Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why Pitch Should Be Saved – With Some Changes

When I first saw Pitch, I was excited that there was a television show with a strong female character in a sports role. There aren’t many television shows like this — go ahead and name one recently because I had trouble and had to ask for some brainstorming help — so this one had high expectations for me. After seeing that it also starred Mark-Paul Gosselaar (who I had no problem with in the role as the catcher and captain of the San Diego Padres, Mike Lawson), my first thought was “please, don’t give Ginny and Mike a romantic storyline.” Toward the end of the season, that’s exactly what they did. Sadly, it was a jump-the-shark moment for me (I know, they pulled back when Mike was told he would be staying on the Padres, but still…that line appeared.) and I sat there screaming, “NO!” at the television.

I watched the entire 10-episode season.  I liked it and I thought it had tremendous potential. The show focused on the problems of Ginny, who was the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball and who played for the San Diego Padres. There were episodes that focused on Ginny’s ‘stage fright’ when she was pitching for the first time, her relationship with her father, the issues that a woman would face in a male-dominated sport both on and off the field, and Ginny’s attempt to prove herself worthy of being on the mound.

Alison Herman, who talked about Pitch’s cancellation in her article was right when she said that Pitch didn’t pace out its ‘gotcha moments.’ She has a point, especially when Pitch was created by Dan Fogelman, who also created the most popular show on television this past season, This Is Us. Herman writes, “but unlike This Is Us, Pitch kept its “gotcha!” moments to the pilot. After we find out in the closing minutes of the premiere that the tough-love dad who coached Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) to the San Diego Padres is actually dead, Pitch let Ginny’s struggles with the team, the press, and her own self-confidence stand on their own. Of the two shows, Pitch came by its heart more honestly — and fizzled almost immediately. The comparison with This Is Us might be unfair, but it’s also unavoidable.”

The acting was good, but there were some stumbles. Inefficient character development and the typical ‘girl-falls-for-hunky-captain-of-the-team” that drove me nuts. I liked it better when Mike was dating Ginny’s PR person, leading into this interesting triangle that crossed some lines, but not ‘that one.’ In addition, I really wasn’t interested in the storyline of every other teammate. Ginny needed better character development of her own. By the end of the season, I felt that Ginny was still stuck in some of the same emotional turmoil she had 10 episodes earlier. I didn’t see too much growth or change in her. Yes, there was some, but it really could have been stronger.

Sean Cureton of Screen Rant wrote, “Seeing an original series like Pitch fall to the wayside in a scrum for attention on the small screen is definitely a sorry bit of business, but in a multi-media marketplace super-saturated with content online and off it should perhaps come as no big surprise that a series like it might fail. With plenty of other top notch productions taking place on adjacent networks and online, co-creators Fogleman and Singer’s inability to reach a significant audience with their baseball drama series can be seen as little more than a sign of a time wherein there is already too much original content for viewers to choose from.”

I agree with Sean that there’s so much other stuff to watch on television that it’s hard to pull in a decent audience so quickly on a show. It’s also important to note that there’s Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and, what, a million cable stations now? Building an audience for any television show is almost impossible in this day and age. A show needs time. Pitch needed time.

Today’s television is not like it was back when I was growing up. If you’re around my age, think back to the 1970s when M*A*S*H* started. It wasn’t a hit out of the gate, and that was only when we had ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WOR-TV (in New York), WPIX-TV (another New York station) and PBS. Not much to watch except those channels and M*A*S*H* still didn’t pull in a huge audience at first. It wasn’t until its second season that it finally started becoming a hit with the viewers. Then there’s Seinfeld and All in the Family, who also both suffered from slow starts. Some successful shows needed to be moved to the right time slot, or maybe have more promotion, I don’t know what the right recipe was. But those shows became legendary and crossed boundaries and drew audiences and won awards. Pitch had a following, which was evident from the outpouring of support it received when rumor of cancellation hit the internet. Would it have won awards or become legendary? I have no idea. But putting a female pitcher on the mound of a Major League Baseball team was definitely a start and the show was worthy of a chance.

Today, networks are so damn fast to pull the plug if the numbers aren’t huge. Well guess what? It’s impossible for them to be huge anymore. There’s just too much out there on television and the internet. I’m in the industry and find it impossible to keep up with everything. When I was growing up, I knew almost all the shows, who starred on them, when they aired, etc. Even with DVR today, it’s just too much. We only have so much time in the day. Shows need to do more to grab our attention and the television companies behind the ones that are good really need to find new, creative ways of getting their show in front of new audiences.

Every day I search for good stories about sports and television to talk about. Not just reality shows or the games themselves, but shows like this — fictional shows that are based on sports. We need more. How many law shows do we have, or shows based on hospital drama? Yet, how many of us watch sports? The audience potential is huge and the audience for Pitch could have been tremendous.

That’s the key there — ‘could have been.’ The other day Netflix asked the question on Twitter, “Should someone else pick up Pitch?” Of course I answered yes. There are some storyline issues, but this show was good and deserves another chance.

About Lisa Iannucci

Lisa Iannucci has been interviewing professional athletes and Olympians, sports writers and film/tv personalities for more than a decade. Her book, A Film & TV Lover's Travel Guide is now available:

About Lisa Iannucci

Lisa Iannucci has been interviewing professional athletes and Olympians, sports writers and film/tv personalities for more than a decade. Her book, A Film & TV Lover's Travel Guide is now available:

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