The 1992 film “A League of Their Own” gets a small-screen adaptation in the First video series of the same name.
The result is entertaining enough and should win over nostalgic fans – but it’s not quite a home run.
Now streaming, “A League Of Their Own,” has a similar premise to the film, which starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna and Jon Lovitz. Created by Will Graham (“Mozart in the Jungle”) and Abbi Jacobson (“Broad City”), which also stars, the series is set in 1943 and follows the Rockford Peaches, a women’s team in the new All American Girls Professional Baseball League, formed because World War II threatened the existence of the Major League Baseball with men gone to fight overseas.
The series begins with Carson Shaw (Jacobson) taking a train from Idaho to Chicago for baseball tryouts. On her way, she meets and befriends fellow baseball prospects Greta (D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”) and Jo (Melanie Field).
There is no individual translation of the film. Carson has much the same background as Geena Davis’ character – a housewife turned catcher with a husband gone to war – but she has a different name, no sister, and a plot exploring her sexual identity (not in the film ). Nick Offerman has the role of Tom Hanks as a trainer, but here he’s Dove Porter, not Jimmy Dugan, and he’s no cynical alcoholic. Many other plot points remain similar, such as dealing with skeptical fans and media, impractical uniforms (“We can’t play in skirts!” they insist), and some conflicts between them, even if they are together. by the game. Original star Rosie O’Donnell appeared as a bartender.
“A League of Their Own” also delves deeper into issues of race and LGBTQ+ than its big-screen predecessor. When two black women, pitcher Max Chapman (Chante Adams) and her best friend Clance Morgan (Gbemisola Ikumelo), show up for tryouts, they’re told to “go home” specifically because of their race. Meanwhile, Carson’s relationship with Greta quickly becomes alluring. These elements deepen the story and explain why a film like this can be adapted as a show – it has something new to say and mixes with the ingredients of the film.
But these qualities alone, although welcome, cannot make it a winning game. Much of the pacing has the meandering feel of a particularly dull baseball inning, while Max’s story is largely isolated from the rest of the plot – often making the series feel like it’s taking time until so that the stories fit together.
Much of the dialogue is also disconcertingly modern (Carson’s speech is peppered with “likes” and “I mean” and phrases like “super excited!”). While the anachronisms work in some shows as a deliberate choice (“Dickinson,” for example), here it feels tasteless, as if “A League of Their Own” was unable to decide whether it wanted to feel rooted in The Age of WWII or would rather be a modern series that simply has some window dressings from the era, but otherwise ignores it.
For fans of the movie, it’s worth a listen. And for those looking for a dramedy about women playing baseball in the 1940s that doesn’t gloss over topics like race and sexuality, this is a pretty enjoyable watch. The ensemble cast is enticing, and the issues they face seem topical. But it’s also jerky and uneven – with the feel of a show clearing its throat and trying to decide its tone as it unfolds.