Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fall TV 2016: Pitch on Fox

I love baseball. I love television. I sure would love a great television show about baseball.

Unfortunately, I could not get through 15 minutes of  Pitch, a new Fox show about the exploits of the fictional first female Major League Baseball player. On the one hand, the cooperation of MLB gives it a nice patina: Real uniforms, real logos, and a real team for the subject (the San Diego Padres), but the surface baseball verisimilitude ain't worth much when everything else feels so phony.

Someone please let me know if the pilot gets better after the point at which I bailed, but I just couldn't stand it. It was an overwritten collection of clich├ęs and unlikable characters. None of it felt real to me. Leaving aside the issue of whether a woman could actually pitch in MLB at this time, I am willing to buy into that concept, but I don't want to see her and everyone her talking faux-cutesy dialogue attempting to...I don't know what the goal was.

It's like someone was trying to imitate Aaron Sorkin writing a show about baseball. The beginning tries to establish the lead and her agent as oh, so cool and oh, so determined. The laughable thing is the agent and one of her minions, trying to own the room and show how great she is, name-drop two male celebrities--one clearly in a romantic sense, one implied--widely thought to be gay, making someone's idea of hip chatter even lamer.

Then the pitcher, who I don't blame for having a chip on her shoulder given all the crap the character has no doubt had to endure in her career, faces off with the team's big dog superstar (an unrecognizable Mark-Paul Gathalazzzabhagugyar--uh, the guy from Saved by the Bell), and he gives her a pat on the butt. Really? I'm surprised he didn't grab his jock and spit chewing tobacco in the scene, too.

So of course there is a "showdown" between the two which they resolve with an inane Leonardo DiCaprio reference that brings to mind that forced scene in Crimson Tide when Denzel Washington has to respond to crewmen arguing over which artist's version of  Silver Surfer was better. At least Crimson Tide had an excuse--someone paid Quentin Tarantino a lot of money to "punch up" the screenplay with that stuff--but what is Pitch doing with execrable exchanges like this one? It's supposed to be witty banter that shows the characters feeling each other out, then quickly bonding, and I think it's also supposed to establish the pitcher does not deny her femininity, but it plays like an embarrassment.

Don't think I am letting the male characters off the hook; what I saw of them was just as bad, but the first quarter of the episode was dominated by the ladies. I just have no desire to watch any more of this phony entertainment when real baseball is here and in playoff mode. There may have been a time years ago when the novelty of a strong female lead was enough to make a TV drama distinctive, but now so many quality programs revolve around such characters that you need better writing in order to make it worthwhile. If Pitch lasts through real spring training and I hear it's decent, I may revisit it, but for now, I've seen enough.

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