One recent review of the new IFC series “Brockmire” calls it “must-watch.” Another calls it “one of the year’s best new comedies.”
Hank Azaria’s character as the out-of-touch Jim Brockmire has found a voice in a place maybe viewers never expected after seeing it emerge more than 10 years ago as a four-minute fake documentary on “Funny Or Die” about this “Game Changer” which included “testimonials” from Joe Buck, Dan Patrick and Rich Eisen.
It’s funny, and it hasn’t died.
The eight-episode series running Wednesday nights on the cable channel — Buck will make an appearance in Episode 7 — has already been picked up for a 2018 run, with the shows written with filming to start later this fall.
They’ve created a bobblehead of Brockmire, a limited edition Topps baseball card … and isn’t it strange that Hank Azaria’s signature on a baseball almost looks like it’s from the former Atlanta Braves’ home-run champion (be carefully of how you scribble).
In addition to the Q-and-A we have online with Azaria, who has moved back to New York after living in Southern California for a 25-year-plus period, we have more here:
Q: With the language and adult situations, does any of this have written consent of Major League Baseball?
A: It does not, but that’s not out of the question. They might. Even if Major League Baseball says you can do something, you still need individual teams to sign off. That’s tougher to get. It varies owner to owner. If the show becomes more popular and everyone gets it and enjoys it. Can you imagine describing this to baseball owners? No. “A foul-mouthed alcoholic completely out of his mind …” But in its way, it’s kind of a love letter to baseball, too. You can feel the love of baseball in it. It’s just got a lot of twisted aspects of it.
Q: Minor league baseball, as where this is set, has much more romantic and comedy situations that seem to present itself, so maybe that’s why a little town with horrible players and a good-hearted female owner makes this work as well?
A: The comparison to the romance in “Bull Durham” is that its wiser and cynical is similar to the minor-league sensibility. There’s also the documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball” about the Portland Mavericks, Bing Russell’s team, that we loved and that kind of formed how we saw the Frackers team as well.
Q: Frackers, as a team name, also lends itself to built-in comedy on many levels.
A: Oh, yeah. First, there’s the “k” in it, so just that sound is funny. And what’s also funny is when we shot this all pre-Donald Trump presidency … all that social commentary is now more relevant now. It’s an area where “coal is coming back.”
Q: Brockmire seems as if he could do any sport. Maybe even a game show. A TV pitch man. But baseball fits best for him.
A: Baseball works for us as a metaphor for what’s old-school about America. The most representative of “old white dude” values that Brockmire comes from.
Q: What’s the baseball hook for you, now back in New York still as a Mets fan?
A: I was watching a Mets-Phillies game last night and one of those weird baseball dilemmas came up. Asdrubal Cabrera is up, and Edubray Ramos throws a ball behind his head. What the heck was that? Cabrera walks toward the mound and Ramos was ready to fight. And the Phillies catcher gets between them so it didn’t turn into a brawl. The Mets announcers finally talked about how last year, Cabrera hit an enormous home run off Ramos and did a tremendous bat flip, because it got the Mets into the wild card. It did show up Ramos, and he didn’t forget it. Ron Darling was saying that Cabrera should have charged the mound. Ramos ends up walking him and Jay Bruce hits a home run to win the game. You get into these weird corners of “What is right?” Do you admire Cabrera for showing restraint? That’s where baseball gets weird for me, which we touch on.
Q: What do you also do as the executive producer for the series?
A: I don’t write them. Production is a lot of work, the bulk of it done by Funny or Die. They handle all the nuts and bolts. A lot of it is casting, deciding on where to shoot, the notes on the scripts. The truth is there’s very little of it from me because Joel Church-Cooper writes it so well.
Q: If it was just about Brockmire, it may be just a one-note character. But incorporating it with a cause and a setting seems to be the key here to having it have a longer shelf life. If it was just a “Saturday Night Live” character who relies on a couple of funny catch phrases and then ends up with his own movie, that might not work as well as a stretched out TV series. Can you protect the integrity of the character or where you’d like to see it go as the executive producer?
A: Honestly, if left to my own devices, I would have done something more to what you’re describing as an “SNL” character. The most genius producer move was recognizing Joel Church-Cooper’s talents and having him run with it.
Q: You had tried to make this into a movie until the financing dropped out. What direction was that going as a script?
A: It had many similar elements to the first season of “Brockmire” with the on-air meltdown, the guy goes to Morristown and hooks up with a team. But with a movie, you have to forward the plot much quicker and the way the season ended was quite different in the movie. With a TV show, you can have a bitter-sweet ending. A comedy sports movie, it’s kind of tough to get away with that in this modern era. A movie can be a slave to a three-act format where there is some major resolution, which can create some false beats. Like, I don’t know if that would have happened in real life, but we gotta move this thing along. What I was surprised by the series is the strong narrative that was created. It’s an interesting story rolling out and the characters are three dimensional. It’s real and doesn’t shy away from their dark reality. It’s compelling and awesome.
Also: Joe Buck talks about why Brockmire resonates with him: