THE SERIES “Brockmire”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on IFC
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) is a locally esteemed announcer for a major league team in Kansas City (presumably the Royals) but has a major league breakdown during the telecast of a game. Downing a bottle of whiskey, he proceeds to explain — in graphic, scatological detail on a hot mic — his wife’s infidelities with his neighbor. He gets canned, and heads to Asia where he continues to get drunk and does infomercials.
Fast-forward a decade: Jules (Amanda Peet), the owner of a minor league baseball team in a seen-better-times town in Pennsylvania, wants him to announce the games to boost attendance. Seems that while Jim has been gone, he’s also gone viral. His rant is now an internet phenomenon. Brockmire doesn’t quite know what that means, but Jules teams him with Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams) who schools him in the ways of the World Wide Web. (Jules’ team is called the Frackers because an oil company has fracked so relentlessly around town that the ground periodically catches on fire.)
This eight-episode series is based on a 2010 “Funny or Die” sketch — which sparked a legal dispute between Azaria and fellow actor Craig Bierko over who actually created the character of Brockmire. A judge ruled in Azaria’s favor in 2014, clearing the way for the series.
MY SAY Liking “Brockmire” requires liking Brockmire, and liking him is challenge enough. He’s a drunk who loves the sound of his own voice, the brilliance of his own stories, the sparkling of his own wit. Brockmire’s basically a nice guy, and fundamentally a bore. He’s Michael Scott (of “The Office”) in a plaid jacket — if Michael Scott was also an embittered self-loathing hack with a drug problem, a partiality to seeing the bottom of a whiskey bottle and hanging out with hookers.
It gets worse: He transitions every rambling discourse with the word “anyhoodles.”
Anyhoodles, to get a generally vague cultural fix on what this is about, think “The Bad News Bears,” or the original one with Walter Matthau, who also played a lovable boozy crank and has-been, and Tatum O’Neal as the hard-throwing preteen who saves his dignity and the team. Peete’s Jules wants to save the Frackers’ stadium, the town, and Brockmire’s soul. So, yes, this story’s kind of been told before, in various places, and in various forms over various decades — but with not nearly as many vulgar words called into service here. You can be certain that at some point the lovable losers on the field will turn into winners, and the boos to cheers. This is a baseball series. It can’t help itself.
What Azaria has done here is turn a vocal trick into an eight-episode series, except there’s not much more to it than the trick. As a Vin Scully impersonation in service of a thin premise, viewers are supposed to be in on the joke that all baseball announcers are avuncular baritones with an encyclopedic knowledge of the game they love. (And if not, Joe Buck makes a cameo to prove that — yup — they really do talk that way). But the joke gets old, the voice grating, and Brockmire never quite evolves into the heroic anti-hero with heart that “Brockmire” so badly wants him to become. “People care only that you’re a charismatic open wound,” Jules tells him.
Open wound? Yes. Charismatic? No. But she does at least offer a plausible reason why viewers might not care.
BOTTOM LINE Amusing initially, tedious ultimately.