Fall 2013 Review: Back in the Game

4 Nov

She's back in the gameIn Back in the Game, Maggie Lawson stars as Terry, a single mom who moves back home and in with her father, known as “The Cannon,” played by James Caan, after she loses everything in a messy divorce. She brings along her son, Danny, who is maybe…11 or so (I’m terrible with ages). She had a difficult relationship growing up with her father, who pushed her extremely hard in her promising softball career but broke her heart when he didn’t come to any of her college games. Her son wants to play baseball to impress a girl which bring back painful memories of her dad’s abandoning her, but she’s happy to support her son if that’s what he wants. Unfortunately, while she was great, he’s terrible, and doesn’t make the team Even though the last thing she wants is to get back involved in the sport, she agrees to coach a second team when she realizes it’s either that or break her son’s heart by keeping him from playing,  Her new team is composed of misfits and outcasts who couldn’t hack it on the first team and she’s assisted by her curmudgeonly drunk dad who has few kind words for anyone, her and her son included.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, it’s pretty much an update of any sports movie, but in particular the Bad News Bears, with Maggie Lawson and James Caan combining in the Walter Matthau role. Lawson has the former baseball star experience while Caan has the grumpy angry demeanor. It’s obviously a feel good story about losers and outcasts making something of themselves. The writing is solid though, and the losers are fairly funny. There’s a roll call of kids on the team at the end of the episode, where they all get a silly line, and while I was expecting this to be awful because over-the-top kid actors often rub me the wrong way, a couple were kind of funny.

It’s not an original story by any means, but to its credit, unlike the losers in Super First Night, another one of the new shows about outcasts this year, I find myself wanting to root for them. A lot of this is credit to Maggie Lawson, who I’ve always liked from Psych, and who plays pitch perfectly the balance between being constantly flustered while still managing to be relatively put together. Lawson isn’t constantly engaging in physical pratfalls, like Wilson. Rather, her main initial battles are with her emotionally distant father. Liking Lawson is integral to enjoying the pilot, and I think the creators picked the right actress for the role. Caan has the relatively easier job, but he does it well; it’s probably a role he could do in his sleep. Danny, the son, is thankfully a hair away from too precocious for me to enjoy his presence. There’s also a comically over the top villain, like there is in Super Fun Night, but he, the rival baseball coach, thankfully doesn’t dominate the pilot as much as the villain in that program.

The plot isn’t all that interesting, and the premise isn’t original at all, but the writing is decent and the acting is solid. It’s in the cute and innocuous tier with Trophy Wife so far. There’s nothing really must watch; it’s not so funny or so well written that it’s appointment viewing. Still, it’s a reasonably enjoyable comedy pilot which is certainly worth something these days.

Will I watch it again? Not anytime soon, likely. This review came out more positive than I realized so I’m rethinking that decision but at the moment it sits with Trophy Wife as decent shows that just can’t quite win the Darwinian struggle to enter my long TV viewing list at the moment.

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