Brockmire has turned out to be one of the great comic pleasures of 2017, including tonight’s first season finale. A few thoughts on that, followed by a long conversation with creator Joel Church-Cooper about what’s made it so special, just as soon as I throw piss balloons at you…
What I loved about “It All Comes Down To This” was what I loved about the season as a whole: that confluence of broad and filthy comedy (Jules getting her revenge on Gary, Brockmire trying to get the stadium epically drunk to help meet the mortgage requirements) and genuine emotion. I got really excited when the Frackers pulled off the franchise-saving triple play, just as I felt terrible about how ugly Jules and Jim’s breakup was when he opted to go to New Orleans for the Triple-A job Joe Buck got him. This relationship was a spectacular mess involving two unspeakably damaged people, but it was also their mess, and it was kind of working, and Jim has chosen his love of baseball — and his desire to regain his old celebrity — over his feelings for her. That’s rough, and honest, and — along with Charles traveling with him to The Big Easy — creates a promising set-up for next season that won’t just be a rehash of what we got over these eight episodes.
Now here’s me and Church-Cooper:
What was your response to the short film when you were brought in to develop it into something more?
I thought, “What a great cold open!” What a great start for a character to see what would happen after that. The short is very much about the breakdown itself. And then they do some short snippets of the wandering. And there’s no narrative to the wandering, it’s just him as sort of an insane person. I was very interested in that aspect: what the after looks like. What it’s like when you have to try to pick up the pieces and you’re already a giant weirdo who loves the sound of your own voice and can’t stop talking.
Originally I was doing character appearances with him, so I was just doing top of the sports jokes on different programs with Jim Brockmire’s voice. And I also very early on realized that the sportscaster cadence is just a great joke delivery system — especially if you have Hank Azaria doing it. I definitely felt very lucky right away that within three months they were kind of giving me the key to the whole character. And I felt very lucky.
How did you figure out how to maintain the balance between the filthy, ridiculous comedy, and the moments of genuine pathos?
The big number one thing across the entire season and going forward, however many seasons we get out of this show, I want this show to be laugh out loud funny always. And I worked on network comedies before, and there’s this sort of a network sensibility of, “We know we have a few good jokes in there, but we’re gonna stack it full of 60 jokes.” And I wanted this to be, let’s reduce the number of jokes, but make the quality higher so that people pause their televisions because they needed to laugh for 20 seconds. So once we have that, I also wanted to do a real down and out dirty, and adult, romance. You always see romantic comedies, it’s like people getting their shit together in their 20s I wanted some really broken-down people who had tons of baggage and got into something through a mistake and then found love. And I wanted to commit to that and really have that be a real thing. Plus, I’m a big fan of The Thin Man series with Myrna Loy and William Powell in the ’30s. There’s something about two drunks together who have the same exact level of alcoholism, and are in it together. But instead of solving mysteries, these two are trying to save baseball. I thought it was just a great dynamic.
So I wanted it to feel real and I wanted there to be dramatic elements to this show. If we wanted to get dramatic and dark, I feel like we had to be super funny on the other end, otherwise people wouldn’t stay with it. As a television viewer, I’m getting sick of the soft comedy. But I also understand, as a TV writer, why you want to have dramatic elements in a comedy. It feels new, it feels different. But it’s a seesaw. So if you’re going to weigh down on one side, these dramatic elements of depressing people in this depressing town and some criticism of the current post-peak America we’re living in, you got to have big dick jokes on the other hand, to get them through.