Tuesday, October 11, 2016


A lot of readers have asked what I thought of the new Fox series, PITCH – especially since I have a real familiarity with the world it lives in.

The short answer is I like it.

I have the problem that lawyers have with legal shows, doctors have with medical shows, and vampires have with post-apocalyptic shows.

There are a lot of technical baseball points they get wrong that as an insider I notice, but I doubt most viewers would. And I totally get the notion of creative license.

A few things do bother me though. When Ginny Baker arrives at the clubhouse none of the Padres players know her. But if she came up through their organization (which they said she did) then she would have played with most of these guys somewhere along the line in the minors.

The characters in general are kind of stock. Dan Luria plays the gruff but lovable rumpled manager. You’ve seen that guy in a hundred baseball movies. A lot of managers are young today and relate differently to the players. And Bob Balaban plays his usual weasel asshole. He’s such a good actor. Just once I’d like to see him in a role where I didn’t want to punch him in the face.

Kylie Bunbury is fine as Ginny Baker. I believe her way more than that movie where Reese Witherspoon was supposedly an Olympic Gold Medal softball player. And Mark-Paul Gosselaar is equally fine playing Kevin Costner in BULL DURHAM. I’m not an Ali Larter fan but never have been. To me she’s the bad version of Rhea Seeehorn.

My big question is where is the series going? After awhile Ginny either fits in and just becomes a part of the team, or she doesn’t and she’s released. After they do the stories about her breaking in, her notoriety, and adjusting to life in the majors then what?

I guess they’re kind of going for a Jackie Robinson type scenario but the stakes and hatred was off the charts for Jackie. Ginny gets to go on KIMMELL.

Still, I love the game action sequences, seeing actual big league stadiums, and I’ll always have a soft-spot for series that employ baseball announcers. Especially for the Padres (since I was once one). If I have one quibble – use the radio guys. Give Jesse Agler and Ted Leitner some love.

For now I’m on board with PITCH. And I’m sure once December and January roll around I’ll be thrilled just to watch a show about baseball. And I can’t wait for them to do the episode where Ginny takes steroids and they swap out Kylie Bunbury with Barry Bonds with a wig.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Haven't seen the show since I'm too busy watching the playoffs.
but I plan to watch the pilot at least.
Hard to do a sports TV series.
The ones that I can think of: 1st and Ten, Friday Night Lights, The Game, Sports Night (if you count it), were all ensemble casts. It didn't focus on 1 person, 1 story line.

For this show to work, they needed to make it about a baseball team, that just so happened to have a female pitcher.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Re Bob Balaban: may I suggest borrowing the time machine from TIMELESS and go back to 1968, when Balaban played Linus to Gary Burghoff's Charlie Brown off-Broadway in YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. I think you can still get the cast recording.

I think that's still the best whole live cast I've ever seen.

PS: I was hoping you'd review Tig Notaro's series ONE MISSISSIPPI. I thought it was great.

PatGLex said...

NOTE TO READERS: POSSIBLE SPOILERS. / / / / I was one of those people asking. I have enjoyed the show so far, really like the characters (though I know they are "stock" for what you'd expect to find on a baseball team). I like the (to me) unexpected twists -- wasn't expecting Ginny to go against her agent on Kimmel, was a little surprised about her reaction to no beanball. But the father thing at the end of the pilot I was waiting to happen most of the ep. (Though the "when" was the interesting twist.) It's one of the few network shows I make time for each week.

Mark said...

How about a completely outside the entertainment world Friday question.

If you were baseball commissioner what would you do to change the game? From the games themselves to how the league is organized and run.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken,

Thanks for writing this up- I was interested to hear your take. I watched the first episode, thought it was a little chessey. Haven't turned back. I've read some online uproar to save the show (move the timeslot, etc) but I probably won't be back. For now I'm staying with Designated Survivor (for another week) but the best new show I've seen is This Is Us. I know, I know, everyone says the same thing. --LL

Roseann said...

I have been in the episodic business long enough to have worked on SO many pilots that were a one note theme. I couldn't possibly imagine where they were planning to take the story after the pilot wraps up. What I see if a show like that is picked up is basically garbage. Oh, well, you can't hit it out of the park every time.

Roseann said...

I'm also really tired with the time jumps that seem to be so popular these days. I have no idea which year PITCH is in. I don't recognize the earlier characters yet and I get confused. Quantico is not long for my world cuz I don't want to work that hard to watch a stupid TV show. Pitch is doing the same thing in my feeble brain.

H Johnson said...

I've been watching Pitch as well. I'll gave it a go mostly because of my love of baseball. I liked the pilots' portrayal of her Dad's influence, but subsequent episodes have the same "I'm confused or reluctant about whats happening" until the last five minutes when she again realizes that she just wants to play ball. I agree with your questioning where they are going to take the show.

It feels like it's being written by people who don't really watch baseball but have seen a lot of baseball movies. There has been very little depth to the team's players and not a lot of details as to why she is any good. She's not that powerful so is her junk hard to hit? Maybe they'll get into it. I'm tired of the evil agent bit. Have her hit in the head by a foul ball already.

Hopefully it finds it's groove but I fear it's a bit one note to keep the interest up.


Lord Lillis said...

You've broken a three-story arc right there. After a couple of bad outings Ginny feels the pressure to stay in the majors and looks to take steroids. But she can't take the steroids the guys do - that'd kill her. How does she figure a) which steroids to take b) hide them from the drug test c) where does she get them? Plus the emotional conflict - there you go: no charge.

There's a PBS tape of the original cast of YOU'RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN floating around out there somewhere. Ms Grossman's right - seek out the sound track if you can (and don't forget Skip Hinnant as Schoeder).

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Lord Lillis: video or audio? I have the original cast recording (vinyl) from 1968, but I'd just about kill for a video tape.

My favorite was Reva Rose as Lucy, I think. She was perfect. Well, they all were!


MikeN said...

How did they handle the basic premise? Did they make her a knuckleballer, or have they just claimed that she can pitch as hard as men?

goodman.dl said...

MikeN, they have her topping out somewhere in the 80s, but with an apparently amazing screwball. Which I suppose would allow her to get by against Lefties that might otherwise feast on her.

Cap'n Bob said...

Balaban wasn't insufferable on SEINFELD.

MikeN said...

Guinness doesn't have any woman pitching even 70MPH. There is reportedly a middle school girl in little league hitting 70.
A screwball is not amazing if you can't get a speed difference, though Mariano Rivera managed to get by with one pitch and one speed.

Liggie said...

Haven't seen the show yet, but I'll second the idea of using the Padres' real announcers in the show. Heard Ted Lightner call a game via the MLB AtBat app, and he blew me away.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

That's the really unrealistic part: they don't show her father administering steroids and stuff to help her bulk up and develop more strength. Instead, she's a scrawny thing supposed to be able to lift the same weights as the big, bulky players around her, who also apparently don't use performance-enhancing drugs.

Ken: I also wanted to draw your attention to this piece in today's Guardian, which talks about the rise of "sad comedy", in which category it places TRANSPARENT, ONE MISSISSIPPI, and a show you may not have heard of but that a lot of people around me have been talking about, FLEABAG. The writer argues that relieving comedy of the need to produce constant laughs is opening it up to many interesting possibilities. I can hear you ranting as I type this. :)


VP81955 said...

The Jackie Robinson analogy -- is that why her character wears No. 43 instead of #42 (which of course is retired throughout MLB)? And has the "we only believe athletes who are black" now fully extended to women as well (in other words, could a white actress have been taken seriously in this role)?

Sounds like an intriguing premise, but I note after CBS concludes its NFL Thursday night coverage it will go head-to-head with my favorite series, "Mom." Assuming it lasts that long.

Charles H. Bryan said...

As far as her slight physique (which I don't think is that slight; she looks how I would expect an athletic woman to look) I guess I would refer to Tim Lincecum, who was quite good for a while, and who wasn't a giant despite being a Giant. And given the number of crap male pitchers that are in MLB at any point in time (almost every roster has a couple or more at some point during the season), her making The Show is not totally unrealistic. Bruce Bochy might have used her during that disastrous 9th inning last night; he used everyone else.

What cancels willing disbelief for me is that she's absolutely beautiful. Most pro baseball players -- MOST -- are not perfect looking; some appear to need immediate and extensive dermatology.

If you look at the players in the WNBA or in the NWSL, they're not all Maybelline models (nor should they be). Someone who was less good looking in PITCH may actually be more sympathetic. There could have been story lines about endorsers trying to make her into someone "beautiful".

A Friday Question: How does the studio make any money off of a show like this? It's got to be expensive to produce and the viewership is not that high. (I doubt that MLB is paying for product placement.) Are network shows now just big loss leaders for eventual sales to streaming services or digital downloads? Or, for the dinosaurs like me, disc sales? (It's the CW's ratings on the superhero shows that really make me want to ask this question. Lots of special effects but not high numbers; maybe they can charge higher ad rates for delivering a specific geeky audience?)

Thanks, Ken! Congratulations on the new play -- I wish I could come out there to see it.