Hank Azaria’s ‘Brockmire’ is hit for IFC, ends season 1 as cable’s top time-shifted new comedy

Emmy champ Hank Azaria created and stars in IFC’s hit “Brockmire,” a single camera comedy about a one-time major league baseball announcer looking for redemption in a small Pennsylvania town. The freshman series ended its eight-episode run on Wednesday with a marathon, concluding with a finale that promises more misadventures next year.

After playing Jim Brockmire in a a 2010 short for “Funny or Die,” Azaria teamed up with writer Joel Church-Cooper to develop the character. When their planned film about this Kansas City sports star lost its financing, they refashioned their idea into a TV series. Brockmire’s backstory dates to 2007 when he catches his wife of 20 years cheating on him with several other men at once and has a meltdown on the air. A decade later, he is in a self-imposed exile as the stadium announcer for the Morristown, PA minor league team owned by Jules James (Amanda Peet).

The program and Azaria’s performance have garnered the praise of many critics. Melanie McFarland (Salon) applauded his “ability to hold the character’s pathos close to the vest while reveling in his debauchery creates a bizarre kind of magic.” Sonia Saraiya (Variety) believes that Azaria’s performance “feels more vital than” his previous tragicomic efforts like “Huff” and “Free Agents.” And Neil Genzlinger (The New York Times) called him “hilarious in a vile sort of way,” while also being “someone you can feel sympathy for, which is what really makes the series work.”

The critical raves for the show have been matched by viewer reaction. Each episode has drawn an audience of at least half a million live-plus-three-day, with more than half of that coming from time-shifters. As per IFC president Jennifer Caserta,”By every measure, ‘Brockmire’ has already become a brand-defining show for IFC, thanks to its critical acclaim, cultural relevance, and, above all, razor-sharp humor.”

Azaria already has six Emmys with four of those for Best Voice-Over Performance for “The Simpsons” in 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2015. His other two wins were for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Tuesdays with Morrie” in 2000 and Best Drama Guest Actor for “Ray Donovan” last year.

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