“Bitch and moan all you want, gentlemen, but tonight, a girl’s gonna be the lead sports story in the world,” says a sportscaster in the premiere of Fox’s Pitch, about the first female Major League Baseball player.
Thankfully, the overwhelming vibe — until the final couple of minutes, anyway, and more on that below — of the pilot is feel-good and inspirational. If that opening scene of Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) putting on headphones full of Black Violin’s “A-Flat” and heading off to Petco Park for her first game as a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres doesn’t make you wanna get off the couch yourself and do something kick-butt, well, perhaps you’re just not as moved by fictional sports feats or violin-based hip hop as we are.
Related: Ken Tucker Reviews ‘Pitch’
We’re going to assume you were, though, because everything about the baseball-related scenes is perfect. Bunbury is as tough, excited, and terrified as you would expect the person in her situation would be. The look of everything from the uniforms and the setting to the sports broadcasting and the actual game play is spot on, thanks in no small part to the series’ official partnership with MLB and Fox Sports. And the backstory about Ginny’s journey to the majors, focusing in on her relationship with the tough father (Michael Beach) who taught her how to throw a mean screwball, adds another layer to how rousing the story is.
Bottom line: it’s a great start, and we’re excited to see where the rest of the season — Pitch’s and Ginny’s — goes.
What We Liked: Bunbury is a winner, athletic and charming, confident and still vulnerable. And the rest of the cast is standout, too, most notably Mark-Paul Gosselaar (and his practically its own character beard) as veteran all-star pitcher Mike Lawson, and Sons of Anarchy alums Beach and Mo McCrae, who plays Blip Sanders, the supportive Padres teammate who Ginny played with in the minor leagues.
Again, the show is exciting, and looks good all-around — another SoA alum, Emmy-winner Paris Barclay, directed the pilot — and that’s especially important since the series is trying to appeal to a wide audience that needs to include some non-baseball fans. Since the gameplay scenes are necessarily a significant part of Pitch, though, best to keep them looking slick and moving quickly, lest some viewers get up for that seventh-inning stretch and never return.
Pitch also doesn’t shy away from the less pleasant realities of Ginny’s triumph, either, which allows us to trust that the creators realize they need to flesh out the story. Ginny’s first start is a disaster (prompting some in the Padres organization to suggest she shouldn’t get a second chance). Some of her teammates see her as nothing more than a gimmick to boost ticket sales (and aren’t shy about letting her know that’s how they feel). And her lifelong devotion to becoming a Major League pitcher has precluded room for anything else in her lonely life.
What Needs Work: Ali Larter’s character, Amelia, Ginny’s abrasive, quip-slinging agent. The character so far operates at one speed, and that speed is harsh. Turning pop culture references into verbs – like when she tells the driver transporting Ginny to Petco Park not to “Princess Di” her or she will “Red Wedding” him – is funny, but will become increasingly less so if this is her only personality trait.
About that twist…: Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did you see it coming? We’re talking about the jarring reveal at the end of the episode, in which we find out Ginny’s beloved father and personal coach, Bill, died in a car crash on the way home from seeing Ginny and her high school team win the state baseball championship. We definitely did not see even a hint that it was coming, and at first, the rapid tone change messed with everything we loved about what had unfolded before it.
But Yahoo TV Deputy Editor Mandi Bierly offered a different perspective, that the loss of Ginny’s dad sheds light on the emotional trauma she has been through, and it makes her success all that more impressive. Her dad was killed — in front of her, by the way — on the night she achieved her biggest success, the same night the scout from the Padres first approached her. That means everything Ginny accomplished after that, getting signed by the team and working her way up through five seasons in the Padres’ farm system, was achieved without the support of her father.
So, while this twist — which, by the way, comes from Dan Fogelman, the same series creator who dropped the much less polarizing twist that ended NBC’s This Is Us premiere earlier this week — isn’t exactly a grand slam, there’s every reason to believe it wasn’t done just for shock value, either.
What did you think of the twist ending on Pitch? Take our poll below!
Pitch airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Watch clips and full episodes of Pitch for free on Yahoo View.