"A League of Their Own" doesn't really have one.

I shy away from entertainment reviews because I have squandered more than my share of time on TV series and movies of questionable merit. Some might cite Dexter or The Walking Dead as examples. Yet there were complexity and conflict within a character like Dexter that modified the violence and mayhem; in The Walking Dead "cast of thousands," I always marveled at how so many characters' interpersonal relationships remain consistent, or develop, or disintegrate. Tolstoi would have appreciated it. Certainly, there was brutality, but nobody watched The Wire or The Sopranos for the bloodshed: they watched for the brilliant storytelling which often unfolded over seasons, not just episodes.

Nuance and subtlety brought us back week after week...which brings me to the reboot of A League of Their Own, where nuance and subtlety have gone to die.

At the risk of alienating its fans (the reviews on IMDB are overwhelmingly positive) and with the caveat that I saw only the first episode, I would best call the new series a disappointment. (And yes, I have heard ad nauseam that we can't compare it with the 1992 movie. Fine, then give it a different name.) This Amazon Prime series may get better, but the derailed train of episode one–where all characters must be exposed and dissected so that we don't lose interest–encapsulates everything that's wrong with the worst of streaming and of television in general.


League means well, I think, and there seemed a bit of Mrs. Maisel in the pacing of that opening episode. Still, the sets looked hurriedly painted and so did the characters. It's almost too facile to complain that they're stereotypes; after all, we like stereotypes. Most of us enjoy programs that present characters and let them handle situations in some predictable fashion: Dr. House, Michael Scott, George Costanza. Of course it's not Dickens or Hemingway, but it's solid and enjoyable.


League, though, seemed to burden its stereotypes with the responsibility of informing us that they were stereotypes, creating unintentionally laughable situations that were more groan-worthy than comedic.

I am the bully.

I am the victim of prejudice.

I am the lesbian.

I am the nerd.

I am the washed-up athlete.

I am the extrovert who will convert my introvert friend.

I am the introvert who needs an extrovert to... yada yada yada.

It isn't that these characters don't have analogs in real life; it's just that in real life, they don't wear a "Hello, I am a..." name tag.

The beauty of the original movie to which (again) we're advised not to compare it, lay in its occasional outbursts within a steadier narration. When Tom Hanks screams "there's no crying in baseball," it takes us by surprise and we remember it. But the TV version has been "modernized," i.e., vulgarities have replaced dialogue, and of course, vulgarities are nothing unless they are given full-throated volume. It passes for wit. It isn't.

The nuance and subtlety that constitute great comedy and drama seem to have been traded for some cheap laughs and smarmy exchanges.


Admttedly, I have been wrong about the first episodes of many shows before, and if I'm wrong about this one, I'll apologize. But in watching it, I realized why those dark and plodding Scandinavian murder mysteries and understated British series like Shetland have become so popular. Instead of assailing the viewers, they provide ideas to consider, actions to explain, and motivations to discover. We discern characters; we don't read their labels.


Just like in the "for-real" world.


Addendum: Episode two was better due primarily to some minor characters and some throwaway lines that provided some genuine comedy. But three returned to business as usual. Even D'Arcy Carden, the scene-stealer Janet from The Good Place (who plays the sexually ambiguous/ambitious Greta), has become annoying. I wouldn't have thought that was possible.


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