFC announced that the show was renewed for a second eight-episode season. That news was shared with the public on premiere date and it’s an exciting development: the world of “Brockmire” has so many places to go.
Brockmire airs on Wednesdays at 10pm on IFC.