“The Brink, ” a new show in which Jack Black and Tim Robbins star in a dark geopolitical comedy about a geopolitical crisis that has the planet on the verge of World War Three, premieres on HBO tonight. It has something to do with a military coup in Pakistan a low-level diplomat on the ground in Islamabad and a stressed-out Navy fighter pilot on an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea. Unfortunately for Black and HBO, the critics do not like the new show and Rotten Tomatoes gives it only a 50% rating.
Variety said, “Directed by Jay Roach (who has helmed the HBO politically themed movies “Game Change” and “Recount”) and written by Roberto and Kim Benabib, almost everything about “The Brink” seems to be trying too hard. And while there are some funny, or at least politically astute, lines — like the suggestion far-right Christians vigorously support Israel because they want to “keep the lights on” until Jesus returns — the show operates at a tone of constant hysteria, which, as justified as that may be, begins to feel exhausting. In fact, after five episodes, this might be one of those shows where binge-watching yields diminishing returns.”
Yahoo said, “The Brink is chock-full of good actors, some of whom aren’t given enough to do. Of the episodes I’ve seen, Carla Gugino deserves a lot more screen time as Larson’s politically ambitious wife, and The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi starts out looking like he’ll be Black’s sarcastic sidekick but, thank goodness, gradually becomes much more than that.
“What robs The Brink of much sustaining interest is the underlying cynicism that serves as the motive of almost every person here, and which comes across as a cheap excuse for avoiding deeper characterization. Everyone is compelled to do what he or she does for reasons of lust and power. I realize these things do indeed motivate a lot of what goes on in life, but when it comes to entertainment, I’d like something a little more amusing than the following (expurgated) exchange between Mandvi and Black, all too typical of this series: “What does it feel like to be such an a-hole?” “The world is run by a-holes.”
And Time Magazine said, “I’d say “satirize” instead of “spoof, ” but even bad satires have something to say. The Brink, built around a doomsday crisis involving a ruthless Pakistani general, the country’s nuclear arsenal, a drugged-out fighter pilot and various venal American diplomats and politicians, has no point of view beyond, “Damn, people are crazy”: it’s the geocomedy equivalent of a shruggie symbol with dick and barf jokes. You can build a political-comedy engine fueled on nothing more than cynicism–Veep pulls it off every season–but you need prime material, not broad, caricatured, warmed-over Dr. Strangelove with more full-frontal.
“Maybe the show’s mad-mad-world-war style is meant to be a throwback, down to the title-credits art, which features a finger on a Cold War-vintage button. But The Brink is far more likely to trigger a hasty finger on your TV remote.”