Picture a baseball announcer: you know, a white man in a loud plaid jacket, with an oddly nasal lilt belying a naturally deep voice, droning on with useless facts and statistics about whatever pops into his head, however tangentially it might connect to the game, punctuated by quick descriptions of whatever is happening on the field.
Now picture that baseball announcer using that weird voice 100% of the time, in his personal life, in casual conversations, ordering coffee, even during sex.
That is the kernel of IFC’s very funny new comedy Brockmire, starring Simpsons voice savant Hank Azaria in the title role, a veteran play-by-play man who’s hit a bit of a rough patch since surprising his wife in the midst of an orgy to which she’s invited the whole neighborhood. When her explanation that she has realized that she is “a sexual astronaut” fails to comfort Brockmire, he describes the whole thing in detail for a national television audience during that night’s game — in his announcer’s voice, naturally — loses his job, and spends ten years wandering the globe, self-medicating, seeking carnal revenge, and generally debauching himself.
Despite the fact that Brockmire’s on-air meltdown briefly made him a viral celebrity, when we meet him in the pilot he’s been long out of the spotlight, so when Jules James (Amanda Peet), the hard-drinking owner of the minor league Morristown Frackers, approaches him to call games over the PA, Brockmire reluctantly accepts, but not before shrewdly negotiating free top-shelf liquor (limited to Monday thru Thursday) into his contract.
While the odd juxtaposition of Azaria’s spot-on announcer voice describing the orgy and his subsequent decade of self-discovery is very funny, it’s a meager hook to hang a whole series’ worth of comedy on, but to its credit, Brockmire seems to realize this pretty quickly, moving past the initial setup and getting into the quickly deepening relationship between Brockmire and Jules, the mismatch between Brockmire and Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams), his intern and booth assistant, and Brockmire getting to know the team of eccentrics on the field.
Each of the first four episodes also includes a number of flashbacks to Brockmire both in better and much worse days, the awful state of the local Rust Belt economy is surgically mined for laughs, and both Azaria and Peet are their reliably excellent selves, playing a pair well-matched in terms of emotional damage and ill-advised coping strategies, if not in attractiveness. This show kind of came out of nowhere and while it is not exactly a reinvention of the form, it is good for at least a couple of solid laugh out loud moments, and has been a surprise hit for IFC. It’s hard to imagine that it has a lot of runway left, but based on the premise I would have thought it would run out of gas before the end of the first episode, so if you’ll permit me a baseball metaphor, as long as it’s throwing strikes, we’re just going to keep Brockmire on the mound.
New episodes of Brockmire air at 10pm ET on IFC; recent episodes are available on-demand.