Thursday, April 06, 2017

BROCKMIRE -- My review

If ever there was a show created just for me it’s BROCKMIRE that premiered last night on IFC. And happy to say it did not disappoint.  A tip of the cap to writer/creator Joel Church-Cooper and director Tim Kirkby. 

BROCKMIRE stars Hank Azaria as a one-time TV voice of the Kansas City Royals who has a meltdown on the air after catching his wife in an orgy. (What sportscaster hasn't had that happen to him?) The series picks up ten years later (present day) as he tries to resurrect his torched career by calling games for a dinky minor league team in the Rust Belt.

And as a bonus it also stars Amanda Peet.

BROCKMIRE originally appeared in an early FUNNY OR DIE webisode and was very well received. Azaria was a hoot playing a bombastic play-by-play announcer who always wore a “who shot the couch?” sports jacket and had a drink in his hand. Remember Bob Uecker’s announcer in MAJOR LEAGUE? Amp him up times ten, throw in more clich├ęs and that’s Brockmire.

Azaria claims he based Brockmire on a combination of former Mets’ mouthpiece Bob Murphy and former Yankees voice Phil Rizzuto. I don’t totally buy that. Murphy had similar voice inflections but was not an obvious self-promoter the way Brockmire is, and with all due respect, Brockmire is, well… not as clueless as the “Scooter.”

But there are and have been numerous baseball announcers who are exactly like Brockmire. Dan Gladden, the number two radio guy for the Minnesota Twins is one.  And Red Rush immediately springs to mind. Red's era was the ‘50s and ‘60s and he called games for the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox (among others). When I broadcast for the Baltimore Orioles with Jon Miller we used to affectionately riff on Red Rush all the time – both his inflections and cornpone expressions. Everything was “Some kind of.” “Hey, it’s some kind of a day for a ballgame.” “That was some kind of a catch out there.” Teams all had nicknames. Boston was “Those Beantown boppers,” Detroit was “Those Motor City Marauders.” “The Motor City Marauders come to town this weekend and it should be some kind of a series.”

What I liked best about the IFC series is that it gave more dimension to the character. The webisodes were broad and just for laughs (which they delivered). In the series you begin to feel his pain. Finding dimension in a basically two-dimensional character is no mean trick but Azaria pulls it off.

The only thing that struck me as really false is that when calling the minor league game his play-by-play is heard over the PA. Players would absolutely revolt. But that’s one of those “doctors wouldn’t really take out someone’s appendix as a bar bet” facts that only insiders would know.

Otherwise, BROCKMIRE is funny and even touching. It’s some kind of a fun new series.

BROCKMIRE airs Wednesday nights at 10 on IFC .

And while we're on the subject, my podcast this week features my baseball odyssey complete with a sample of my play-by-play.  Just scroll up to the podcast link right underneath the masthead and click on that big gold arrow.   You get not one but TWO home run calls.  Thanks for listening (if you do). 

24 comments :

Curt Alliaume said...

He appears to have Lindsay Nelson's taste in sports jackets.

Thanks for the tip. I'll check it out.

LouOCNY said...

The 'hearing the radio announcer over the PA system' cliche is one thing I HATE about baseball movies - A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN, for example. Anyone who's ever been to ballgame knows it's not the way it happens, so why do it? Ron Shelton had the good sense not to do it in BULL DURHAM, for example, showing Annie and others listening to the game on the radio, and cutting back and forth with the announcer calling the game and the actual game action, and with them listening that way, making comments ("he must have called him a cocksucker").

Still will watch this, however...

Mork said...

The thing about play-by-play announcers on the PA at sporting events has always been one of my pet peeves in movies and TV shows, though I thought "Brockmire" did an admirable job in setting a (reasonably) plausible explanation for it in this series.

And I about fell off the sofa laughing so hard at the scene with Brockmire narrating his own lovemaking.

Terry said...

Your comment about actors playing a two-dimensional character made me think of a possible Friday question regarding the ultimate two-dimensional character - Frank Burns. I'm curious what it was like to write for a character like that (or did you start on the show after he was already gone?) Was there ever a temptation to give him more humanity and more depth? It seemed like in some later episodes after Frank and Margaret broke up there was an inkling of humanity showing through but it didn't last. Also, did Larry Linville (who was brilliant with such an unlikable character) ever ask the writers to give him something more to work with? Just curious. Thanks Ken!

Bill Avena said...

I don't have IFC but the guest appearances by Azaria promoting Brockmire I've seen were hilarious (and no, I wasn't watching just to see Azaria do a Simpsons voice!).

Tom said...

Looking very much forward to watching this. I was subjected to Red Rush as a youth listening to White Sox games (his partner was Bob Elson, who everyone seemed to revere but who put me to sleep). We definitely stepped up with Harry Caray and then, a few years later, when he was joined by the deranged (meant in the nicest possible way) Jimmy Piersall.

Brian said...

Thanks for the tip on Brockmire. I'll check it out. Not sure why, but I like baseball movies. There was even a sitcom a few years ago where a single mon coached a little league team and her Dad was around. What happened to that?

Play by play over the PA. That would be funny if that actually happened and the announcer didn't know it and kept going while the players become increasingly frustrated.

Anyway - Friday question - I don't remember you having mentioned any opinions about Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm". In particular, I wonder what you think about making a show with only outlines and no script.

Mark Fearing said...

When I read about the series I thought about you Ken!

ScottyB said...

I don't know much about sports announcin', but some pretty interesting (not great or incredibly riveting, mind you -- I merely said "interesting") little movies that weren't 'Bull Durham' or 'Major League' come out of minor-league settings. 'Long Gone' introduced us to Virginia Madsen and the fact that Hank Williams sure could yodel, and those special minor-league moments in 'Slap Shot' are still hard to forget. I'm kinda on the fence with Randy Quaid's 'The Rookie', tho. I missed 'Brockmire' last nite, but IFC seems a fitting home for it, altho that probably means nobody will see it since it's not a high-vis channel. That would be too bad, same as the total indignity CBS did to 'Becker'.

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Terry: I hope Ken answers your question, it's a great subject and I've wondered about those too. Larry Linville was such a great actor, he should have become much more well-known IMHO, for a lot more than just Frank Burns.

I have read that Frank Burns was a conundrum for both LL and the writers. There *was* a belief it couldn't hurt to flesh out the character more, and they did so at least once IMHO with the conclusion to the episode where Houlihan takes off in the helicopter with her new husband. Yet at the same time, the writers seemed to really enjoy having such an over-the-top foil for Hawkeye and the 4077th.

I've also read that it came to a point where Linville couldn't watch production dailies, he got so sick of seeing his character get humilated. OTOH, for years when people asked LL why Burns wasn't deeper, he would respond "who did you want him to be like, Alan Alda?" Also, I believe Mark Evanier once wrote that once Larry quit, when the writers proposed doing a sendoff episode for Burns, LL didn't want to even hear about it, which really strikes me as strange.

I have a hunch there were quite a few interesting things going on behind the scenes about Linville/Burns. Unfortunately as Larry has passed away and it's been so long since those M*A*S*H episodes were produced, I also think a lot of those facts and everyone's impressions are by now forgotten or just lost in the mists of time.

ScottyB said...

Now that I think of it, isn't thing that makes 'Brockmire' appealing that it's still and all a show about a guy with a job more interesting than most of us will ever have trying to pull his life out of smoking crater? Isn't that the same baseline appeal to shows like 'Louie' and the forgotten early 1990s sitcom 'The John Larroquette Show' where he was the manager of a bus station? You almost hope their lives never turn around, because jeez, where would the fun be in that?

Buttermilk Sky said...

As long as Brockmire doesn't refer to the home team as "the good guys," like Ken Harrelson. Bush league stuff.

VP81955 said...

Phil Rizzuto was the slightly daffy, but likable uncle every family has, as compared to the dreadful John Sterling, who blends Ted Baxter's pomposity with Kenny Bania's ineptitude.

And while Harry Caray is best recalled for his work with the Cardinals and Cubs, his most important tenure was the 11 years he spent with the Chisox. He, Jimmy Piersall and Dick Allen saved that franchise for the South Side in the early '70s, when it appeared headed to Seattle.

Mark said...

As for Larry Linville, and others who are so well known they are almost locked into one public perception of one character, why don't they take small roles in larger project. Where they have, say, a five minute role as the sympathetic uncle of the main character, or some other small role that is completely different than their "Frank Burns" role. Do it for no money, just for the chance to start getting people used to seeing you in something other than the one role.

Why don't actors do this? Wouldn't it work, eventually?

tb said...

That was "some kind of" review, I must check it out. My friends and I are always doing our Chris Collingsworth, with his "Talk about a" line, "talk about a guy who can really play, You talk about a team that's...blah, blah

Johnny W said...

Just listened to Azaria talk about this the latest WTF. Will have to check it out.

Also: "Who shot the couch?" Where does this expression come from? I love it!

Susie said...

I love Hank Azaria. Second greatest voice actor after Mel Blanc.

Wally said...

Haven't listened to it yet, but relevant, obviously
http://awfulannouncing.com/online-outlets/111942.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

RF Burns said...

I don't know about radio announcers being played over ballpark PA, but in some cases the radio play by play is routed to the dugouts and/or dressing rooms. Found that out the hard way some years ago when I engineered a spring training game for the Brewers in Phoenix.

After being warned by Bob Uecker to kill the mics during commercial breaks, somehow through a combination of errors I failed to do that. During the second inning I got a frantic phone call from the producer at the radio station in Milwaukee. Bob liked to talk smack about the players during breaks, and they were hearing everything he said off air. Whooops!

Phil said...

Don Rickles passed away Ken. Will you do a post on him?

ScarletNumber said...

@ Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve)

This is why the Winchester character is superior to the Burns character.

Todd Everett said...

What does one have to do -- at a minimum -- to receive a "story by" credit and pay? Is
"Lucy disguises herself in an effort to join Ricky's band" enough, or does it have to be a complete outline, with occasional pieces of suggested dialog? My guess is somewhere inbetween, but is there a Guild rule covering this? And if my first example is sufficient, where do I sign up -- I have lots, of ideas. ("Hot police woman goes undercover as a hooker" is another)

Johnny Walker said...

@Todd I would like to hear the answer to this as well, but I'm pretty certain it requires a full outline. I don't believe there's any credits for nuggets of ideas.

Sean Robbins said...

I recorded it, but haven't gotten to it yet. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it.