The Brink

The Brink Underwhelms

The Brink, HBO’s new half-hour Sunday night offering, is aptly named. It takes viewers right to the very edge of entertainment, then leaves them standing there, wondering why.

The highlight of the premiere was the animated opening. It depicts a globe being heavily decorated by weaponry, capped by a big red button about to be pushed by a giant finger. A promise not delivered.

The show manages to squeeze in a little gratuitous nudity within the first two minutes, courtesy of Mara Lane. Thus, viewers know, going in, that Secretary of State Walter Larson (Tim Robbins) is fun-loving guy who likes fantasies in which he is killed. Sure enough, this show is a comedy.

Funny thing about comedy — I expect to laugh. Unfunny thing about The Brink — I didn’t. Not once. OK, maybe one or two snorts of derision, but that’s it.

The entire season is set in Pakistan. Another questionable choice in the quest for humor. A regime change puts an unstable leader in charge of the nation’s nukes. More merriment ensues.

Jack Black plays Alex Talbot, a bottom-feeding foreign service officer in Islamabad. Alex is pinning his hopes for promotion, not on his diplomatic talents, but on the fact that he once arranged twin, blonde, Asian hookers for Larson.

Alex’s reluctant sidekick is Rafiq Massoud (Assif Mandvi), who gives Alex all the respect he deserves. Black, who is also producer, and Mandvi are involved in writing the series, which might be part of the problem. Comedian/actors don’t always successfully reside on the writing side of a series, especially when they are penning their own lines.

Miscast in the series as Secretary of Defense Pierce Grey is Geoff Pierson, whose uncanny resemblance to Joe Biden should have landed a role as vice-president. Others in the cast include Maribeth Monroe, as Walker’s suffering assistant; Mimi Kennedy, CIA director; and Esai Morales, President.

To be fair, the opener does end with the world on the brink of catastrophe. The worst thing about this HBO series showing up on a Sunday night? No damn dragons!

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