Wednesday, April 25, 2018

REVIEW: 'Brockmire' - Brockmire Finds Himself in a Competition to Get a Promotion in 'The Getaway Game'

IFC's Brockmire - Episode 2.01 "The Getaway Game"

Now calling minor league games in New Orleans, Brockmire is up for the major leagues in Atlanta.

Brockmire was such a fun and delightful discovery last year. It was one of my favorite debut seasons for a comedy in awhile. The show knew exactly what it wanted to be the moment it begun. It was such a phenomenal show to watch in one sitting as well. The episodes just breezed by while still standing out with their own individual stories too. The narrative flowed in such an impressive way where Brockmire, Jules and Charles could get into ridiculous situations while still having an overarching goal of trying to save this baseball stadium and their careers. As such, I'm excited to be reviewing the new season of the show as it airs week-to-week. That will be a change of pace because the desire to binge it all in one setting once more is already quite strong. The premiere ends on a note that easily builds into the story of next week's episode. That's the way this show has always operated. Every episode has ended with some twist that would inform what would be happening with Brockmire and company in the following episode. It too is a very practical way to make the audience want to binge watch the entire season. Even the first season ended that way. It was a big deal that Brockmire became enough of success in this off-the-grid baseball league that he was invited back to potentially join the majors as an announcer. That was such a momentous occasion for him that he showed no remorse in leaving Jules and Morristown behind. That was so personally devastating. But it was all in service of the larger goal Brockmire has been working to achieve ever since he had that epic breakdown in the booth over a decade ago. He's tried working his way back into the hearts of this country. And now, he's on the verge of doing so.

Of course, it's important to note that he's not calling major league baseball games at the start of this season. In fact, he is just calling at-home minor league games. It's still just a trial run for him because the business executives making the decision are still very afraid that Brockmire will say something that will get them all into trouble. They are asking him to be on his best behavior. But they also just assume that Brockmire's new fame will lead to more tickets being sold for these games. Brockmire was given this new job opportunity largely because of his new podcast with Charles. As such, it's understandable why Charles makes the transition to New Orleans and Jules doesn't. It sucks because Amanda Peet delivered such a phenomenal and hilarious performance in the first season. Jules could match Brockmire in almost every single aspect of his life. She may not have had as colorful a backstory as he did with all the crazy hijinks he got into during his decade away from America and technology. But she was still placing all of her bets on Brockmire and was really scrambling to make him a hit. She paired Brockmire with Charles in the first place. Charles has the technological expertise to actually make something out of Brockmire's whole schtick. That relationship is so key to the show because it is one of codependence. Jules can function without Brockmire in her life. Brockmire and Charles can't. As such, it's very amusing to see them in this new city with more success while trying to continue climbing the ladder of fame.

It's also notable that Brockmire is much more successful and famous as the star of his podcast than as a baseball announcer. One is a career he has desperately wanted for his entire life. He had it and then lost it in an instant. The other is something he has just stumbled into. Charles is the one who does most of the work with the podcast. He sets up all of the equipment so that it records Brockmire in the way he needs to be recorded. He schedules these events and makes sure that there are actually sponsors of the podcast so that they can make money doing it. For Brockmire, it's mostly just a way for him to get drunk on purpose. His newfound celebrity because of this job means that he doesn't have to go far in order to get drugs or alcohol. It's so fascinating to see how this podcast now works here. Charles just has an opening line where he mentions the sponsor and sets up that Brockmire is about to monologue on a random subject for 90 minutes like only he can. It's quite a skill that he has that he has pulled out on multiple occasions. He started this season talking to Charles about the world changing its fascination with breasts to butts once more. And then, he is able to pull a crazy story out of his past about meeting Kirstie Alley for the first time and noticing that she's crying while whispering "Wichita." It's a story that doesn't seem to make any sense at all. And yet, that's the brilliance of it. Brockmire just has a crazy story like this that he can pull out of his back pocket at a moment's notice. He does so effortlessly too. He enjoys the sound of his own voice. Charles has just found a way to monetize that while also feeding into who Brockmire actually is. This is Brockmire in his natural habitat. He loves greeting fans after these events and accepting their gifts.

But Brockmire isn't striving to keep that aspect of his career going. It's the job that doesn't want to change him at all. The world is accepting him as the drunk old white man who has crazy and tangential views on the world while still being pretty funny. He's a very high-functioning alcoholic. That has never changed for him in the decade since it cost him his first opportunity in the major leagues. Charles doesn't want to change that even though it leads to a couple of uncomfortable interactions because Brockmire is so codependent on their bond. He needs Charles to do a whole lot for him. But it's proven to be a success for both. And yet, Brockmire aspires to be a baseball announcer. That's the career he wants for his life. That's what brings him the most joy. But that's a job that is more regulated and asking him to change his ways. It turns out that the fans of his podcast don't happen to be the same audience for baseball. There is very little crossover the numbers point out. As such, promoting Brockmire to their announcer for major league games no longer seems like a smart investment. It just presents as more of a liability because he is still getting into trouble with the things that he says. As such, the show introduces a new competition that will likely form the spine of the story this season. He will be competing with the on-the-road announcer for this promotion. Brockmire has always supported Raj and appreciated that he has never had to ride buses ever again. But after learning that Raj's likability numbers are higher than his and could cost him this job, Brockmire is willing to turn on his friend. Raj wants this to be a civil fight between them where the best candidate for the job wins. He lucked into this job but now sees the value in this promotion because of a lack of diversity in baseball announcing. Brockmire would just be the same as the man retiring. But Brockmire actually wants this job. He just doesn't want to put the work into achieving it.

As such, it's very amusing to see Brockmire's strategy to prove his worth in baseball announcing backfire spectacularly. It's such a point of diversion to see all of his fans from his podcast willing to give him drugs and alcohol while no fans are meeting him on the field asking for his autograph. Of course, he's more accommodating to the fans giving him free stuff too. On the field, he's too busy complaining about this new competition while feuding with the team's mascot. But the show takes things to such an uncomfortable and inappropriate level when Brockmire has the "brilliant" idea to invite a kid with cancer into the booth with him. In the process, he kicks Charles out to do focus testing on how this sympathy ploy improves his popularity. It instead takes such a disastrous turn once Brockmire realizes this kid simply doesn't have the strength to speak. It literally almost kills him whenever Brockmire asks him a question. That's such a grueling and twisted joke. The show is very purposeful in never showing this kid's face. Instead, it's almost entirely about Brockmire's reaction to all of this. He starts on a high. The stadium is willing to support him with this gambit. It then takes such a dark turn with Brockmire monologuing about why people have a heartwarming feeling whenever someone supports a kid with cancer. Brockmire doesn't believe it's just pure empathy for the grueling disease these kids are facing. Instead, he suggests that it's because everyone is actually selfish and grateful that it's this kid instead of them with this disease. That's absolutely horrifying. Charles manages to pull the plug before the end makes it over the air. But the damage has already been done. This is the point where Jules would come around to help Brockmire rally. Brockmire wants Charles to fulfill that role in his life and it's just one too many jobs for Charles to handle. Charles tells him to reach out to Jules for support. But instead, he opts to continue avoiding these feelings by inviting Pedro to town. That's a fun twist that should create even more complications for Charles next week.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Getaway Game" was written by Joel Church-Cooper and directed by Maurice Marable.
  • There is some fantastic new cast additions introduced in this premiere. Dreama Walker shows up as the team's new head of publicity who believes in numbers instead of hype. As such, she understands that Brockmire isn't as good for business as everyone was led to believe. Meanwhile, Utkarsh Ambudkar plays Raj, the guy who lucked his way into this gig but will continue to play the game because it has been a successful run so far.
  • The season literally starts with Brockmire post-sex staring up at the ceiling talking about America's newfound fascination with butts while he is lying his head on the butt of the women he had sex with the previous night. That's just such an absurd and striking visual that immediately sets the scene for Brockmire not having changed a bit with this new transition. In fact, it's clear that he's replaced Jules with casual sex and forgets most of his partners afterwards.
  • Of course, it's also very fun to see how this new amount of success has gotten to Brockmire's head. He believes it's important to send every women he sleeps with home with a gift basket. He sees it as a consolidation prize for him not greeting them in the morning and pushing them out the door. Instead, that is Charles' responsibility. But this time Brockmire is forced to act because the women has already gotten the top gift basket from him.
  • It seems inevitable that Jules will pop up again sometime this season. It's disappointing that she is seemingly off the show right now because Brockmire abandoned her. And yet, the show is also telling an important story right now about this job being more important to Brockmire than anything else. As such, it will be so moving once that confrontation finally does occur - even though he tries avoiding it here by bringing Pedro to town.
  • Who else from the first season should make a return appearance in the new episodes? The show has completely changed its setting. So, it can't rely on the same recurring players as before. There needs to be a reason for why Brockmire's friends visit him in New Orleans. And yet, it would be fun for more of the Frackers to visit or Lucy or Gary. But it's also important to note that the show is creating new recurring players to focus on now as well.