Review: 'A League of Their Own' broadens the scope

A subset of the seemingly endless crop of TV reboots adapts well-known properties from yesteryear, but with more considered or in-depth ...


A subset of the seemingly endless crop of TV reboots adapts well-known properties from yesteryear, but with more considered or in-depth approaches to race or gender, or both. The 1960s are different when “The good years” centered on a black family. There’s more to chat about “Gossip Girl” without the rigid do-si-do of a gender binary.

Likewise, a new version of “A League of Their Own” oscillates around ideas about queer identity and spaces, race, and blackness in particular. But he can’t move his bat fast enough to connect.

This “League,” available now on Amazon, has the same setting as Penny Marshall’s near-perfect 1992 film: It’s 1943, and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League makes its debut as World War II erupts. continues and Major League Baseball’s labor pool continues to shrink.

The show splits its time between the fledgling Rockford Peaches and Max (Chanté Adams), an ambitious pitcher kicked out of the league because she’s black. Both halves of the narrative move through strange spaces and various character awakenings, but only with a well-meaning smoothness that feels like a preamble rather than an actual story.

As in the film, centered on Geena Davis’ Dottie, these Peaches find their anchor in a catcher: Carson Shaw, played by Abbi Jacobson, who created the series with Will Graham. We’re led to believe she’s a great player, even though we see so little meaningful action on the pitch that it hardly matters. Carson’s real story is the budding romance between her and her classy teammate, Greta (D’Arcy Carden, surpassing almost everyone else).

Indeed, most of the Peaches we spend time with are queer, sneaking into underground nightclubs, following strict rules to hide their sexuality from societal violence, and bristling at the version of femininity imposed by the league. Max, too, tries to find her place among her gay and transgender elders, and she and Carson develop a fleeting but honest friendship.

Most sports stories are about how individuals learn to perform as a team, but this version of “League” takes a different and intriguing route by exploring how a team’s safety net allows individuals to grow. Carson encourages both her teammate Lupe (Roberta Colindrez) and Max to throw like themselves, rather than throwing what the coach wants or emulating the delivery of famous pitchers of the day.

But this idea of ​​sport as expression is not explored much further. Instead, baseball is grouped with groceries and comic book fandom on the show’s list of potential but non-specific arenas for self-actualization. Whether the creators see baseball as unique or distinct from other sports or activities in its psychological or teamwork demands is not evident on screen.

“They can’t tell us if it’s real or not,” Greta tells Carson in a locker room after finding out the league has little chance of surviving and the Peaches coach (Nick Offerman, briefly) thinks that are a joke. This idea comes up repeatedly in “League”, that the participants decide what matters, that we create our realities by agreeing on them.

It’s a nice idea to embrace, but one that the show can’t quite embody. It doesn’t transcend its artifice, and nothing seems real enough to matter – not fake, just superficial.

Period dramas don’t have to authentically recreate their eras, and “League” seems fortunate enough that its dialogue and sensibility sound a lot more 2020s than 1940s, perhaps reflecting how much its characters are out of sync for their time. But it also means that the series’ attempts to tell truer, richer stories about the kinds of women who have been mostly left out of the movie — and many other movies and shows — often ring hollow, coming across as anachronisms. jarring, such as the series’ use of mumble-humor and “epic”.

Over eight hour-long episodes, “League” has its bright spots – a sprinkling of vibrant moments, tender and thrilling flirtations. What’s missing are big emotions, jazzy dazzle and genuine tension, catharsis or dynamism. The actual baseball game is vague and mostly montage, and the usually obvious pacing and built-in stakes of a sports season are not present.

The result is a show that feels less like a true story and more like an evening of reverence on the theme of “A league of their own”.

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