Brockmire's fourth and final season was always going to be timely, but it wasn't supposed to be this timely. With spring training canceled and opening day pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic, baseball -- like everything else -- is in an uncertain place. Fortunately, in the real world, things aren't at Brockmire level (yet).
In the final season of Brockmire, IFC's cult hit comedy about alcoholic, self-destructive baseball announcer Jim Brockmire (Hank Azaria), baseball is dying out. It's 2030, and baseball attendance has fallen to record lows, as Americans don't really want to go outside due to average temperatures in the 110s and too many guns and ads tattooed on people's faces being a huge bummer to look at. There are food shortages and riots. Arizona has become part of the "disputed lands." The Amazon has completely burned. On Brockmire, the world is in an apocalyptic state that feels eerily prescient about what 2030 might be like.
But things are going well for Jim Brockmire. In the time jump since Season 3, he's cleaned up his act. He's gotten sober, become a doting single father to his daughter Beth (Reina Hardesty), and worked his way up the ladder to running the Kansas City team, which has the best attendance in the league. So the owners want to hire him as commissioner in order to save baseball. He's the only person who can still make people care about the game. Over the course of the series, he's gone from a pariah trying to get back in, to the most powerful person in the sport.
He agrees to take the commissioner job and move to New York, but mostly only to stay close to Beth, who wants to leave Missouri and go to college at NYU. To help him save baseball, he recruits his ex, Jules James (Amanda Peet), a brilliant marketer who's fallen on some hard times in 2030, protecting the bar she inherited from her father from looters while drinking and snorting any substance she can get her hands on.
Through all the changes, though, Brockmire is still Brockmire, delivering loquacious, hilarious misanthropic rants in a voice as smooth as a Yankee's beardless face. The partnership between Azaria and showrunner Joel Church-Cooper delivers virtuosic comedy that's sending Brockmire off at the top of its game. And by the end of the season, Brockmire and Jules might even have a shot at redemption for all the bad stuff they've done.
In an interview at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January, Azaria told TV Guide that the plan was always to end the show after four seasons, and credited Church-Cooper with the idea for the time jump into comically dystopian bleakness.
"That's sort of the gestalt of the series," Azaria said. "That's what Joel does really well. Whether it's alcoholism or society going down the tubes, or anything in between, capturing what's realistic and truly dark. And then also finding what's funny in there, and emotional."
Despite all the bleakness, the eight-episode season ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that even if the world is a disaster, you can be there for the people you love. "I think he really stuck the landing, Joel Church-Cooper," Amanda Peet said. "It's really hard to make something moving but sentimental." Peet thinks Jules has a beautiful arc, growing from a self-absorbed, self-destructive maniac into a better person. "It's kind of a conventional ending without being conventional, and stays true to the spirit of these wacky characters."
Azaria says that this is the end of the series for sure, but we may see Jim Brockmire again in some capacity. "Who knows? I'm sure there will be other ways to bring the character back," he said. "He already kind of has a life of his own," appearing on sports shows and things like that. (Azaria says he can ad-lib in character as Brockmire, but the long, Shakespearean soliloquies are always tightly written. "I couldn't possibly put together thoughts like that," he said.)
Since Brockmire sometimes pops up in the real world, and Azaria plays him with such vigor, he's easier to imagine as a real person than a lot of other comic characters. And though he's charming, charismatic, and we enjoy watching him on TV, he might be a lot to take in real life, what with the drinking and the selfishness and the constant chatter. And the stars of Brockmire are not of the same mind about how they'd feel about Brockmire if they met him in real life. "I'd love him, personally," Azaria said when asked if he'd like him. "I would get a big kick out of him. I think I would like, if nothing else, talking baseball with Jim Brockmire."
Azaria answered a different question, and then went back to the question of liking Brockmire in real life, because he wanted to know what Peet thought. "No!" she said, with a funny "are you kidding me?" tone. "I mean, I definitely wouldn't date him. He's very unstable. He's a clinical narcissist."
"Yeah, he is," Azaria said, with a little bit of "can't argue with you there" in his voice. We like Brockmire half-despite, half-because of his flaws. And if the world was ending, you might want a smart, resilient guy like Brockmire on your team. As long as he's not drinking.