A Sober ‘Brockmire’ is Just as Good
In 2010, Funny Or Die released a fake documentary on disgraced baseball announcer Jim Brockmire. The viral hit, which Craig Bierko claimed was his idea, became the genesis of the IFC series that premiered in 2017. Even if Bierko’s lawsuit has merit as to the voice itself, you can barely recognize Hank Azaria’s character compared with the one from the original video. Azaria uses a voice very similar to the one Harry Shearer uses on The Simpsons. Azaria freely admits this, and the signature sports jacket Brockmire wears gets its inspiration from former Mets play-by-play man Lindsey Nelson. The voice has a lot of former radio announcer Bob Murphy as well. Like so many long-suffering Mets fans (myself included), Azaria converts his pain into creative energy.
If you’ve never seen Brockmire, or the video that inspired it, the protagonist is a Kansas City announcer who comes home one day to discover that his wife has not only been cheating on him but is a sexual deviant. Imagine Mitch from Old School if he immediately had to call a ballgame live just after busting Juliette Lewis. Brockmire then has a complete meltdown on air and becomes a national punchline.
After going to the Far East and engaging in every sexual and chemical practice imaginable, the only team that would have him, the Morristown (PA) Frackers, hires him to do their play-by-play. He’s as out of control with the bottle as Kenny Powers (Eastbound and Down) was with his mouth, and everything else. He ends up banging team owner Amanda Peet and becomes buds with millennial Charles, played by Tyrel Jackson Williams.
In the second season, Brockmire and Charles head off to the Big Easy and our hero predictably falls to new depths. The character mines his vices for a hit podcast, “Brock Bottom,” but walks a fine line between being in on the joke and being the joke. After all, he’s obliterated during the broadcast. This is where the character (and the show itself) runs the risk of being a one-trick pony. Kenny Powers and Jason Priestley’s Richard Fitzpatrick on the Canadian cult hit “Call Me Fitz” faced the same dilemma. But Brockmire escapes. By the end of the season, he ends up playing Russian Roulette with a female fellow barfly. Needless to say, he realizes eventually that there’s no way for him to survive getting this messed up all the time. Again, you could just as easily be talking about the show itself.
But what would the show be with a sober Brockmire? It turns out that it’s pretty fucking amazing. The humor grows even more caustic, as the location moves to Tampa. Joe Buck utters one the series’ best lines at a urinal when Brockmire asks him about his sexual proclivities. “I was born in Florida,” Buck says. “Of course I’ve had a finger in my ass.” The Florida jokes are only part of the genius as Brockmire moves into an apartment with his giant turtle, Clemenza. One of the few elements of the character from that original video is his love of The Godfather.
This season’s cast was also the strongest yet. Linda Lavin plays Brockmire’s grifter mom, Freaks and Geeks’ Becky Ann Baker his sister, and Martha Plimpton his AA sponsor. Series creator Joel Church-Cooper has said in the past that the story is really about “an asshole getting better as a country gets worse.” That becomes crystal clear throughout the third season as Brockmire works the booth with lesbian softball star “Gabby,” Tawny Newsome, Azaria’s bud Richard Kind as his new producer, and JK Simmons as Brockmire’s massively endowed (thus his nickname) arch-nemesis, Matt “The Bat” Hardesty.
I won’t give away any more of the season because it absolutely deserves your viewing. Needless to say, the series gets into some serious spaces involving faith, mortality, and the human condition. Phil Reeves, so good as an asshole on both Veep and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, returns as bigoted broadcasting legend Art Newlie. It’s no surprise that in these times and in Florida, Newlie has a whole new appeal. Season 4 is reportedly Brockmire’s last. I plan to pick up an official T-shirt and await the final episodes of this excellent series.