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Redemption key theme in Season 3 of Hank Azaria's 'Brockmire'

By
Karen Butler
Actor Hank Azaria's sports dramedy Brockmire will begin its third season Wednesday on IFC. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Actor Hank Azaria's sports dramedy "Brockmire" will begin its third season Wednesday on IFC. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

April 3 (UPI) -- When it comes to redemption, Brockmire star Hank Azaria says sincerity -- not fame -- matters most.

The IFC comedy Brockmire follows Azaria's Jim Brockmire, a fast-talking, outrageously candid, Major League Baseball announcer clawing his way back a decade after a drunken, on-air meltdown -- a YouTube sensation -- sidelined his career.

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The past two seasons have seen Brockmire living a debauched life of drugs and sex as he bitterly, but hilariously, comments on Triple A League games in Pennsylvania and Louisiana.

Season 3, which premieres Wednesday, features a sober Brockmire doing play-by-play in the radio booth for the major leagues during spring training in central Florida, while also attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and spending time with friends who hold him accountable for his actions.

"In these modern times, everything's public," the 54-year-old native New Yorker told UPI during a recent press day, referring to how social media has amplified many a fall from grace.

"A person -- in life and art -- has to really learn lessons for real. ... Seems like Tiger Woods has done it. There's a lot of people who have done it."

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Brockmire's own humiliating downfall, while witnessed by millions, hurt no one more than himself, suggesting there is a chance for him to make a full comeback if he cleans up his act.

"We make a few 'Me Too' jokes in the show, but Brockmire is like, 'I was never that guy,'" said writer-producer Joel Church-Cooper, who joined Azaria for the interviews.

"He was never really racist or homophobic or misogynistic. But he was everything else. His failures are very public, and I do think the story we really are telling this season is about the work that you do to rehabilitate yourself."

Azaria misses the badly behaved Brockmire.

"It's been a little sad. I don't feel like I get to cut loose like I normally do," he said, adding that "tolerate and survive" is the recovering addict's mantra now.

Church-Cooper said it wouldn't have been plausible for Brockmire to maintain indefinitely his previous level of self-destruction, even though that was loads of fun to write.

"It was a great crutch. I leaned on it a lot," Church-Cooper said.

But after so many scenes of Brockmire snorting amyl nitrate, "Eventually, it starts to become Cartoonland," he said.

"The challenge this year was to find a way for Brockmire to feel real and funny and, at the same time, sober."

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Azaria approaches each season of Brockmire like he would a stage play -- by completely memorizing his lines for the next eight episodes before filming begins.

"We have to go so fast that I just have to be off book, and if we switch a scene, I'm ready to do it. I could perform this whole season as a stage play right now. Someday, I will," he said.

Church-Cooper pens the screenplays months before the cameras start to roll and then hands the scripts to Azaria, who commits two pages of text to memory every day.

The "quasi-baseball, Shakespearean way this guy talks" means there is little room for improvisation, Azaria said. "It needs to seem as if it's just occurring to me, but it helps if it's been in my brain for at least a few weeks."

Days that require him to recall lengthy monologues are usually the most challenging.

"Today happens to be a five-scene day where I never, ever shut up," he said.

A huge sports fan in real life, Azaria spent decades creating and refining his Jim Brockmire alter ego.

"The character was really a vocal impression -- one of many, many, many I did as a young man and then kept doing personally and professionally and always thought that this was a funny way for a human being to express himself, especially if he wasn't in the booth," the actor said.

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A 2010 Funny Or Die sketch featuring Brockmire caught the attention of Church-Cooper, who then wrote the character "28,000 times better than I could," Azaria said.

"It was a good marriage between the two of us. Joel has a lot that he is angry and would like to vent about, and Brockmire is a really good way to do that," he joked.

"Things that Joel doesn't like come out of Brockmire's mouth. He is very much annoyed by the movies of Christopher Nolan. ... Jersey Mike's? Joel does not like Jersey Mike's."

Season 3 viewers will learn Brockmire and Church-Cooper also aren't big fans of central Florida ("an incubator of butt sweat") or Walt Disney ("the greatest huckster of them all.")

Azaria is best known for his work voicing numerous characters on The Simpsons animated series. His other credits include Mad About You, Friends, Huff, The Birdcage, America's Sweethearts, Shattered Glass and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Season 3 Brockmire guest stars include Tawny Newsome, Martha Plimpton, Richard Kind and J.K Simmons. The show has been renewed for a fourth season.

It airs at 10 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays on IFC. 

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