‘The Brink’ Pilot Recap: “Let’s Not Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste”

Well, that’s 0 for 2. Of HBO’s new summer comedies, the political satire ‘The Brink’ may not be as awful as ‘Ballers‘, but it’s still a huge missed opportunity.

The show is intended to be a ‘Dr. Strangelove’-style madcap farce, in which a geopolitical crisis brings the planet to the precipice of a new world war and the only people in any positions to stop it are all idiots. It’s a sound concept for a comedy. And, thankfully, this series is actually intended to be a comedy, (unlike ‘Ballers’) not a half-assed “dramedy” that forgets to bring a single joke.

A coup d’etat has just gone down in Pakistan, and a paranoid lunatic (Iqbal Theba, the principal from ‘Glee’) has taken control of the country. The American ambassador (John Larroquette) has already gotten the hell out of Dodge. Back home in the U.S. of A., the Secretary of State (Tim Robbins) is a drunken sex pervert who puts on a great show of knowing what he’s talking about when all he really cares about is wrapping things up quickly so he can get back to his mistress.

As the Defense Department tries to pressure the ineffectual President (Esai Morales) to go to war, the American government’s only reachable asset in Pakistan is a dipshit low-level embassy functionary (Jack Black) who gets caught in the middle of a protest riot while out trying to score some weed with his increasingly frustrated driver (‘Daily Show’ comedian Aasif Mandvi).

Meanwhile, the Navy scrambles a fighter pilot (Pablo Schreiber from ‘Orange Is the New Black’) on a sensitive bombing mission, only for him to mistakenly mix up what he thinks is Xanax for something considerably trippier.

It’s hard to pin down exactly where the show goes wrong. It has a good cast and a strong premise. Tim Robbins is clearly game and is working very hard. Jack Black is fairly tolerable. Most of the jokes and situations seem like, on paper, they ought to be funny. Is it the direction? Jay Roach has made a ton of comedies. He ought to know how to do this. The tedious musical score certainly doesn’t help matters, but that can’t be the worst problem.

For as much as it strains to be wild goofball fun, the show unfortunately falls completely flat. None of the jokes land like they’re supposed to. I struggled to make it through the half hour pilot episode and don’t imagine that I’ll give it another chance.

Grade: C-

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