Have you ever spent a Sunday afternoon at the beach with the radio on, and the sound of baseball cutting through the crash of the waves? Did you once fall asleep while being swept away by the roar of the crowd leavened by descriptive word pictures, a bedtime story with beer commercials? If not, you’ll lose an aspect of why the IFC comedy Brockmire is so funny.
Granted, you’ll get the laughs even if you think baseball is antiquated and slow. But if you know this game, and the rhythms and tones of the baseball announcer, there will be no end to the throat-rattling guffaws that shake you off the couch.
Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria) plays a once-respected Kansas City Major League Baseball voice, chock-full of clichés, right down to his plaid sports jacket. One afternoon, tippling heavily from a bottle of whiskey, Brockmire begins spinning the tale of his wife’s shocking, salacious infidelity, weaving it into his play-by-play as fluidly as an anecdote about the batter’s favorite pre-game meal. It is absurd, as foul as anything hit back of the plate, and absolutely hilarious.
When Brockmire’s on-air meltdown goes viral, his career is ruined, and the story picks up a decade later. Small-town barkeep Jules James (Amanda Peet) enlists him to save her struggling minor-league team, the Morristown Frackers, by calling the play over the P.A. system of their dilapidated stadium.
It’s notable that not two months before Brockmire’s April 5 debut, Azaria won a court battle with actor Craig Bierko over rights to the character, which Azaria debuted years ago on the website “Funny or Die.” Both series writer and star, his voices for The Simpsons already legend, Azaria has mastered the meter, inflections and platitudes of the veteran baseball mouthpiece. The bluster is a bit Harry Caray, the eloquence an ode to Vin Scully, the grotesque jacket taken from Lindsey Nelson, the booze and humor a nod to Bob Uecker’s Harry Doyle from the Major League movies. Put ’em all together in Azaria’s comic brain and you’ve got Brockmire. Outrageous and funny as hell.
In the second episode, Brockmire warbles his spiel to a handful of sodden fans in the ballpark, and after a Frackers win, starts a coital ritual with Jules. In every situation, on the diamond and off, Brockmire speaks in play-by-play. It’s uncompromisingly amusing, strictly adult stuff. You’re left to wonder, can this great gag sustain through eight episodes? It’s done so through five, and has to keep it up: The show’s been renewed for a second season.
You can have every one of those three-camera sitcoms on the networks, with their well-worn plot points and laugh tracks. Give me Brockmire. One proviso: You have to love a bawdy laugh, and it helps to love the game.
Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10pm, PDT on IFC, anytime at IFC on demand.
Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.