The only thing simpler than organising a piss-up in a brewery ought to be making a breezy half-hour comedy about a brewery. All the ingredients are there. The craft beer movement in recent years has created thousands of small, barely profitable businesses run mainly by nerdy men with big plans. If The Office, Alan Partridge and Fawlty Towers showed us anything, it’s that nerdy men with grand aspirations and failing businesses are ripe for mockery. Add a handful of entertaining supporting characters and a tiny bit of plot, leave to ferment. What could go wrong?
Quite a lot. Despite the promising material, I sat through the first two episodes of Brews Brothers (Netflix) in sober silence. Wilhelm Rodman (Alan Aisenberg), who changed his name from William to sound more Bavarian, has just set up his new brewery in Van Nuys, Los Angeles. The beer is good but he lacks acumen and the business is struggling. His only customers are two men who joined his “founders circle”, paying $500 for unlimited free beer for life. His two employees aren’t much help. Hopeless Chuy (Marques Ray) dresses as if he’s going to the beach and washes his underwear in the brewing machinery. Sarah (Carmen Flood) is slightly more competent but has a violent streak and might be underage. At the front of the brewery is a truck selling kids food, run by a horny and unhygienic couple, Becky (Inanna Sarkis) and Elvis (Zach Reino).
Enter Wilhelm’s brother, Adam (Mike Castle), who was working at another brewery in Portland – where else? – but has been run out of town for insulting his rivals. He and Wilhelm used to make beer together as teens but were too combative to work together. Forced back together, they resume hostilities. Where Wilhelm is intuitive and hospitable, Adam is scientific but sociopathic, insulting customers who try to order Stella and Bud Light, smashing glasses and spitting on the floor. The first episode wastes no time in setting up the dynamic, which is whether the brothers can make a go of it despite their complete lack of business or social skills.
The creators are brothers themselves, Greg and Jeff Schaffer, industry types who between them have a long and mixed CV, which includes Curb Your Enthusiasm and That ’70s Show. Both of those series give even their unlikable characters a level of charm lacking here. Where Brews Brothers promised to be a fresh, quirky microbrew, it has come out as a flat lager. It might do if there’s nothing else on, but you wouldn’t go out of your way to order it.
The tone is part odd-couple, part hipster satire and part gross-out – but it stops short of taking any risks. Despite the abundance of easy targets, it’s impossible to imagine anyone being offended by it. It barely earns its 18 certificate. It’s shot in that bright, shiny American style, where their failing brewery is spotlessly clean. Even a tramp taking a dump by the brewery’s front door looks handsome and clean-cut. With characters and plots this shallow, the jokes have to be both frequent and funny, but too many fall flat here. It wears its scatology heavily. I’ve nothing against knob jokes, but they have to stand up.
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