Quick thoughts on ‘Pitch’ after two episodes

Hastily compiled … and spoilers follow …

I’m struggling with the show, and it’s not because of the premise. I love the premise. I just want to like the show more than I do. The scenes seem contrived for conflict rather than making sense for the characters. Folks are quick to compare (or want to compare) “Pitch” with “Friday Night Lights,” but except for the infamous start of season two, “FNL” did much better with its characters driving the drama.

Two quick examples:

1) I don’t believe for a moment that Amelia (Ali Larter) would think “Ginny’s Redecorating Tips” would be a good idea, for Ginny or for Ginny’s brand. At the very least, Amelia would need to make the case why it isn’t the absolutely horrible idea it appears to be. The payoff comes at the end when Ginny makes her statement instead of doing the bit, but based on what we see, it’s just a transparently forced way to get there.

This, by the way, comes one episode after Amelia wanted to derail a simple Q&A for Ginny with reporters – something she was somehow surprised by, even though it was guaranteed to happen for the first female MLB player in history. In that episode, they needed Amelia to want Ginny hidden to create episode conflict. This week, they needed Amelia to overexpose Ginny – in an overtly, tremendously humiliating way – to create episode conflict. To an extent, the scenes are apples and oranges, but alike in neither making much sense.

2) I don’t believe for a moment that Oscar (Mark Consuelos) would think the solution to being forced to fire his crusty manager Al (Dan Lauria) would be to choose an even crustier coach (Jack McGee) as an interim replacement. Sure, maybe this will have similar payoff down the road as #1, but the interim step seems wholly wrong.

Aside: I don’t know if (in the show’s pre-history) Oscar hired Al or inherited him, but either way, wouldn’t you expect that Oscar would have some other candidates besides Buck to replace him – maybe even, ahem, a minority candidate? It’s plausible Oscar doesn’t want Al to go, but given the situation and the obvious desires of the owner (Bob Balaban), how is there not a younger, hipper option he would turn to? Now that would be an interesting conflict.

Buck and Al, of course, are straw men — spinoffs of nearly every manager and coach we’ve ever seen from Hollywood. They’re symbolic of what, in part ails the show (which is vexing when the premise is inherently progressive). Sure, people like them still exist, but it’s not a particularly interesting way to go, unless you’re looking for the simplest way for trouble to brew. If you’re going to copy a type, why not copy Coach Eric Taylor — or even better, create a new, dynamic type of character, one who is more multidimensional than a retrograde, nice-guy sexist who happens to have daughters.

Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar are doing great in their performances, and the interplay of their two big speeches at the climax of this week’s episode was well done. The problem for me is the path. I feel like in the above examples, as well as some other scenes (no, not all), “Pitch” is going for shortcuts instead of slowing down, not trying to chew up so much plot so fast and telling a more natural story. Yes, it’s a broadcast network show and not “Rectify,” but the premise is bold enough that I think it can and should be able to avoid these obvious straw-man situations.

There’s clearly a core audience for this show, regardless of whether anyone agrees or disagrees with the above. It’s early, but I think it can do even better.

  • dalegribel

    Like so many sports based shows/movies that have come before it, too many fans will want too much realism. The premise is actually pretty solid, I just hope it finds good writing to keep it going.