Brockmire, the IFC original comedy starring Hank Azaria, recently ended its four season run, and what a series it should have been. For those unfamiliar, Azaria (The Simpsons, Heat, The Birdcage), plays the titular character Jim Brockmire, a booze swilling, drug consuming, and sex addicted Major League Baseball announcer (and later Commissioner) whose road to hell (and later redemption) is paved with good intentions.
The other leads are Jules James (Amanda Peet), Jim’s baseball loving soul mate who shares his penchant for booze, sex, and drugs and Charles (no last name given and played Tyrel Jackson Williams), Brockmire’s technology and media savvy intern, assistant, and friend. When the three leads all share screen and script, Brockmire teeters on the foul pole of prestige television. When the three leads are separated (seasons 2 & 3) the series is EXTREMELY uneven and borderline unwatchable; luckily for the viewer, all three are present in the fourth and final season.
As season four begins, it is evident that Brockmire is swinging for the fences as the show takes huge leaps in plot, artistic endeavor, and depth. For starters, the fourth season jumps forward into the future by 15 years and introduces us to Beth Brockmire (Reina Hardesty), Jim’s long lost daughter from his booze-soaked time in the Phillipines. Beth is welcome addition to the cast, makes Jim more vulnerable, and is instrumental in keeping Jim growing personally and professionally.
From an artistic standpoint, season four revolves around a media conglomerate algorithm simply named Limon (pronounced Lee-Moan). Limon has devoured Facebook, Apple, and Google, and in the process has become sentient. With nefarious intent, Limon agrees to helps Jim, from his new post as commissioner, save baseball. This plot line is funny, topical, and smart and allows Brockmire to take artistic risks that were unimaginable in previous seasons.
As for character depth, the achievements made during season 4 are possible due to the Azaria, Peet, and Williams finally being reunited. The three seamlessly feed off each other and Azaria and Peet particularly have on screen ‘will they/won’t they’ chemistry that is nearly unrivaled. It is a ‘there’s no cryin’ in baseball’ shame that over the course of the series the three didn’t share more screen time together as Brockmire had Triple Crown potential, but settled for being a Double-A All Star.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit are back with their new album Reunions. As an Isbell fan, I was convinced that this album would fall victim to fourth album curse – a phenomenon where artists lose their artistic vision due to the accolades and success of their debut, sophomore, and third albums. I have never been more happy to be wrong.
Of course, Isbell has released more than four albums, but this is his fourth since collaborating with super producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, John Prine, Brandi Carlile) and getting sober. With Reunions, Isbell continues to make his case for the best lyricist, if not songwriter, of his generation and the album finds him reflective, angry, and sentimental.
- Dreamsicle – the best track on the album details Isbell’s disjointed childhood and the absence of his father in his life. Sad, poignant, and haunting, this track is Isbell at his finest.
- Be Afraid – an 80’s Springsteen inspired bar-rocker that takes on the ‘shut up and sing/dribble’ crowd. Mainstream country radio doesn’t play Isbell and after this release, probably won’t ever.
- It Get’s Easier – a cheeky ode to the struggles of straying sober with lyrics that would make John Prine (RIP) blush.
- River – the tale of a murderer and thief beautifully juxtaposed against the backdrop of a gospel sounding melody.
Reunions, is at times self-indulgent, but when an artist can write lyrics as well as Isbell, that hyper-awareness comes with the territory. As a result, the political stance taken by this album may turn off some fans, but Isbell doesn’t seem to care, as the lyrics on Be Afraid state:
‘We don’t take requests
We won’t shut up and sing
You tell the truth enough
You find it rhymes with anything’
Do Isbell and Company break new ground with this album? Certainly not. His trademark tales of battling sobriety, the challenges of fatherhood, and fighting battles to save a marriage haunt the album, but that isn’t a bad thing; it’s just more of a good thing.
If you are unfamiliar with Isbell, don’t use Reunions as your gateway album; save that for Southeastern and work your way forward. If you are familiar, do yourself a favor and give it a spin.
CRACKERJACKS & DREAMSICLES
- Worthington, OH native J.K. Simmons really classes up season 3 of Brockmire and his angry exchanges with Azaria are nothing short of exhilarating.
- For the life of me, I can’t understand why Amanda Peet never was a bigger star. She has great dramatic and comedic chops and is smart, talented, and beautiful. Hollywood is the worst.
- Isbell, Brittany Howard, St. Paul & The Broken Bones are all have roots in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, proving that Alabama isn’t all bad, just mostly bad.
- Last fall, my show buddies Tom and Judd went to see Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires and her band at The Basement. Shires puts on great show and is an incredible artist in her own right.
- Joe Buck, playing an exaggerated version himself and foil to Jim, was a surprisingly good addition to the Brockmire cast.