Hank Azaria going for home run with final season of ‘Brockmire’

Rick's Reviews

Hank Azaria and Amanda Peete star in “Brockmire.” (Photo courtesy of IFC)

LOS ANGELES (KGET) — If you are already feeling anxious because there is no major league baseball to watch, the cable channel IFC is offering a little help in dealing with the hard times. The fourth and final season of its critically acclaimed comedy series “Brockmire” debuts at 10 p.m. March 18.

Hank Azaria returns to the role of Jim Brockmire, a famed major league baseball announcer who suffered a notorious public breakdown after discovering his wife’s infidelity. Each season has been a different big moment in Brockmire’s attempt to getting his life back together.

The first season had Brockmire looking to reclaim his career and reputation by calling games for the Morristown Frackers, an underdog minor league baseball team. Season two began with a newly-single Brockmire calling games in New Orleans and season three took place one year after a stint in rehab, with Brockmire doing play-by-play in the radio booth for the major leagues in central Florida .

There is a time jump of 15 years for the upcoming season where Brockmire is now the Commissioner of baseball tasked with saving America’s pastime as the world around him descends into chaos.

Azaria explains the time leap is just an effort by the writing staff to be as funny as possible.

“Joel Church-Cooper, our fearless head writer, he really loves social satire and so he’s always looking for ways to be meta and make larger societal statements. My idea for season four was, ‘hey, let’s go backwards in time and fill in the lost Brockmire years and just have a big, silly, drunken, drug-fueled romp’,” Azaria says. “He really had this vision of, no, I want to see where baseball and society is in 10, 15 years.  And I couldn’t talk him down off of that, so that’s where we ended up.”

Making unusual turns is not out of character for this series. Instead of going the traditional route of the show starting with a pilot and then being shopped, “Brockmire” originally appeared as a viral short video on the comedy website Funny Or Die.

Azaria calls going from a video short to four seasons of a TV series a crazy journey. It started when he walked into his agent’s office one day to talk about how he had numerous characters he wanted to play but didn’t have an outlet such as a program like “Saturday Night Live.”

He does get to voice a variety of characters on “The Simpsons” – from Chief Wiggum to Moe Szyslak – but Azaria was looking for a way to be seen AND heard. Executives with Funny or Die told Azaria they would make shorts out of the characters and if any clicked, there could be a TV series.

 “Then the short got good response, we actually had a movie script.  It was going be a movie at first. It actually had financing, actually went five weeks into preproduction in Baton Rouge, and then lost our finance. And then we were all very upset and then we were thinking about it after, it’s like, you know, this might lend itself even better to a streaming series,” Azaria says. “IFC bought it. It actually did was a better way to tell this story.”

Having four seasons has opened up multiple pathways for Brockmire to follow with season four being one of the most outlandish. But, just as he has done with every season, Azaria has insisted that even when a story seems outlandish, it has to be anchored in reality.

That reality has shifted dramatically with each season. Azaria credits Church-Cooper with giving the show depth because when he pitched the idea, all Azaria saw “Brockmire” as was a sketch comedy show.

“Even the first day shooting in season one, our director, Tim Kirkby, at the time walked up to me after the first take and said, ‘You know, mate, there’s some real pain here.  This is really kind of gut-wrenching if you think about it.  It’s hard stuff.’  And I’m like, ‘Jeez, he’s right.  This is really sad, what these characters are going through’,” Azaria says. “And Joel really followed that thread all the way through the guy’s recovery and sobriety, and his helicopter dad is just another expression of his addictive and obsessive personality. 

“He even says in one of the episodes, ‘I just replaced my alcoholism with my obsessive parenting,’ after he was so hell-bent on not making the mistakes his parents did.  So, yeah, the show’s about dark, real things, which I credit Joel with completely.”

Returning for the series’ final season are Amanda Peet, Tyrel Jackson Williams and Katie Finneran. Additionally, Reina Hardesty has joined the series’ line-up for the final eight episodes.

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