Reboots can be hard-sells. That said, Prime Video's A League of Their Own is a show I need you all to be watching. It's not perfect — I'll get to its one main issue, storyline juggling, later — but this past weekend I experienced the best kind of modern streaming experience with the new series.
I went into the weekend intent to make more headway in For All Mankind. But, after seeing a positive tweet or two about A League of Their Own (and being familiar enough with the original film), I thought I should give it a chance.
Then, watching the pilot turned into an accidental binge-watch. In less than 24 hours, I'd gone from being annoyed about the lack of presence for A League of Their Own on the home screen to having watched all eight hours of the show's first season.
So, why is A League of Their Own a title you need in your own queue? Allow me to explain — and I'll start by declaring that anyone who liked Netflix's GLOW will likely love A League of Their Own.
It's a story about women working as a team, and facing obstacles in a male-driven society, where the cast is full of energy and the script is smart. I might still be annoyed that Netflix canceled GLOW, but maybe that show hit a single so A League of Their Own could blast a few dingers out of the proverbial ballpark.
A League of Their Own episode 1 is the smoothest pilot ever
Nearly instantly, the first episode of A League of Their own won me over. Abbi Jacobson (who stars as Carson Shaw, and co-created this series) leads with her strong suit: being flustered and awkward. Her character is hurriedly running to a train, and completely unkempt.
Before she can make it, she runs into some old friends who are confused by her behavior, and soon talk behind her back about how her bra was exposed. If the period costumes weren't enough emphasis, that last part is the big nod that we're not in 2022 anymore. 1943 is plenty different.
Once she gets to the big city, A League of Their Own starts to build its roster of other women who are trying out for the teams as the war effort's demand for men drains the major leagues dry.
Instantly, Carson finds two charismatic aspiring ballplayers: Greta (D'Arcy Carden) and Jo (Melanie Field), who start making fun of her at every chance. These aren't the A League of Their Own stars you may remember from the classic film, but since I don't have strong ties to that piece of cinema? I wasn't even bothered.
And with each new member of the cast I met, I continued to think "yeah, I'm gonna have fun getting to know these folks." They all bounce off of each other so perfectly, like Maybelle (Molly Ephraim) the smiling blonde and Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), the gruff pitcher. And just a small dose of the no-B.S. Kelly (Jess McCready) and the hypochondriac Shirley (Kate Berlant) teases that these women won't always get along. And when Esti (Priscilla Delgado) is exuberant that she's not the only Spanish-speaking tryout? You feel that excitement, like your first day at a summer camp.
Most importantly, though, we meet a heat-throwing pitcher named Max (Chanté Adams) and her best friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo). Max just wants to play baseball with these new teams that are forming, but she's Black and that's still a problem for some — despite how society was supposed to have changed.
And that's just one of the ways that Abbi Jacobson's A League of Their Own evolves from the movie that preceded it. Because by the end of the first episode, you learn that the Rockford Peaches have closeted queer women on their team, and that makes A League of Their Own all the more interesting.
Yes, A League of Their Own had to evolve
So, I'll get this out of the way now. A League of Their Own, as you might have heard, is fighting a battle off the field, with the ultra-modern convention of review-bombing. As Decider explains, the reviews section of the show's page on Prime Video has a bunch of folks dissatisfied by the fact that "The baseball takes a back seat to all the other ‘messages’ this show is trying to shove at you" while another wrote "I really don’t care who you love I just wanted to see women represented playing sports. It’s now turned into who’s gay and who is straight."
Not to go full polemical, but the latter comment has an obvious contradiction: some people only want to see the forms of representation that matter to them.
But, to be factual, let's all admit that queer people, and persons of color, aren't some modern day invention. That their presence and their stories aren't some modern Ponzi scheme to make more money with token acts of diversity. To properly tell the history of women in sports, you have to tell the history of all women, and not hide the women of color in small roles (which the original film did, with one Black woman who threw a ball past Dottie, Geena Davis' character).
A League of Their Own tells not just the story of women of color on the field, but it also explains how queer women lived off the field. How society's views in this era turned their lives into criminal behavior. And the show is all the better for it. The emotional power of the scenes at the secret speakeasy gay bar is so strong that I couldn't help but tear up (and later ugly-cry).
Yes, watching this show could open many minds to an experience they have no idea existed. But since the scenes and A League of Their Own writ-large actually works, it's not hard to see that Max's story — as well as those of the closeted players — are wholly worthwhile.
A League of Their Own's sole problem
As much as I love Max's storyline, A League of Their Own can sometimes feel like it's zigging and zagging too much between her tale and what's going on with Carson, Greta, Jo and the rest of the Peaches.
The quest for the Peaches to actually win games runs parallel to Max's work to be taken seriously as a pitcher. And there's something about how the show jumps back and forth between them that just feels almost jarring at times. It's never bad enough to annoy, but it's a first-season bug to be worked out.
Root, root, root for A League of Their Own
Throughout the seven chapters after that lovable first inning, I could not put A League of Their Own down. I was supposed to watch Prey, but I left that for another time. I also wanted to give that new Ninja Turtle video game a spin. But A League of Their Own kept me hooked.
And, so I write this to try and make sure everyone gives it a chance. In a sea of lifeless reboots and prequels of questionable nature, Abbi Jacobson and her team have made one that stands a chance of going strong for multiple seasons. I just hope the boo-birds in the reviews section get drowned out by the viewership. And so far — A League of Their Own ended The Terminal List's 42-day reign at the top of Prime Video's TV charts — it looks like the Peaches have a chance.