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Friday, September 23, 2016

PILOT REVIEW: Pitch

PITCH











Starring: Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Mark Consuelos, Mo McRae, Meagan Holder, Tim Jo, with Dan Lauria, and Ali Larter

Created by Dan Fogelman and Rick Singer
Written by Dan Fogelman & Rick Singer, Directed by Paris Barclay

Is it too obvious to call it a home run? Or is it too soon to call Dan Fogelman, creator of both Pitch and This is Us, the MVP of the TV season? Pitch is a fantastic new drama with an intriguing premise. Pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) has been called up to the San Diego Padres and becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Surrounded by handlers including Amelia Slater (Ali Larter), skeptics including manager Al Luongo (Dan Lauria) and catcher/captain Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), and the weight of trying to impress her father (Bill Baker), she has to navigate enormous pressure on and off the field.

This was a beautiful pilot and it's very cool that the MLB gave them so much access so it really felt like something real happening which doesn't always happen when a movie or TV show very clearly can't use certain sports trademarks. The scenes in the ballpark were just stunning to look at visually and the pilot had a crisp and cool feel to it. The show threw a lot of balls in the air but caught them nicely (too many puns?) Between scenes in the ballpark, in Ginny's apartment, in the locker room, in the offices, and the flashbacks, there was a lot the pilot tried to accomplish but it moved well and was well-structured. The integration of the flashbacks was meaningful and the twist at the end of this one? While not as creative as This is Us, it caught me more off guard and gave the story and premise an interesting wrinkle.

The cast is absolutely top notch. Kylie Bunbury is a revelation in the main role. She was easy to root for and could be a breakout star of this season. It is great to see Dan Lauria back on TV and he brings his usual gravitas and strength. I really enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar and his instant charm and chemistry with Bunbury (but don't hook them up, Pitch!) I enjoyed Ali Larter as well and I hope there's a fair amount of Bob Balaban in a recurring role, but I could have used less Joe Buck in the pilot. I have enough of him watching football games.

This is a show that has places to go and many stories to tell. It has the potential to develop into a ripe character drama that will eventually have as many meaningful scenes off the field as it does on should it be given that chance. I'm a sucker for inspirational sports stories and even though I'm not a baseball fan, I was completely engrossed. Baseball dramas have been attempted by the networks before and failed but Pitch deserves to succeed. If This is Us is filling the Parenthood void this year, Pitch may fill the void of the other great Jason Katims drama, Friday Night Lights. It has a tough task ahead of it but I'll be rooting for Pitch all the way.

WILL I WATCH IT AGAIN?
I can hardly wait.

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