Wednesday, May 9, 2018

REVIEW: 'Brockmire' - Brockmire Must Prove His Worth When Calling a Game with Raj in 'Knuckleball'

IFC's Brockmire - Episode 2.03 "Knuckleball"

When announcing with Raj, Brockmire has a few too many drinks.

Right now, Brockmire is asking the audience what we want and expect from our entertainment. Do we thrive off of seeing specific personalities that always manage to bring the fun to any event even though they aren't the most knowledgeable on any particular subject? Or do we crave the personalities that are able to eloquently speak on a number of different subjects in a way that makes it all so easy to understand? Here, Whitney is saying that Raj is so popular and likable because he has a Jimmy Fallon appeal. That's apparently what the organization and the fans of this baseball team are looking for. They want someone who will produce excellent content directly aimed at making people laugh. When Whitney shows off a clip that highlights Raj's likability, all Brockmire notices is that he isn't really calling the baseball game. He sees it as a failure because Raj isn't doing the job he was hired to do. But Whitney doesn't fundamentally care about that. She is motivated by getting as many people into the seats as possible. Right now, Raj is simply a more entertaining personality. He thrives on being a people person who is able to bring out the best in others. Some could even argue that he forces the best out of Brockmire when the two of them are asked to call a game together. Of course, it also forces Brockmire to reflect on his life and all that he has sacrificed in order to continue to pursue this increasingly hopeless dream of calling baseball games in the majors again. Brockmire is fighting to get back what he lost even though so much time has passed since then. The world around him has changed. He has adapted to some of these differences - especially as it pertains to technology and sex. But it's also important to note that Brockmire is the same as he has always been. He's still always going to be a reckless loose cannon who could do or say anything while on the air.

Brockmire doesn't even want to entertain the notion that he won't be the one hired for this job. He sees himself as the one who knows all of the ins and outs of baseball. People are fans of the game and listen to the announcers in order to get all of the facts in a way that they can understand what's going on. Now, Raj isn't completely clueless in the booth in that regard. He can still call a game even though he doesn't know all of the minor rules about the sport. Brockmire knows every single aspect and can even be quite entertaining on his own. Whitney asks him to be more like Raj in order for this to be a fair fight between them. At the moment, it seems like Raj is the obvious pick for the position. He simply has more support from the fans because he's obviously pandering to them with his new sign off saying they are "the best fans in baseball." Brockmire sees that as completely ridiculous. They aren't even the best fans in the southern region of the country. Brockmire has so much admiration for New Orleans after living her for awhile. But now, he's realizing that he'll have to put in more work in order to get this job he craves so much. Of course, Brockmire just has to double down on what he already excels at. The numbers apparently point out that Brockmire is his most likable during the stretch of the game where he is obviously the drunkest. Now, Whitney no longer allows any alcohol or drugs in the booth. So, Brockmire and Charles have to find a work around that. But they manage to succeed in that regard with very little problems. It just continues to prove that Brockmire desperately wants this job and is willing to do anything to make it a reality for him.

It's honestly not surprising that the baseball organization has Brockmire and Raj work together for a game. In fact, it wouldn't even be shocking if the results of that partnership lead to the two of them being tied together permanently moving forward. Brockmire wants to have specific ground rules that state that they'll trade off calling innings and there will be no obvious pandering to the audience. He wants to cut Raj down because he doesn't like his tactics. And yet, Raj is just so happy to be here. He genuinely sees everyone as inherently good. Brockmire sees Raj as an asshole with such a diluted sense of the world. It doesn't line up with Brockmire's own opinion that new people are just assholes you haven't met yet. It's an opinion that has come out of a very hardened and traumatic life. Brockmire has been through so much betrayal that it's easy to see why he too is an asshole. He is blunt and inappropriate in that way because it's the way he copes with a world where all of these bad things continue to happen to him. Yes, it creates a vicious cycle where it seems impossible for him to get out as long as he continues to do things exactly the same way that he always has. Here, he only succeeds because he gets drunk and high during the games. That appears to be the only way that he functions. When Whitney wants business meetings with him, it's simply much easier to talk to Charles about everything important that's going on. Charles continues to be a solid friend helping Brockmire maintain this dream. He's willing to hide alcohol in the booth and get him a tampon full of drugs for him to stick up his butt to get high. That's such a strange and unusual visual. It's the type of joke that only a show like this could try. It's Hank Azaria going for the broad physical comedy and it works.

And yet, the show is able to mine so many emotions out of the struggle of getting older and no longer being able to or allowed to do things that once meant so much. It's all told through a story of Uribe getting one last chance to pitch in the majors. It's a case of Brockmire living his own dream through Uribe. The two of them are such kindred spirits. They got along so well in Morristown that it's understandable why Uribe would come down to New Orleans for an indefinite visit after he was forced to retire. And now, he's ready to venture off for the next stage of his life. He has found a woman he is willing to move across the country to be with. Brockmire is able to convince him he still has a shot at the majors because he still has a signature pitch. All it really takes is one thing to be seen as unique or special in the sport and Uribe has it. Brockmire is able to get him onto the team as well. Uribe is able to be the star pitcher during the next game. He gets off to a rough start where he isn't able to throw as well as he did during the practice. All it really takes is one motivational speech from Brockmire for Uribe to turn his fates around. Of course, Uribe can't hear Brockmire on the mound. So, it's much more a speech about Brockmire trying to get the world around him to understand that chaotic people may not always know where they'll end up but they still have something vital and meaningful to offer to the rest of the world. It's a speech that Brockmire genuinely feels because he is eager to prove his worth to this sport once more. It's his most rousing moment of this game. The Crawdads still lose spectacularly. Raj still plays towards the fans in order to win their love and affection. But Brockmire is able to reflect on the actual game and how unique it is for Uribe to get a standing ovation even though the team ultimately didn't win.

It's then such a gut punch for Brockmire once he realizes that Uribe has no more intentions of pursuing a career in baseball. He simply wanted one last game where he was celebrated. He no longer wanted to be the old man who could no longer do the same job that his younger counterparts could handle. Now, he has proven his worth. He has gotten everything he wanted to achieve. He has no interest in being called up to the majors once more. He had that dream once and was able to achieve it for a short while. His career was on the decline from the moment he left until he was stuck in Morristown. And now, he is able to go out with a game he is proud to have pitched. He has completely accepted moving across the country to be with the strong, independent woman he loves. He thinks it's so special that he has that in his life. He has a reason to keep on living even though he can no longer achieve these dreams that once meant so much to him. It's in this moment that Brockmire realizes that he made a mistake in leaving Morristown and Jules the way that he did. He hopes that he could just show up on her doorstep with an apology and a gift. She will see that and take him back. He wants things to continue to be easy. Getting together in the first place happened very quickly for the two of them last season. Their relationship quickly blossomed into something real and genuine because they understood each other completely. She was the only person capable of matching Brockmire completely in every aspect of his life. And now, she wants nothing to do with him. She only listens to his grand apology for its entirety because his gift is blocking her ability to slam the door in his face. That's what she wants to do more than anything else. It's very rewarding to see Jules again. But it's also so important that Brockmire doesn't win her back so easily. He continues to be on a downward personal spiral even though his career is looking up. That's where the comedy and drama of this show needs to come from at all times. And here, it's pretty humorous and moving to watch.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Knuckleball" was written by Amanda Sitko and directed by Maurice Marable.
  • This show absolutely loves putting Azaria into such ridiculous situations and having them play as completely normal for Brockmire. Here, it's completely no big deal that he and Uribe want to have an orgy together. Nor is it annoying or strange when they decide to jerk off back-to-back on the mound of the stadium. That's simply just an experience they are able to get away with. They don't suffer any consequences because of it.
  • It's also just always great whenever the show reveals that Charles just happens to be in the room after Brockmire says or does something extremely sexual and inappropriate. But it's also important to point out that if listening in on sex distracted Charles from getting his work done, then he would never be able to get any work done for the podcast. It's just an annoyance he has to put up with this job and living arrangement.
  • It's fascinating how Brockmire is able to get a tryout for Uribe to prove himself as a pitcher because the coach of the team also happens to be one of the men who Lucy slept with. That's a huge reveal. Brockmire now says he's fine with that discovery but has no problem blackmailing the guy to ensure that his wife doesn't find out that he has cheated on her in the past.
  • Raj proves himself to be a very ambitious man as well. He has no real understanding of the sport or the aspiration to make an entire career out of sports announcing. But he does strive to be famous as a personality who is likable and endearing to everyone. It may be a completely fruitless and impossible goal for him to achieve. And yet, he has the drive to actually chase it right now. That ambition extends far past Brockmire's own.
  • Amanda Peet is still listed as a series regular. She is just listed in front of the end credits in order to protect the surprise of that final moment where she appears again. It was always inevitable that she would come back into Brockmire's life somehow. And yet, she's still understandably pissed at him. But it also seems likely that she'll continue to pop up somehow as their story is far from over.