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'Back in the Game' review: 'Bad News Bears' scenario

ABC's "Back in the Game" stars Griffin Gluck

ABC's "Back in the Game" stars Griffin Gluck as Danny Gannon, James Caan as Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, Sr., Maggie Lawson as Terry Gannon, Jr. Credit: ABC

COMEDY SERIES "Back in the Game"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Wednesday night at 8:30 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH Why not sit with a droll tequila-toting British trophy wife at a Little League game?

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Maggie Lawson ("Psych") stars as spunky sandwich-generationer Terry, caught between single-mom duties raising tween son Danny (Griffin Gluck) and their new live-in life with her cranky retired dad, career minor-leaguer "The Cannon" (James Caan, wearing this role like his favorite pair of jeans).

The grandson being a complete klutz sets up a "Bad News Bears" scenario. But Terry Jr. -- yep, she's named after dad -- is herself an all-star athlete. She's got a competitive spirit so finely honed, she's itching to start coaching against a local Little League autocrat whose first name makes him the ideal insult target.

Who's on her team? All those kid sports castoffs -- the weird twins who speak synchronized, the fat boy, her own son. And her dad, who, if banned from dugout coaching, will do it barking into the game mike. Plus instant new BFF Lulu Lovette (Lenora Crichlow), also toting Scotch, a mordant mouth and the millions left by her late husband.

Their baseball team may be called the Angles -- yep, typo -- but it's really Revenge Inc.

MY SAY You gotta root, right? "Back in the Game" sets up easy enemies and funky friends, playing its own game like an adult show that just happens to have kids in it. And no wonder -- it's by writers Mark and Robb Cullen, still beloved of character comedy fans for their 2003 FX show "Lucky."

Wednesday night's single-camera pilot can fairly be called family entertainment, yet it's got some quirks, or should we say kinks, that elevate the effort. Make Terry's son mad, and he won't hit the offending classmate, he'll kiss him: "He's scared of me now."

Add some nicely leavened sentiment -- Terry discovers her absent dad tenaciously followed her college career from afar -- and you've got a well-rounded effort needing only potent performances to prevail.

BOTTOM LINE The cast throws this curveball that catches the plate for a strike.


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