Brockmire (S02E04) “Retirement Ceremony”

Who says you can’t go home again? In Jim Brockmire’s case, he should have paid attention to that advice.  Sometimes family ties can become a noose.

“For the dead, I have poetry. For the living, my sincere apologies.” – Jim Brockmire

Time for a Biblical Amount of Booze

We have all had situations in our lives where we have unpleasant memories and are forced by circumstances to confront them. Jim Brockmire is no exception. Upon finding out his father has passed away, he attempts to put his intense dislike for the man aside so that he can write a touching eulogy.

While Charles (Tyrel Jackson Williams) is amazed at his grown-up approach to his toxic family situation and compliments him on the way he is handling it, Jim proceeds to do a line of coke. Nothing really changes and of course, a pick up is necessary to get through this difficult and trying time.

For his many faults, Brockmire does realize that he needs to pay his respects to his deceased father. So, he takes some time to go to the Ozarks for the funeral leaving Raj (Utkarsh Ambudkar) solo in the announcing booth. As much as it pains him, Jim sets off for the old family homestead.

Of course, this is Brockmire we’re talking about so there are no tearful reunions. In fact, his nephew Jim (Jef Holbrook) hits him up for $1,000 right off the bat which he pays to make the kid go away. Then he has to deal with a torrent of bitter abuse from his sister Jean who is angry because she had to take care of their father until he died.

She also informs Jim that his public meltdown on network television over his wife’s cheating brought shame to their family.  Because of the embarrassment, her son Harry is getting bullied at school. Finally, Brockmire can take no more diatribes so he declares that he is going to need a biblical amount of booze to get through everything.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Jean tells him she runs a dry household now which Brockmire finds hard to believe because she used to be a prolific drinker like him. He also reveals that he has plans to do a eulogy but his sister tells him right off the bat that he just needs to keep his mouth shut.

Wanting to escape the harsh realities of his dysfunctional family, Jim goes rummaging in the garage to see if he can find his old man’s hooch stash. He succeeds but it is rum which Brockmire likens to “sugar alcohol for kids.”

Feeling lonely, Jim phones Charles for a chat. To answer Brockmire’s call, Charles exits the booth amid Raj leading the crowd in an impromptu sing-a-long of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. When Brockmire asks how Raj is doing, Charles responds, “Not so good.”

When Jim tells his best friend that he loves him, Charles retorts with a well-timed, “You are more than a boss to me.”

Before he hangs up Brockmire notices that his ex-wife Lucy (Katie Finneran) is walking toward the house. Now, he knows everything is going to get worse. Jim goes out to meet her so that he can find out what in the hell she is doing there.

Hell, in a Handcart

Lucy informs him that she is paying her respects. She really tries to have a meaningful dialogue but Brockmire keeps thwarting her. Partly, due to the fact that he still loves her.

At the wake, when Jean is passing around an hors d’oeuvres plate she snidely asks Lucy, “Does harlot want a to go basket?” It is extremely funny and yet sad at the same time.

Lucy and Brockmire reconnect. However, when she offers sex, Jim declines because in his words, he doesn’t know what emotional minefield will befall him if he sleeps with her.

The situation comes to a head right before the funeral when Jean gives Brockmire a letter from his father which is exceptionally brutal. And she wasn’t kidding because the missive starts off with Dear F***face.

Everything culminates with the funeral. While Lucy is trying to focus Brockmire and deter him from saying anything about his father, he does what he usually does and opts to ignore reasonable advice.

What happens is darkly humorous but packs a powerful punch. Jim recounts the day he disturbed his Dad’s “Tiki Time” by informing him that he needed to feed his family. Angry at having his “me” time with alcohol interfered with, he microwaved fish sticks for the kids until they were burning hot.

Jim and Jean were forced to eat the sticks and both children ended up in the hospital with 3rd degree burns. As he is reliving this terrible moment, the audience sees the light go on in his sister’s eyes as she remembers what happened.

In the end, Brockmire walks away from his past but gets some closure with Lucy and his sister’s forgiveness.

The Verdict

Tonight’s episode, “Retirement Ceremony,” was touching yet scathingly funny. The depth of the writers in willing to take an already horrible situation and call attention to the darkly humorous moments is readily apparent.

So many things could have went wrong with this show. Without the rapid fire one liners, it could have come across as a “very special” episode. This was the term designated for those sitcoms of yesteryear whenever they tackled serious topics.

On one hand, the funeral scenes were incredibly heartfelt and honest. Think of ripping a Band-Aid from a wound that hasn’t quite healed and that sums up part of my take on this IFC show.

On the other hand, Hank Azaria’s performance elevated this series to another level. He was so sincere in his portrayal of Brockmire that you believed his pain. You could sense that he had emotional scars that will never heal because of the way his father treated him.

Azaria also didn’t wallow in the darkness though. His wonderful innate sense of timing and his 1930s screwball comedy delivery style made for some hearty laughter.

Brockmire is the blueprint for how a sitcom should be- relevant, daring and devastatingly funny.

Tune in to Brockmire on IFC, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.