by Anne Moore

The Doomsday Clock is ticking, bringing us closer to the brink…but the brink of what? That’s exactly the question Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Pablo Schreiber and friends are trying to answer in HBO’s new series The Brink. The Brink is a satirical take on US government diplomacy filled with sex, drugs and international intrigue – so what could possibly go wrong.

Jack Black (Alex Talbot) is an ambitious, but not very effective undercover agent with orders to infiltrate an ongoing coup in Pakistan. Bumbling secret agents aren’t new, but it’s not a topic that is usually considered in today’s terror filled political scenes and the scary real-life headlines they generate.

Brothers, Kim and Roberto Benabib, explained at the TCA/HBO panel a few months ago how they originally wanted to write something satirical, but still connected to today’s current geopolitical realm. “We went to go see the Kubrick exhibit that was in town,” recalls Roberto Benabib, “and we found ourselves in the Dr. Strangelove part of the exhibit. As much as we loved that film, we realized there wasn’t a lot like it at the present moment in the world of comedy. Clearly, dramas were dealing with what was going on in the world, but comedies were more intimate and smaller and more about the lives we lead during our daily existence. When I was growing up, it was in the ‘70s, and comedies were Catch 22, M*A*S*H, Getting Straight and Dr. Strangelove, and we just felt here’s something you’re not seeing a lot of, and this is a real opportunity.

I think we had to update it in very interesting ways,” he says. “I think that there was a broadness to Strangelove that was of the time of ‘Mad’ magazine. You had a man, Sterling Hayden, playing Jack D. Ripper. You had Keenan Wynn playing Colonel “Bat” Guano. I think we decided that we were going to make the comedy based in a more real world because that was going on felt more serious.”

It was this “real world” difference that attracted Jack Black to the project. “I was drawn to the material just because I hadn’t read anything like it before, and I hadn’t seen anything like it on television before. I was drawn to it because it was so new and different and original and the fact that it dealt with Middle Eastern politics and was a comedy, and just very fresh and exciting. I wanted to party with these guys.

Alex Talbot is a complex character. He’s a bit of a climber. He’s trying to climb the corporate ladder of the US government and hoping to make his way into the CIA. He’s kind of a wannabe CIA dude. He loves America and he’s there for some good reasons too. Yeah, but he’s a bit of a doofus.”

Sure, what could go wrong? World War III?

THE BRINK – Swim, Shmuley, Swim – Sunday, July 19 – 10:30 PM on HBO

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