Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pilot Review: The Brink

The Brink (HBO)
Premieres June 21 at 10:30pm

It’s no surprise that HBO has picked up a show that’s laced with satire. The two comedy series that aired most recently on Sunday nights are both parodies of sorts, “Silicon Valley” a send-up of the tech industry and “Veep” an outright mockery of politics, and therefore “The Brink” is a logical choice to end up on their slate. It’s hardly as polished, however, and whatever this show wants to be isn’t quite clear because of its highly uneven tone. It feels most like a modern-day version of “Dr. Strangelove,” though that’s too much of a compliment, getting serious occasionally but only in the service of extending its comedy, like when Tim Robbins’ secretary of state interrupts a grave meeting to get his dinner order straight. As if Robbins’ Walter Larson wasn’t ridiculous enough, Jack Black is technically the lead of the show as the bumbling Alex Talbot, who makes the entire country of Pakistan look like a joke because of the way he treats it. When Pablo Schreiber, who played Pornstache on “Orange is the New Black,” is cast as what passes for a straight man, a drug-dealing pilot, you know you have a zany show. There’s no denying that here, and while I’m interested to see where it may go, this first episode was far from solid enough to really recommend it. I’d be up for giving it at least one more chance, but I keep wishing that it would feel more like the biting humor of “Veep” and less like something alternatively too outlandish and not outlandish enough.

How will it work as a series? Well, war has nearly been started between multiple countries, but I guess that’s the point of the show’s title, so things can only go belly up from here. This show needs to choose a direction and head in it, and this first episode was too scattered to suggest that it will be able to keep a firm handle on where it wants to go in the future.
How long will it last? The pilot did decently in terms of ratings, and it could be just the semi-intellectual counterpiece to time slot companion “Ballers,” which was watched by far more viewers. Despite iffy reviews, I think that this show is going to get picked up as an investment by HBO in more political comedy.

Pilot grade: C+

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