THE SHOW “Pitch”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox/5
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Thank you, Mo’ne Davis. The Philadelphia girl’s 2014 Little League World Series shutout made America believe. Not that Hollywood’s baseball tales hadn’t already: Dead all-stars emerging from cornfields, stadium lights shattering the night sky. For all the NFL’s gladiator mythologizing, baseball remains the muse for sports thinkers and dreamers.
That also applies to sexist jerks and money-grubbers, who also show up in “Pitch,” the new Fox series dramatizing Major League Baseball’s first female player. Kylie Bunbury (“Under the Dome,” “Twisted”) gets this primo role, playing pitcher Ginny Baker, raised in rural North Carolina by a hard-driving dad (Michael Beach) who spots in her something her brother can’t give him — an eager jock to mold.
That soul-deep flashback winds through a pilot hour packed with big-league glitter and grit. Ginny arrives with a hard-driving Hollywood agent (Ali Larter). Fox voice Joe Buck calls her MLB debut for the San Diego Padres. But she has to dress in a locker-room closet, and gets guff from her team captain and catcher (unrecognizably bearded Mark-Paul Gosselaar). Rounding out her world: a pal from the minors (Mo McRae) and his wife (Meagan Holder), a harried dugout chief (Dan Lauria), a slick general manager (Mark Consuelos).
MY SAY This makes it a weird world. Where are her other family members? Her old friends? Their big-night no-show makes it tough to pin down Ginny as a person. Or even as a symbol. With MLB partnered in this show, the pilot feels sanitized, considering the verbiage a woman pioneer would likely hear from the media and the stands, even in our “enlightened” era.
But “Pitch” is doggedly inspirational. And despite its hackneyed moments, the pilot introduces enough meaty stuff to warrant a wait-and-see response. It’s a fresh concept amid TV’s sea of cookie-cutter franchises. Even its own touch of magical realism might end up merited. The pitch here seems less “female pitcher” than people facing personal challenges.
BOTTOM LINE Baseball takes a back seat to character study in this second fall saga from producer Dan Fogelman (who plumbs even more emotion from NBC’s Tuesday drama “This Is Us”).