Before you prepare to watch Brews Brothers, Netflix’s new comedy about two feuding brothers trying to get a nascent brewery off the ground, there are three questions you need to answer:
- Do I find the prospect of grown men accidentally drinking urine hilarious?
- Is the very sight of a large dildo — or simply hearing the word “dildo” repeated over and over again — something that will make me die from laughter?
- Do I know what a valleyshot is? And do I really want to see a situation comedy that features it as a plot point?
If you answered “yes” to all three, then perhaps you’re ready for this raunchy, consistently unfunny single-camera comedy. Created by Greg Schaffer (a writer on That ’70s Show) and executive produced and occasionally directed by his brother Jeff (who co-created The League), the eight-episode series longs to reach the misanthropic heights of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia — just with more vomit and semen humor. But while you’re sitting there stone-faced as one lame gag after another flops, you’ll mostly be pondering why those shows are all great and this one is terrible. It’s not because Brews Brothers pushes the envelope of bad taste — it’s because Greg Schaffer and his team have succeeded in coming up with a spectacular collection of the most unlikable characters possible and then forced us to cohabitate with them.
The premise is reasonably appealing. Wilhelm (Alan Aisenberg) — everybody calls him Will — is a twentysomething beer aficionado who’s just opened Rodman’s, a brewery in unflashy, un-trendy Van Nuys, California. Working for him are Sarah (Carmen Flood), a former MMA fighter, and Chuy (Marques Ray), who is the show’s wacky Kramer wild card. But Rodman’s is struggling — Will keeps inadvertently giving all the beers he concocts really homoerotic names — and so Sarah secretly reaches out to his estranged brother Adam (Mike Castle) to help save the business. Trouble is, Adam is a total beer snob — he considers himself an artiste, looking down at commoners who imbibe swill like Stella Artois — and so when he offers to help Will, what he really wants to do is impose his draconian ideas about beer on his brother and their potential customers.
Sort of like an alcohol-fueled Big Night — one brother is practical, the other unwilling to bend on anything — or Frasier if Frasier and Niles were dolts, Brews Brothers is meant to be a hilarious look at siblings who just don’t get along. As we’ll quickly learn, Adam has tormented Will since childhood, repeatedly reminding Will that he thinks he’s inferior and lording his own cultivated palette over him. But because Adam is so abrasively smug, he’s run into trouble. (He was a cicerone in Portland before burning every bridge there.) Now he needs a second chance — not that he’d ever stoop to humility. As far as Adam is concerned, Will should be grateful he’s there to come up with new beers that will rescue Rodman’s.
Those familiar with It’s Always Sunny and The League will recognize Schaffer’s comedic contours. Everyone on Brews Brothers is some variation of an idiot — Sarah is the one remotely normal person, but she has her dum-dum moments, too — and each episode involves the gang trying to achieve something but invariably screwing it up because of their vanity, carelessness or stupidity. The plots are so predictable, you can set your watch to them — which you’ll be doing while checking to see how much time is left in the episode you’re currently watching. Although each Brews Brothers is only 30 minutes long, it feels infinite because Schaffer hasn’t come up with much to say about local breweries or brotherly competition — or, for that matter, food trucks, high-end sex shops, neo-Nazis or the relative merits of having only one orgasm per month. Everything in this show is fodder for the least-clever payoff you can imagine. It’s actually quite something to see.
Because Brews Brothers leans hard on its scatological humor — ha ha, you couldn’t get away with this on the Big Three! — it’s easy for anybody who hates this show to be painted as a prude prone to hyperventilating at dick jokes. But considering I love It’s Always Sunny and often really liked The League, that excuse won’t fly. What made those shows succeed was the feisty interplay of its main characters. On both programs, the people were reprobates, but they had a certain set of rules to how they operated that made sense. (It was like we were studying a rare breed of Asshole erectus in its natural habitat.) The characters might be mean, but they were funny — and their meanness seemed to speak to a gnawing childish insecurity that they were powerless to control. That made them sympathetic, even when they did disgusting things — in fact, it was their fundamentally pathetic nature that was most hilarious.
Oh, how I longed for those shows while trapped in Brews Brothers — especially when League co-star Stephen Rannazzisi briefly shows up in two episodes. Where It’s Always Sunny and The League superbly deconstructed bad behavior and petty rivalries — all while being gleefully out of bounds in terms of some of its comedy — this Netflix turd just sits there, parading its sophomoric humor witlessly.
Will is the dopey everyman, but he’s the dopey everyman in the most benign, beige-y way. (Does he eventually develop feelings for Sarah? Of course. Does that play out in any appealing way? Absolutely not.) Adam is a pretentious jerk, but only in the most obvious and uninspired ways. (It doesn’t help that Castle bears a distracting resemblance to both Ben Schwartz and Zach Woods, funny actors who know how to play hysterically obnoxious individuals.) Chuy gets some of the best non-sequiturs — with an oddball character like that, the fun comes from slowly discovering how depraved his life outside of Rodman’s is — but even that feels expected.
What’s most annoying is that, for lots of reasons, Brews Brothers is the sort of sitcom we really need right now. If you hadn’t noticed, the world is awful, so a big, stupid, crude comedy would inject a little raucous irreverence into our daily quarantine blues. Everything’s going to hell, so how about some jokes involving bizarre threesomes and scenes of dudes drinking piss? Plus, even after the pandemic ends, we’re gonna be living in a reality in which small businesses like Rodman’s have been eradicated. Brews Brothers’ portrait of struggling young millennials couldn’t be more relevant — these characters have little hope of attaining stable lives and are stuck in an economy that practically guarantees they’ll be doing side-hustles until they die.
With all that in mind, a perfectly reasonable response would be to drown your sorrows in raunch and inanity. You could argue that Brews Brothers’ sarcastic, bodily-fluid-fueled humor is an appropriately snide, nihilistic middle finger to the shitty adulthood that awaits the Wills and Adams out there in the audience. But for that argument to work, you’d need to apply more thought than anyone on this show bothered to muster. Come right down to it, Brews Brothers isn’t even that outrageous — it’s mostly just lazy.