Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham
Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo, Melanie Field, Roberta Colindrez, Nick Offerman, Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Kate Berlant, Kendall Johnson, Kelly McCormack, Alex Désert, Priscilla Delgado, Aaron Jennings, Molly Ephraim and Dale Dickey
Comedy series about the WWII All-American professional women’s baseball league.
A League Of Their Own is an Amazon original series that also happens to be the series adaptation of the 1992 film of the same name, directed by the late Penny Marshall. Created by Will Graham and star Abbi Jacobson, set in 1943, the reimagined series focuses on an entire generation of women who dreamed of playing professional baseball. One of the characters, Carson Shaw, is a married husband whose husband is fighting in the war. She decides to find out if she has what it takes to compete professionally and leaves on a train, already taking off, in the hopes of trying to get signed up to play for the Rockford Peaches in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGBPL). Another character that hopes to get her break is Max Chapman, but doesn’t get a chance showcase her talents at the tryouts for the Rockford Peaches due to the colour of her skin.
Throughout the course of the season, we primarily follow the journey of two characters. One of which is the Rockfield Peaches star catcher, Carson Shaw, portrayed here by co-creator Abbi Jacobson. We meet Shaw first on her own, frantically trying to reach the train as it’s already leaving the station, throwing her luggage in before diving in herself, against the conductors pleas. We see how Shaw has a great knowledge for the game, who tells those at the try-outs that she used to go to baseball games and also watch them religiously with her father, though it’s clear that Shaw feels out of her comfort zone. Shaw is timid and shy, which Jacobson plays superbly, and while she struggles to figure out what she wants for her life off-the-field, on it we gradually see her confidence growing. One scene that viewers remember from the original film is by an African-American throwing the ball over Dottie, who is waiting for the ball to be thrown to her, to Ellen. It’s a memorable scene and with this adaptation, it was clear that Graham and Jacobson wanted to explore that further here. Going through Maxine’s journey in this series, it is arguably stronger than following the Rockford Peaches, as she struggles, daily, to get the opportunity she desperately seeks to throw a ball. From her first scene it’s made abundantly clear that she can throw, and while her father Edgar is encouraging her daughter to chase her dreams, her mother Toni on the other hand has ran out of encouragement and tries to set reality on Max by aiming to have her take over the family business. Chanté Adams is terrific as Max Chapman, you feel for her whenever she feels down when she faces another roadblock in her path, and her chemistry with best friend Clance, played excellently by Gbemisola Ikumelo, is just so infectious and an utter delight to watch as some of their scenes provide the best laughs for me.
Among the ensemble, there’s a lot of other stand out performances on the series. As already mentioned, Gbemisola Ikumelo is an excellent foil for Chanté Adams’ Max, a bubbly personality that always backs her friend and whose also working on her own comic ideas during the course of the season. D’Arcy Carden is terrific as Greta, a confident woman who Shaw takes a particular shine to due to her personality, and Melanie Field as Jo, Greta’s best friend, is also great and the journey of their friendship is good to watch. Roberta Colindrez is really good as Peaches pitcher Lupe Garcia, and Kelly McCormack is also really good as Jess McCready. While the series does feature some strong performances, it does feel like during the course of the eight episodes that some of the ensemble don’t necessarily get their time to shine and develop beyond their status on the team. Character arcs such as Shaw/Greta and Max/Clance take up a good chunk of the screen time that you wish certain characters get some of the spotlight, but I suppose sometimes when they do, particularly a sub-plot involving Lupe, Jess and Esti, it just makes it that much more effective. One character that really didn’t work out for me, I’m shocked to say was Nick Offerman’s Dove Porter. Maybe it was the expectation that he’ll play the Tom Hanks equivalent here, but the reality is he’s just a weak character. In terms of the baseball sequences, I can’t tell if it’s due the screeners I got (all episodes), I felt that they were smoother in terms of transitions and cutaways, while in the latter there is some shaddy CGI involving the ball and some of the cutaways are a bit clunky. Though that could be considered a nitpick as the baseball scenes serve as a backdrop to the drama of the characters, their personal lives, love lives, as well as their sexuality. The one thing that the series spends a lot of time on, is highlighting issues that affect the LGBTQ+ community at the time, the dangers of being open about their sexuality and/or gender, and while I know a lot (and I mean a lot) will be using one particular word over the next few weeks when talking about the show in a negative light, I personally didn’t find it ‘too preachy’, whether they worked or not, I felt it was at least handled organically.
A League Of Their Own might initially be compared to the film, but it quickly moves away from that to come into its own, and while it make slow the pace down in the middle, it’s the characters and the performances that’ll take you down the home stretch.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN WILL BECOME AVAILABLE ON AMAZON PRIME ON FRIDAY 12TH AUGUST.