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Friday, October 14, 2016

Crying? There’s No—OK, Fine! I Won’t Use The Same Cliche Movie Line As Every Other Reviewer #Pitch #FOX #3weekroundup

Crying? There’s No—OK, Fine! I Won’t Use The Same Cliche Movie Line As Every Other Reviewer #Pitch #FOX #3weekroundup

All pictures courtesy of FOX

Back at it again, not only with another three-week roundup review but with the opening line to remind you that it is a three-week roundup review. For those who don’t know, this is where I make my judgment on the first three episodes of a series (giving it a chance to build and bud into success before grading it) and give you a recap of the first three episodes. So, does FOX’s new sports drama hit a grand slam or will it [insert second baseball cliché of this review, meaning something bad]? Let’s find out.

Pitch stars the magnificently hot and overly scrumptious Kylie Bunbury as Ginny Baker—I know, we’re slidin’ right into the sexism. Ha! I just snuck a cliché baseball play in there without you even noticing. I’m smooth like that. Ginny Baker is a young 20-something baseball player who happens to be the first woman ever to play in the major leagues, that’s the MLB for those of you who, in real life, find baseball to be too boring and comparable to sitting around listening to your grandma and her friends in their knitting circle while they talk about the foods they eat to keep regular and she makes you hold her yarn ball. Essentially the female Jackie Robinson, it is a drama following the trials and tribulations of her being sent up from the minors to play on her first big team, the San Diego Padres after their starting pitcher is injured. In a ploy by management to not only get more butts in seats but liven up the dug-out, they call down to their affiliate and there she appears.

Episode one gets us acclimated to the new digs as we follow Ginny’s new hectic life. She awakes on game day, her first day in the league, hops in the backseat of her chauffeured car and is taken to the game by a driver with her manager/agent at her side. Her manager (Ali Larter) used to be a bigwig in Hollywood and worked with A-list talent as we learn in episode two but she now has only Ginny as her client, and what a client she will be. After telling the driver that this young girl is the biggest, most important person he’s ever driven (not true as he once drove Michael Jackson), she helps to guide the girl through her first day. But Ginny doesn’t really need guiding. While all the lights flash and camera-phones record, Ginny is reliving her journey to the big leagues, starting with days in her youth spent with her father as her personal coach.

A show told half in flashbacks, we see Ginny as a small child watching her older brother play hit and catch with her father one summer night. Hardly good at it, the domineering man shoos the boy away as he is trying to “make a ball player.” He, instead, picks his daughter to play catch with and discovers that she has a natural talent for throwing the ball. And so her journey begins. Back to the current time and she is stepping out of the car to meet with not only the general manager (the guy in the suit not the one in the dug-out; played by Mark Consuelos, Kelly Ripa’s husband) who is doing his best trying to play behind-the-scenes politics, but also with the other head of the team, who I initially assumed was the president and/or owner, but come to find out in episode three this guy is a minority owner who has been given power by the other owners to run all baseball operations for the team. He, along with the other top brass, decides that to mark the special occasion they give her the jersey number of 43, one more than Jackie Robinson’s 42. As they have a press conference, Larter (again, her manager) tells Consuelos that she is the most important woman in the world right now: Hillary Clinton with sex appeal, The Kardashians with a skill-set; in other words, she’s pretty and can do stuff.

Her day continues with the informal meet with the catcher and superstar of the team (side note: didn’t know a catcher could be a superstar of a baseball team, but hey! OK. I guess if he hits well) Mike Lawson (played by the always good Mark Paul-Gosselaar in probably his most dramatic TV role ever). He slaps her butt after talking with her and she reads him the riot act about sexual harassment. He then counters that with how he is a butt-slapper. That’s his thing. He does it to everybody and seeing as how he is team captain, if she wants to be treated like one of the guys, she’ll allow him to slap her butt, too. Nothing sexual.

Not completely alone in her journey, she has Blip Sanders (played by Mo McRae) to be the friendly face/shoulder on which to lean. A previous teammate in the minors, they came up together for years before he got the call-up to turn pro before she did. No romantic feelings there (her rule is that she doesn’t date other ball players) he is happily married but acts as a best friend and calls her out for having a bubble butt the moment he sees her walk into the locker room. This only calms her nerves so much, as she can’t escape the glare of the spotlight. Her first game has a full stadium of home fans equipped with tons of little girls seeking her autograph. She obliges and looks into the stands to find her parents looking proudly back at her. As she takes the mound, she flashes back to another memory of one of her childhood games with her dad sitting in the crowd. Looking to be near the age of puberty, she strikes out one of the guys to win the game for her team and thinks she’s done something, before her dad quickly and sharply informs her, “we ain’t done nothin’ yet!”

That is when he teaches her this special pitch, this pitch that he learned in some foreign, mystical land from some baseball voodoo priest. OK, not really, but that’s halfway how it sounds because the pitch is so magical that it will undo the handicap she will undoubtedly have as physiology and biology take over in boys’ puberty.

Back to her first game and she does terribly. Pitches too high, too low, nowhere near the plate—she’s too nervous to do it and walks not one but a few players. They lose. Bigly! And we get another flashback to where she is coached to pitch by her father. He wants her to throw a strike, but she struggles in the night’s dark, unable to do it. Then, he calls out her brother and slaps the crap out of him totally Joe Jackson/Ike Turner-ing his face, with the promise that every time she doesn’t throw a strike, he’ll hit her brother. She throws one immediately and he tells her that she can do it when she has to. Yay, abusive black fathers! Just what TV needs more of.

Back to current time and she is pissed that she failed in her first outing. Then she has a huge argument in her hotel room with her father about how this was his dream (it was) and he shouldn’t have done this to her (he probably shouldn’t have), but this argument reinvigorates her resolve to do good on the next game as the team has decided to keep her on for at least five games instead of the previously discussed one. Not only are they keeping her, but management tells the coach that they can’t sit her either because of the optics that’ll give out that she’s not good enough, they chose the wrong woman for this, and etc. All she wants to do is get back in and play her game.

As Mike fields questions about her, Blip’s wife helps her get her head unspooled and chill. Blip and Mike discuss how Mike can be a good mentor for her if he gets rid of his own bias. He wants the chip for his legacy but knows he probably won’t get it. Blip convinces him that this, whether Ginny does well, will be a big part of his legacy.

As another game comes up, so comes another flashback to a crucial state championship win that catches the eye of a Padres minor league scout. Her father by her side, he reminds her that “we ain’t done nothin’ yet” even after the win. Back to the current day and she starts to freeze up on the mound again when Mike walks to her and tries to give her an uplifting speech. It is rather obvious that Mark/Mike is partly the comic relief while also playing the Carl Winslow-ish father/big brother figure. He’s an ass, but he’s also a veteran who knows a lot about the game. It certainly reminds of her father. She shakes free from the willies and gets her pitch back, throwing her first strike, and then another, and another! Her legacy is dang-near cemented when she pitches out a potential grand slam. After that, she is pulled from the game so that her decent game can have a closer come in and give her the win. She gets the win and the crowd goes wild!

Not everyone enthused, the injured pitcher calls her the b-word which causes a fight between him and Blip. The fight makes it to a reporter and up the line to management who immediately thinks that the head coach (I know that’s not what they call them but indulge me) played by Wonder Years' dad Dan Lauria has lost control of the team and their respect. They want to fire him, something that spills into the other episodes.
But at the end of the episode, it is revealed that the night Ginny was scouted by the Padres minor league guy, her father was driving her home when he took his eyes off the road as he was going to fix that line about having done something when they are hit head-on by a truck. She survives but he is killed. She had been seeing his ghost the whole time through the show.

Episode two sees “Ginsanity” kick into high effect. With every sports news show talking about the girl that’s beating the boys, she’s just trying to be one of the guys, an 80s movie reference that was supposed to be a teenage drama loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Yes, I also saw that movie and that end scene is spectacular. In this episode, we go farther into Ginny’s journey and connection with her manager. Larter’s character found her while she was still in the minors and being repped by her older brother. He got her a big deal (to him) with some local company that Larter sees as limiting. In Larter’s flashback scenes, it is revealed that the reason she switched her life up is because it was semi-forced upon her when her husband (now ex) decided that he didn’t want to keep trying to get pregnant after failed in vitro and, I’m assuming, years at it. This is actually quite understandable and very common for couples to break apart both after losing a child and due to not being able to have one. He doesn’t even want the same life they’ve lived anymore. This causes her to also want to abandon her Hollywood life on a whim when she sees Ginny making the news in the minors. She gets Ginny one deal that makes her older brother realize he can’t continue to be her manager, and she is in. But the job doesn’t cover up her loneliness.

Meanwhile, as Ginny is the poster girl for feminism, a track star is raped by another college track boy down in Florida. Every reporter, especially a particular female one played by Joanna Garcia Swisher wants Ginny’s reaction. I mention Joanna because while she hasn’t yet factored in heavily to the show, it is revealed that she is Mike’s ex-wife, and it should be interesting to the viewers to know that she is actually married in real life to MLB player Nick Swisher.

As Ginny tries avoiding the whole locker room rape controversy, Mike is trying to get her to trust in her game more, and management is looking to fire the coach immediately after a recording of him from a year earlier surfaces, in which he is talking about the cute little gimmick the minor league Padres affiliate have in Ginny Baker. Ginny orders that her manager release a statement on her behalf supporting her coach but she doesn’t do it, which gets her a butt-chewing by Ginny later: “you work for me!”

Ginny busies herself with putting all of her focus into hitting the gym and trying to be a better ball player while the world seems to swirl around her in madness. While the craziness continues, she guest-stars on Jimmy Kimmel to read some mean tweets and discuss locker room decoration tips to make fun of herself. Coach finds out from his assistant coach that he will soon get fired and Mike finds Ginny’s manager sitting alone at the bar looking sexy.

From Left To Right: Larter's Asst., Larter, Consuelos

Episode three was, to me, the most controversial. Opening with Mike and Larter’s character having slept together and trying to rush to work as major sponsors will be at the next game to see Ginny, they agree that they have to keep this relationship secret from Ginny because of the awkwardness, and the guys wouldn’t take kindly to it either. The big whoop on this episode circles around how tough to take it on Ginny: go hard at her like a guy or try to protect her because she’s a girl. This comes up due to their next opponent being the same team that injured the original starting pitcher. Baseball code says that you have to get payback when they injure one of your guys, by hitting one of theirs. She argues back and forth with Mike about hitting the offender with a beanball as she flashes back to a past relationship.

The very reason she has her no ball-players rule is because she did date one in the past and it didn’t end well. The guy lied to her and said he wanted to quit baseball and go back to school because he thought he’d never get called to the big leagues. Therefore, she started a relationship with him two years ago thinking that he’d no longer be a ball player in a matter of months (close of the season). But when a pro team calls him up, he says that school will wait and that he has to chase that dream now! She gets mad, really for no reason because they could still have a relationship, but instead she breaks it off on the count that she feels she’ll never have the respect of her fellow players if she does date another player, regardless of if they’re on the same team or not.

This then pseudo-backfires as people on her own team find out they had a relationship anyway and want their own ride on her, treating her like a lucky charm to get them to the big leagues, too. (There are so many bits of commentary I could make here on the current “locker-room talk” situation and how even if that isn’t locker-room talk, tell that to writers who think it is, but I won’t go deep into it). In another surprise twist, we find out that the guy she once dated is now the catcher for the very team that they are currently facing. After she does beam one of their hitters, then goes up to bat, she knows that their pitcher has the unspoken right to hit her right back.

He doesn’t.

Going against what everyone expects, he throws too close, then too wide, trying to walk her instead of respecting the unwritten baseball rules. And here is where it gets really sticky because she then begs to be treated like one of the guys and not have him pull his pitches for her. She even starts toward the mound for a fight, which causes a big brouhaha between her team and the other team and I sat there saying no! No! Just no! Nooooo! Let me finish the episode and wait until I give my grade to say why I hated this.

Coach, what would you do if I sang outta tune
Anyway, the game ends and the ex-boyfriend tells her that he was hacked a year ago and that some of their private pictures might get out, which he would have told her had she answered her phone earlier. Meanwhile, the coach that was about to be fired proves very good at office politics and reasons that if they fire him now, after his sexist comments and stuff, it’ll look like Ginny got him fired and can’t handle the emotions of the game. This told to the right people help him to keep his job even after getting ejected from the game before it even started. We also find out that the general manager (Consuelos) is getting a divorce from his wife. It ends with Ginny’s ex telling her that she’ll need someone to vent to about all her new fame, and she needs to make a true friend quick.

What’s my grade? OK, before I give my grade, I really have to vent about this show. First off, the very premise of it, similar to Supergirl, is a love-letter to third-wave feminism. Playing off the real-life story of Mo’ne Davis, the little league female phenom pitcher, the show tries to be a mix of girlpower and barrier-breaking designed to gen-up discussion about gender equality and athletic segregation. “Why can’t a woman play with the men?” is a common refrain in the very existence of the show. Yet (sigh), just like Supergirl, I feel as if it subverts its own narrative in so many ways.

Loosely based on a what-if scenario of Mo'ne Davis, seen right. 

First off, the opening shots of the show display legs. Listen, Kylie is a very sexy woman. I drooled over her when she was on Under The Dome, and will continue to gawk, but it almost plays as a spoof of a serious discussion to be had. I can hear the conversation: “Yes, she’s sexy, and she can pitch. But so what?” But is it really so what? It’s one thing to say that she is attractive, but it's another to lead with that. It’s saying, “This show is not about her looks... but it also makes even more incredible because she’s hot, see guys?”

Then there’s the “just one of the guys” mentality. Up until the third episode, this worked fine. You don’t want special treatment in the locker room, with the exception of being able to change without having guy-eyes perv out at the sight of your nakedness. Fine. But when you get to the third episode, and you’re trying to incite violence of any kind against you as a female, to me that goes against even modern feminism. This plays directly into the notion that these anti-feminist men have about current-day women and does nothing to help their movement. That notion is: women use their cunning to often play victim, incite violence from men against themselves or play as a catalyst of violence between men. Knowing that society frowns upon a man hitting a woman, they suddenly have license to act invincible because a man will ultimately protect them. In other words, even while she is fighting against the “damsel-in-distress” scenario, she is inciting that very predicament and cornering the men in her life to do her bidding. Because even some of the most progressive feminist aren’t going to say that the pitcher would have been perfectly OK if he clocked her in the jaw when she approached the mound, yet the men had to run to her defense based solely off of normal baseball unspoken rules. This is temptress/seductress class 101: play men off of each other to see who deserves your affections. In episode one her best friend fights to defend her honor. In episode three, the entire team does the same not because she was actually hit by the ball, but because of some perceived slight on her behalf. It, in the worst way, reminds me of that case (I believe it was in Vegas) a few months back where a woman got mad that some guy didn’t hold the door open for her at a fast food restaurant, and her boyfriend came back and killed the guy. Or how Emmett Till whistled at a white woman, she found it offensive, and the men in her life came to her rescue. It tries to play above that archetype, yet somehow manages to play directly into it.

But the worst offense of all for me on this show is the perfunctory nature of Ginny Baker, and her femininity. As much as it has partially billed itself as something that could be controversial and start a dialogue and girlpower-y as said, you could not only change her character to a guy and have it be nearly the same show, but you could almost remove her character entirely and it would still be compelling. On the surface that seems like it would be a good thing because it speaks to high-quality fiction writing based on a sports environment. However, in this case, I think it actually is a detriment because it misses the mark it clearly is trying to hit. Even with all the mentions of her being the first woman, it doesn’t feel like a woman’s story, but a regular fish-out-of-water tale; I could just as easily see this same or similar story playing out with the first openly gay male. Imagine all the stuff that Baker has done, take her out of it and replace that with a gay man. Does it change the story that much? I can even understand the defense for this: “It’s good that her being a woman doesn’t seem to factor in that much because it proves that a girl can be one of the guys.” True, but here it doesn’t feel as genuine, and does feel like a cheap imitation of Twelfth Night. And this isn’t even factoring in the final complaint: derivative and imitation.

Not that the show is derivative, but Ginny’s ambition, motivation, reason for being there is all derivative. I have said it many times before, my novel The Provocateur points this out as it was told to me by the people who really control this world: Men say I want to do something or be something, and women say me, too. In other words, they are never originators. Maybe that is because we don’t allow them to be, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Here, it is her father’s dream that she follows, lives, achieves. In that sense, it’s hard for me to see her as anything other than a man’s ambitions cloaked in a female skin. Basically, she’s just doing what some guy told her to. Yes, she takes ownership, but she is shadowed by what a man wanted and what she’d done to please that man, even if that man is her father. Again, subverting the narrative.

Back to my grade. With all of that said, I will give this show a solid B. It’s filmed well, it has a stylized dramatic film-quality flair to it similar to Empire (it is becoming a FOX hallmark I think, as The Exorcist has a similar feel), the acting is solid, and the writing is good but only if you ignore those gripes I mentioned. As said before, I love me some Kylie and want to know if she’s single. But sadly, I can actually see this show without her, and I find that rather disturbing.

Should you be watching? Boy, is this a confusing one. Baseball fans of all kinds I think will enjoy this show. With appearances from people who are actually involved with MLB (Fox is really using Colin Cowherd a lot) it looks to be a worthy sports drama to scratch that long winter itch for when the World Series wraps up in a few weeks, not to mention it is on the same channel that hosts the MLB playoffs so it should get a lot of promotion. Also, if you’re a feminist, woman, or young girl then this show is probably for you. Granted, it has a slightly more mature lean (it comes on at 9pm on Thursdays on FOX) but it is OK for kids ages 10 and up, I’d say. But as far as guys who don’t want to be preached to, you might want to stick with Thursday Night Football. I don’t mind being preached to, but as I stated in my preview of this show, this will be hard to stay on my watching schedule when Scandal comes back; that is if this stays on for a full 22 rather than a shortened season.

What do you think? Have you seen Pitch? If not, will you tune in? If you have, what was your favorite part? Am I being too hard on the show not forcing a more powerful female message? Have I completely missed the mark on my criticism of said message? Or do you agree with me? And do you think she’ll find out about Larter and Mike hooking up? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or  the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary to premiere sometime this winter on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, "But it was signed by Babe Ruth!”
‘Yeah! Yeah, you keep telling me that. Who is she?’

P.S. Yeah, that’s for Kylie if ever she reads this and all you 90s kids out there. If you don’t know what baseball movie that’s from, you don’t deserve a proper baseball drama. Anyway, I’ll think of a better sign-off next time.

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