This review of Brockmire Season 3 contains no spoilers.
“You make a big deal about how different you are, but going from drunk asshole to sober asshole isn’t the dramatic makeover you think it is.”
Television shows that are anchored around strong personalities can often hit a difficult situation when they begin to run beyond their first couple seasons.
When a character’s dysfunction is the basis of their many problems, television shows can enter an identity crisis when those characters attempt to “cure” themselves of these ailments. This can lead to a rocky seesaw towards redemption where a character’s progress is continually taken away from them (see Nurse Jackie) or the opposite where these stereotypes can turn over a new leaf, but risk abandoning the core values of the character in the process (see Barney on How I Met Your Mother). Brockmire finds itself in this tricky quandary as the show’s third season faces the very hard task of making a sober Jim Brockmire as compelling as one that has an irresponsible blood-alcohol percentage.
Brockmire Season 2 took some serious risks with Brockmire’s character and his development, which proved to be an enlightening experience. This is a year of healing and it explores whether Brockmire can stick with that change and what kind of life he’s left with as a result. But make no mistake, as Brockmire strives for a better version of himself, this show doesn’t shift into some sugary sweet inauthentic shell of itself. This is still the pitch black comedy that jokes about suicide, sexual harassment, and cancer as it allows the world to burn, but it’s just that now Jim isn’t able to take a shot to chase this darkness with a buzz.
Baseball is still Jim’s drive, but now a vicious cycle of hobbies and masturbation that consumes a sober Brockmire’s free time. It’s also painfully ironic that Brockmire relocates to Florida during his sobriety, yet he remains strong in spite of the copious vices that get pushed in his face as well as Florida’s curious eccentricities like trespassing tortoises and trips to Disney World. There’s also a surprising lack of rampant, irresponsible sex; a clear sign of growth on Brockmire’s part.
Brockmire Season 3 doesn’t struggle to find sardonic, refreshing twists on aspects of Jim’s sobriety, like the openness of AA meetings or using the twelve steps as a suit of armor. The show finds just as much clarity with these areas of sobriety as when it mined humor from Brockmire’s drunken exploits. It’s an exciting, new territory for the series and the character to explore and this development thankfully doesn’t neuter the show in any way. There are still plenty of ways for Brockmire to fuck up and many things for him to rage against when alcohol and drugs are removed from the equation…This is also a season that’s much more about Brockmire helping others solve their problems rather than constantly putting out his own fires.
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Brockmire is still far from perfect and spends a lot of time apologizing, but he does become a better person and continues to improve while still retaining his core curmudgeon personality. He really gets tested this season, particularly in the season finale, and it’s great to not see him buckle under the pressure, like usual. He has to overcome more than he ever has before this season, both personally and professionally, and the kindest things that he’s done through the course of the series happen this season. Brockmire also has a pet tortoise now, which is something that works almost too well. They’re a very amusing duo.
The trajectory of Brockmire’s career isn’t as much of the focus this season, although it’s still important. Instead the cast’s personal obstacles become more of the season’s arc. This season strips down Brockmire’s safety net of Charles and Jules and instead sees him build himself up with a new crew before he can return to his old comforts, which he surprisingly deals with in a mature manner.
Without question, these old characters are definitely missed (although they’re not entirely gone), but it speaks to the transitory nature of life and how people come and go, but are there when you truly need them. It also helps that the new stable of weirdos that gravitate around Brockmire as he finds himself in this new circle of Hell are all very satisfying additions.
This season has Brockmire act as an announcer with the Oakland Athletics in Florida at King Venom Vape Cartridge Stadium. He shares the position with Gabby Taylor (Tawny Newsome), a former softball star, who’s very fresh to the announcing game. Brockmire has found a successful formula by mixing up Jim’s announcer dynamic each year, but his rapport with Gabby leads to some of the most entertaining on the air material yet.
Gabby is awkward in an entirely different way than Brockmire is and there’s immediately a palpable chemistry between the two of them. Brockmire may ruin conversations with his lack of filter and affinity for sharing personal details, but Gabby sometimes struggles to even have conversations due to her nervous demeanor. She makes for a strong foil for Brockmire this season and she’s able to learn a lot from him and his many years in the industry. Their bond is one of the best things about this season.
That being said, Brockmire and Gabby are very much the outcasts in Florida’s broadcasting clique. Brockmire has had to scrape his way back up to the top in the past, but he’s truly at the bottom of the barrel this time around. This ignites Brockmire’s desire to fight and rebel against the big guy in some inspiring ways, but it also lends itself to a lot of comedy.
For instance, Brockmire’s new producer is an overall-wearing rube who has been out of the game for fifteen years. He’s like a labrador that’s been let loose in the building. Richard Kind is the perfect actor for the blue collar Gus Barton and his relationship with Brockmire and Gabby is very entertaining, but he still manages to surprise and hold wisdom behind his unassuming appearance. He also very much reflects the show’s general theme of redemption and to not judge someone based on external factors.
Also working alongside Brockmire is Matt “The Bat” Hardesty, who’s played by the always-reliable J.K. Simmons. Hardesty is another former baseball played turned sports announcer, but also a complete asshole on a scale that makes Brockmire look like Mr. Rogers. It’s a true war of egos between these two, but a raw friendship ultimately forms. He pretty much just tries to make Brockmire and Gabby’s new jobs as miserable as possible, but Simmons still bring it for this aggressive performance. It’s almost like he’s the physical embodiment of all of Brockmire’s worries, yet there’s still a very real tenderness to him, too.
Another presence in Jim’s life is his AA sponsor, Shirley (Martha Plimpton). There’s a very gentle, thoughtful relationship here that’s different to any of Brockmire’s previous bonds. She’s the hard-ass kind of sponsor that can see through his bullshit and is exactly what he needs during this period of vulnerability. Brockmire keeps waiting for someone to reward him or take notice of his sobriety and Shirley is at least someone that he can open up to about this powerlessness.
The series also shines more of a light on Brockmire’s family, not only with his unconventional sister, but the two of them also attempt to reconnect with their estranged (reprehensible) mother, Lorraine (Linda Lavin). Some genuine emotion is reached with this family reunion and some harsh truths are dealt with this year. It might not be the kind of homecoming that Brockmire is looking for, but it’s another way in which he becomes better rounded this season. He’s finally putting others before himself and that starts to scare him. Lavin really kills it in this role and it’s very easy to see how Jim is his mother’s son. The poison apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
This season of Brockmire is mostly about looking forward, but it doesn’t entirely sever all of the show’s old ties. Jules and Charles are both back in a limited capacity. In the case of Jules, she fulfills a very different sort of role now and one that Brockmire really struggles to accept during this period of self-improvement. He yearns to still find a way to have her be apart of his life in some capacity, but begins to prepare for the truth that maybe that’s not possible. Jules still confidently kicks ass in her minimal screen time, but remains a big ball of neuroses in her own way that’s delightful to watch.
With Charles, it’s incredible to see how much he’s come into his own as well as taken some of the best aspects of Brockmire’s extroverted personality. He’s in over his head in some big ways this season and Tyrel Jackson Williams really gets to show off his range in this role. He has an anecdote about sixty-nining that his hapless, mischievous attitude perfectly sells. He makes the most of the character’s brief time in this season. It’s also pretty damn great to watch how Brockmire bristles against Charles’ new life and the people that are close to him. There’s still such a strong shorthand between these two characters, but it’s so nice to watch the new versions of these people negotiate around each other.
Brockmire has always been an expertly scripted series and this season Joel-Church Cooper’s scripts continue to deliver some of the most brilliant, jam-packed dialogue you’ll come across on television. There’s a Sorkin-esque poetry to the show’s scripts and language and it never sounds more effortless than when it’s spewing out of Hank Azaria’s mouth at a rapid pace. It is very easy to laugh out loud several times an episode as Brockmire goes on unbelievable digressions, like his time at a Pixar-themed orgy. There’s almost too much to appreciate in each episode’s densely filled scripts.
Brockmire gets more attention for its sharp, hilarious dialogue, but the show also has some wonderful visual gags. There’s one in particular that sees Jim and Gabby attend church that is so relentless in its structure and pacing that it feels like it’s from out of a cartoon. It’s one of my favorite jokes of the year so far and a testament to the unique brand of humor that Brockmire has built over three seasons. Maurice Maurable returns to direct the hell out of this season and helms every episode this year.
This season of Brockmire also features episodes that tackle some larger more cerebral topics like race, sexuality, death, and the existence of God (aka Sky Daddy), all with very Brockmire-esque spins on these ideas. One especially cathartic installment takes a nuanced look at infidelity, depression, and why people cheat on one another. It’s also a reminder of how human and wise this show can be. There’s also an episode that’s entirely dedicated to the phenomenon known as “the yips” and acts as a history lesson on the curse and a fun way to explore the apocryphal condition.
Brockmire is a series that wears its rudeness and maturity on its sleeve, but this year more than any other shows that there’s a very real heart behind that. Underneath all of the crassness and vulgarity, there’s such a sweet message behind this show, which is really about how important empathy is for the world. It’s very gratifying to watch people who are good at their jobs, even if they’re at the bottom rung of the ladder, as they slowly work their way back up to the top. It’s important to never stop trying and that a little struggle isn’t a bad thing. Brockmire finds a way to have baseball reflect the human condition and remains one of the most challenging, honest comedies on television.
Brockmire’s Season 3 premieres April 3 at 10pm on IFC
This review is based on all eight half-hour episodes from Brockmire’s third season
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.