TV Review: ‘A League Of Thieir Own’

Review by James Lindorf

Inspired by actual events and in the hands of Hollywood legend, Penny Marshall 1992’s “A League of Their Own” has entertained families for three decades. According to the American Film Institute, “there’s no crying in baseball” is one of the most well-known quotes in film history. The United States National Film Registry even selected the film for preservation in 2012. Now barely a month after its 30th anniversary, we are going back in time, back to the ballpark, and back to the All American Girls Professional Baseball league, thanks to Prime Video and Co-Creators Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham. Amazon’s often underappreciated streamer will release all eight episodes of “A League of Their Own” on August 12th.

“A League of Their Own” was in a class of its own when it was released because it existed. Female-centric sports movies would become much more common after the turn of the millennium. There were a slew of Bring It On movies, “Stick It,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Bend it Like Beckham,” to name just a few. Before that, most movies with a woman as their central figure were either a drama or a romance. At its core, it was a sports movie, but it tried to show some of the struggles women faced in the ’40s. However, much of it was surface level not showing how they struggled with their lack of control over their own lives. And outside of a scene with no dialogue where a black woman tosses the ball back onto the field, race was a nonissue. But it has been 30 years, and society has been evolving non-stop. This new iteration of “A League of Their Own” is more complex and honest about who these women were, what their lives were like, and how society viewed them.

Unfortunately for Jacobson (co-writer and co-star of the Emmy-winning series “Broad City”) and Graham (The Onion), I fear that their series is next in line to be reviewed bombed. People like Laura Ingraham, who famously told Lebron to “shut up and dribble,” will follow her example and say these characters, these symbols of our history should just play ball. The series puts me in an awkward place. I like that it is more accurate to the players’ experiences and more open about race and sexuality. However, I came in looking for more of the same vibe, the same tone of the ’90s classic, and it is nowhere to be found.

This new iteration is not a women-led sports movie; it is a period piece drama about women who happened to play baseball in the 1940s. I have read reports about the actors training in how to play baseball. You see evidence of that in several very athletic moves throughout the season. Still, I don’t think a single person threw, caught, or hit a single baseball the entire season. Anytime the ball is in play, it is a CGI creation that looks to have cost about $100. It makes all of the hard work of the cast and crew on set feel pointless when it looks this bad and takes away any excitement that we should feel watching the games.

The characters are all well written, and some are even well developed. Eight episodes just weren’t enough to highlight everyone on the team and Max (Chanté Adams), a young black woman who dreamt of playing baseball her entire life. I was not too fond of Max as a character. She is often mean, coercive, and a lousy friend, putting her desires above everyone else’s well-being. Carson (Abbi Jacobson) is the main character on the Peaches. We follow her as she explores new aspects of the world and herself in a reasonably classic fish-out-of-water tale. Carson is more likable than Max, but she has her issues. She is often waffling between one decision or the next, lacking the confidence to admit what she wants. Greta, played by D’Arcy Carden of “The Good Place” fame, is my favorite character. The creation of Greta has the most ties to the movie and is their take on Madonna’s “All The Way Mae.” She is a free spirit with a troubled past who is the real heart of the team.

“A League of Their Own” 2022 is beautifully crafted with its set and costume design. More importantly, it impressively acted down the line. Unfortunately, they forgot baseball is supposed to be fun, and the show could use a serious infusion of joy. It works as a companion piece to the movie but lives in its shadow. Suppose it gets renewed for a second season and expands on this solid foundation with a bit of levity. In that case, it could make modern viewers leave the movie in the past. The creative team did not hit a homerun their first time up to bat, just missing the mark and coming up with a respectable ground-rule double and score of 4 out of 5.

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