Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Back in the Game

Back in the Game PreviewThe broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including a new Michael J. Fox sitcom, a futuristic tale from the Fringe team and Marvel-ous adventures for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

Next up on our list….

THE SHOW | ABC’s Back in the Game (Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c; premieres Sept. 25)

THE COMPETITION | Fox’s The X Factor, CBS’ Survivor: Blood Vs. Water, NBC’s Revolution and The CW’s Arrow

THE CAST | Maggie Lawson (Psych), James Caan (Las Vegas), Griffin Gluck (Private Practice), Ben Koldyke (How I Met Your Mother), Lenora Crichlow (BBC’s Being Human) and others

RELATED | Fall Preview: TVLine’s Grid Showing What’s On When and Versus What!

THE SET-UP | Lawson is Terry Gannon, a single mom who, with her young son Danny, moves back in with her dad Terry Sr. aka “The  Cannon,” a beer-guzzling onetime (sorta) baseball pro. When the “Smarmy” — the group of chest-puffing dads who lord over the local Little League — snub Danny and other misfit moppets under the premise of being shy of resources, onetime softball superstar Terry signs on to coach the Angels (or Angles, as their botched shirts read).JAMES CAAN, GRIFFIN GLUCK

RELATED | TVLine’s Guide to All the New Fall Shows

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | I was set to call it a day with this fall’s First Impressions when I started to see the occasional peer and commenter cast aspersion on Back in the Game, which boggled my mind. I mean, there are some dreadful shows debuting in a few weeks, folks, so why anyone would direct animus at this escapes me. Lawson is totally charming as a series lead, convincing as a frazzled single mom and in her element as a ball player. Caan is Caan — warmly grizzly with a thuggish underbelly, and thus perfect in the role — while Gluck shines in material far lighter than all that Private Practice sadness. And maybe it’s because I was quite awful in Little League myself, but the Bad News Bears-esque sequences make me smile.

A few foul balls, there are. Both Terry’s new bestie Lulu (played by Crichlow) and her “effeminate” (as he is labeled) son seem to be living in a much more Suburgatory-like, caricature-filled world. Also, I hope against all hope that the long game here isn’t to pair Terry with Koldyke’s world-class jerk, who is of course named Dick. (Note: The trailer below is kinda lousy, spoiling a fun plot point, using some less-funny alt takes of Danny’s teammates’ intros and offering no sense of the show’s heart.)

RELATED | More First Impressions: NBC’s Sean Saves the World, ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D., Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CBS’ Mom, ABC’s Wonderland,  NBC’s The BlacklistThe CW’s ReignABC’s Trophy Wife, Fox’s Sleepy HollowCBS’ Hostages, NBC’s  IronsideABC’s Super Fun NightThe CW’s The Tomorrow PeopleFox’s Almost HumanCBS’ The Crazy Ones

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | ABC makes some questionable scheduling calls, but this is a fastball down the middle  — airing between, well, The Middle and Modern Family, two shows it shares a tonality with. (Move Trophy Wife to 9:30, and you’d have one of TV’s most synchronized two-hour comedy blocks ever.) As the only comedy up against a pair of dark dramas (now that NBC has bailed on Wednesday laughs) and two reality contests, Back in the Game will be at least a stand-up double. (Which I never hit. Sigh.)

Watch a video preview for Back in the Game, then vote in our poll below.

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65 Comments
  1. TV God says:

    I want her to be on Psych, I’m not going to watch this.

    • Ann says:

      Psych is probably getting cancelled pretty soon, so if you want to continue seeing her on tv, then you’d want her new show to be successful.

      • TV God says:

        Actually, given the ratings of some USA shows I read that Psych might be renewed for a final season, since they are done filming season 8, and USA hasn’t said that it was the last season. USA will want to give the fans closure, so even if it is for a small final season it might get renewed. But I won’t watch this show mostly because it looks terrible.

        • Andy says:

          I would love a season 9 for Psych, but I hope that if it were to happen, it wouldn’t be a smaller season than what season 8 is going to be. Less than 10 episodes would just be cruel.

        • Anon says:

          USA has been so horrible to Psych for the past years, it doesn’t fit in its new lineup despite how much Psych-o’s love it. They won’t announce season 8 as a last season until after the musical episode so they can start advertising a final season, so your logic that they haven’t canceled it yet makes no sense, don’t get me wrong I don’t want psych to end but it will eventually and I am glad that Maggie has the opportunity to expand her career and get on a network show, so don’t be childish, watch this show because according to this it is a good show, don’t not watch just because Maggie is in it, she is still in a lot of season8

          • johnhelvete says:

            Maggie Lawson deserves to have success after Psych ends. Don’t see why a viewer of Psych would want this show to fail, on the small chance that Psych continues for another season.

        • A says:

          I really hope that there will be another season beyond season 8 as I read somewhere (maybe on this site) that the fan-voted episode will be the 8th season finale. The episode definitely doesn’t sound like a SERIES finale so here’s to hoping it could go on. However, if her new show is successful, I don’t know what the chances are of her being involved in a possible final season

          • TV God says:

            See, I saw promos for this show, and it doesn’t interest me at all. I love her in Psych, Psych will most likely get renewed for a final season, even though USA treats Psych like crap, and takes its fans for granted. I love Maggie Lawson, but that won’t get me to watch this show. This show has nothing special. Everyone has their own opinion. I pray that Psych does get renewed for a final season of at least 10 episodes, because Psych is the greatest thing that USA has going for them. They would be stupid to cancel it.

          • A says:

            @TV God: I agree, although there are a few shows on USA that I do like such as Covert Affairs, White Collar, Burn Notice and Graceland, Psych is awesome and I hope it doesn’t end for a while and if it does end soon, I hope it gets a good ending. Many didn’t like the Shules drama this past season but I thought the 7th season was among the best seasons of this show. I laughed so hard, I got teary-eyed and sad, I laughed again, and I returned to being happy. This past season added a new layer to the show. I didn’t get all the complaining about the show being too dramatic during the middle of the season. I thought it was great acting, very realistic, and they did an excellent job at maintaining the humor during all the drama.
            I too probably won’t be watching this show either, but not because I don’t love Maggie Lawson, but because I’m done watching new shows and having them be cancelled after one to two seasons. So sick of wasting my time, getting attached and getting my hopes up. It happened with SMASH (it was really starting to improve towards the end of the 2nd season and move on from all the mistakes), The New Normal and GCB (which I really thought was great and funny and was never really given a chance and a proper ending).

    • Lauren says:

      Yeah, that’s rational.

    • Jay says:

      AGREED!!!! 100% I HATE THIS!!!! Long live Psych and long live Juliet O’Hara! This new show is bloody AWFUL!!

    • Jay says:

      You are my hero for saying this!! I will NEVER EVER watch her on this crap and she will never have another role like she did as Juliet O’Hara on Psych. I hate Maggie for doing this.

      • Mel says:

        Yikes man! If Maggie Lawson decides to be the “star” of a comedy on one of the networks instead of a “supporting actor” on a cable show, that, let’s face it, probably doesn’t have that much time left, then why would you deny her continuing employment? And, since you haven’t even seen an episode you can’t even say that it’s a lousy show. My the hyperbole!

      • J says:

        Yes, how dare that actor you like attempt to have continued success! Some fans you are.

  2. Leigh says:

    I would have never thought this was a comedy. It may be worth a try.

  3. Percysowner says:

    I’m not a comedy person, so no I won’t watch. That said it doesn’t sound bad unlike some of the other new shows. I like Maggie Lawson and wish her well.

  4. Jaime says:

    The premise doesn’t interest me, but Maggie Lawson is the cutest and Lenora Crichlow was my favorite part of Being Human so I’ll watch the first few episodes at least.

    • BTM says:

      Yeah, it’s the presence of Lenora Crichlow that’s making me think about giving the show a try. Russell Tovey from Being Human is doing well, and I’d like to see the same for her.

  5. Badpenny says:

    While I enjoy comedies this one just looks… average. Single mom, cranky grandfather, I just feel like I’ve been there, done that on the premises too many times before.

  6. Babygate says:

    I’m torn about this. On the one hand, I truly dislike James Caan. I can’t see anything he’s on. On the other, it feels like a warm family comedy and I do like Lawson and Gluck. I will DVR the first episode. Whether or not it stays on my list depends on that first showing. But I wholeheartedly agree that Trophy Wife belongs on Wednesday after MF. Super Fun Night looks horrible, even though I love Rebel. And it is completely incompatible with the rest of the Wednesday lineup. Just like sticking The Goldbergs and TW on Tuesdays after SHIELD is a bad, bad, bad call.

    • Evan says:

      How do you dislike James Caan????

    • Zach says:

      You don’t like James Caan? Let’s see what he was in, The Godfather, Rollerball and Elf. Three amazing movies, totally different genres, and James Caan was perfect in all of them. The guy seems to be capable of anything. Sure, he seems like a douche, but at least he’s a talented douche.

      • Babygate says:

        Nope. Can’t get past the fact he’s a douche.

        • Cassandra says:

          I’m with you on that. That’s not to say I won’t watch anything with him as Zach pointed out Elf and The Godfather are two very different movies I thoroughly enjoy and before Starz canceled it, I was enjoy Magic City.

  7. cjeffery7 says:

    i’m a former softball player. i’m currently watching A League Of Their Own OnDemand, and i’m 3 glasses of wine down… nothing sound more appealing right now than Back In The Game. that being said, I’m glad you gave it a good review, Matt! it makes me hopeful! (I also enjoy Maggie Lawson.)

  8. Mixed bag for Back in the Game. Only part I like is when that cute boy sang “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga.

  9. Zach says:

    I’ve been really looking forward to this one. I was always the worst player on my Little League teams, so I can relate. I also really like Maggie Lawson and James Caan. I’ve also been looking forward to seeing Ben Koldyke again after the nightmare that was Work It.

  10. Emily says:

    Love Maggie Lawson and that’s enough of a reason for me to watch and want it to do well!

  11. Kayla says:

    I love Maggie, but nothing about this show sounds appealing to me.

  12. David4 says:

    It still seems like a TV movie idea to me and very limited idea for a series.

  13. Drew says:

    Lawson is still going to be in many Psych episodes. If they are somehow renewed again, I’m sure she will work something out. There is no reason to boycott her new show because you like her on Psych.

    I don’t watch the other ABC comedies, but I might check this out because of her.

  14. Andy says:

    I’m going to watch this because I love Maggie and the show looks touching. At the same time though, if we get one more season of Psych, I hope Back in the Game doesn’t see a second season. However, that is only if the filming schedules of Psych and Back in the Game would conflict with each other.

  15. Kissan says:

    I’m gonna watch this for Maggie, plus this looks funny. But I think that Trophy Wife should DEFINITELY be on after Modern Family. ABC should put Super Fun Night somewhere else. Put it on Tuesdays after The Goldbergs.

  16. omabin says:

    I agree that Super Fun Night on Wednesday is atrocious but I think their thought was that Happy Endings and Apartment 23 showed last year that there was not enough 18-34 audience to capturate on Tuesdays while New Girl was on, since New Girl just dominates there. So I think they thought of trying family comedies. In theory makes sense, but Super Fun Night just shouldn’t have been picked up. This is what I would have done comedy wise:

    Tuesday
    Trophy Wife/ Suburgatory

    Wednesday
    The Middle/Back in the Game/Modern Family/The Goldbergs

    Friday
    Last Man Standing/ Malibu Country (I would not have canceled it and messed with friday, just retooled it a bit)

    The Neighbors could have gotten the renewal that Suburgatory got, i.e. to fill in for a failed show. If MC still fails, The Goldbergs can take over at midseason, as it looks very compatible with LMS, while a new comedy premieres after MF.

  17. Mel says:

    1/2 comedy sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family…I’ll give it a look or two.

  18. K. says:

    I love her on Psych so I’ll give it a chance but it would have been better if James Roday was in it with her, the show would have got more fans! For the people that don’t know James plays Shawn on Psych..

    • Lyss says:

      Robb, the creator, is on twitter and is really cool about answering questions. He said he would be happy to have any of the actors from Psych on the show so you never know! He could play a future boyfriend or the ex!

  19. abbyhope says:

    “(Note: The trailer below is kinda lousy, spoiling a fun plot point, using some less-funny alt takes of Danny’s teammates’ intros and offering no sense of the show’s heart.)” — thanks for your first impression, Matt – i’ve seen the lousy trailer a time or two, as well as a few re-worked versions, through a tv panel i participate it… and i told them that i *want* to be excited for this show and like it – i like the cast and i love baseball stories – but based on the promo materials, it felt like they were aiming for a very narrow audience (heterosexual male ages 19-35) and i needed to see more heart. Your piece here makes it sound like they deliver just that – and for that reason, I’ll give the show a chance.

  20. the old proofreader says:

    “under the premise of being shy of resources” or pretense, even

  21. Hurley says:

    Griffin Gluck! That kid was amazing on Private Practice..

  22. Kissan says:

    If I was ABC I would not have cancelled How To Live With Your Parents For The How Long Is This Title, I would’ve put How To Live on Fridays after LMS. I would’ve put Trophy Wife on Wednesdays at 9:30, let Back In The Game stay at 8:30 and never picked up Super Fun Night. Then I have to say this but I would’ve put The Neighbors on Tuesdays at 9:30 for 13 episodes and then put Suburgatory there.

  23. Sheldon W. says:

    The pilot isn’t great, but neither is it awful. There’s good cast chemistry and – as you say, as long as there are no plans for Terry and Dick to become a couple (which would be both antithetical to the show’s basic set-up and a far too obvious move to make it worth pursuing) – it does show some promise.

  24. Patrick Maloney says:

    The only reason I would watch this show is to see Caan tear into a bunch of kids lol

  25. Alex says:

    Just another stinker.

  26. Nero theTVFiddler says:

    I think this show can make it – good time slot, good cast – it will come down to the writing, as it so often does with comedies (and that’s probably a good thing). I agree, if ABC moves Trophy Wife over to Wed/9:30, the alphabet network will have a good block of four comedies on Wednesday nights.
    .
    The gruff older guy character [Jay Pritchett] on Modern Family works well – the older guy who’s been there, done that, but has a heart of gold. If Caan can somehow channel some of that warmth and charm of Ed O’Neill’s Jay Pritchett, then they have something really good here. Don’t anyone underestimate James Caan – he can make this work.
    .
    I played a lot of little league ball when I was a kid as well, and I played ‘okay’, but I must tell you – if one of the mothers looked like Maggie Lawson and she was our coach, all us kids would have worked a bit harder and practiced a lot longer. ;) She is (and I don’t use this word often) truly adorable; Matt, I think you used this word to describe her a while back. You are right – it’s true, my goodness, Maggie L is a real charmer.

  27. TV God says:

    @A I agree completely, Smash and The New Normal were great shows that ended before their time. At least they both ended with no loose ends.

  28. Jay says:

    OH! BTW I actually saw a screening of the pilot and it is absolutely pathetic! Maggie you are so talented why did you do this?

    • TV God says:

      It looks bad, it might make a good tv movie, but I see no potential for a series that could go years! I’m sorry, but I will not be watching this one.

    • Anon says:

      Stop spamming, you just don’t like it so you are spewing lies. The pilot is not incredible because its a pilot. The cast has good chemistry, good one liners, and it has a lot of potential. None of us (Fangles an Psychos) care what you think Jay!

  29. K says:

    Psych is my favorite show of all time. I am hoping and wishing every day for a season 9 and beyond. That said, I will watch this to show support for an actress who has made me smile and laugh so much for so long. You certainly can’t blame Maggie for wanting to expand her career, and what tv actor can say they don’t want the lead on a network show?

  30. Lyss says:

    Just watched the pilot and the show I really good, I think it will make it. The pilot is not mind blowing and downright hilarious, it’s a pilot, they still have to figure things out. The show has a certain charm about it, it’s light hearted and funny at times but there is an emotional side to it! Caan, Maggie, and Griffin all have great chemistry! I look forward to this show for the season and hopefully more (:

  31. Zach says:

    Just saw this. I really liked it. The show wasn’t forced, unlike so many shows the characters don’t talk like they’re high on coke. Background music was limited, that’s a plus. The kids behave sorta like actual kids, they aren’t polite. Lawson was fun as always, Koldyke had some really great lines, and James Caan was an all-around hoot! It wasn’t sweet, it wasn’t over the top, I really hope it lasts.

  32. mom says:

    @Back in the game. I don’t understand why they have to show 2 young boys kissing! Why?!?

  33. Why NOT show two CHILDREN kissing? I may be 53 but I sure remember Truth or Dare, Three Minutes in Heaven or Hell and even spin the bottle. I also remember most kids practicing on someone of the same sex FIRST! SO WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? Or are you just homophobic?????

  34. Why NOT show two CHILDREN kissing? I may be 53 but I sure remember Truth or Dare, Three Minutes in Heavelln or Hell and even spin the bottle. I also remember most kids practicing on someone of the same sex FIRST! SO WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? Or are you just homophobic?????

  35. Kim says:

    After all the reality “mess” on TV, I am grateful to have some new comedies worth watching. I loved the first and second episodes of Back in the Game. I am a big James Caan fan, so that doesn’t hurt. Really like the rest of the cast as well. It is time for some entertainment – something that I can watch and escape reality for 30 short minutes. This and The Goldbergs are my favorite new shows so far this season.

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