Fall TV Preview

Fall TV First Impression: Fox's Pitch

Pitch Pilot Preview Fox

The broadcast networks have nearly 20 shows debuting this fall, including new sitcoms from Kevin James and Matt LeBlanc, Kiefer Sutherland as POTUS and Michael Weatherly’s NCIS follow-up. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

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THE SHOW | Fox’s Pitch (Thursdays at 9/8c, premiering Sept. 22)

THE COMPETITION | CBS’ Thursday Night Football (then starting Oct. 20, Mom/Life in Pieces), NBC’s Chicago Med, ABC’s Notorious (new) and The CW’s Supernatural

THE CAST | Kylie Bunbury (Twisted), Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Franklin & Bash), Ali Larter (Heroes), Mark Consuelos (All My Children), Michael Beach (Third Watch), Mo McRae (Sons of Anarchy) and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years)

THE SET-UP | Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker, who after five-plus years in the San Diego Padres’ farm system gets called up to The Show for a spot start. Cheers — and jeers — ensue as MLB history is made.

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THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love, TV’s Galavant) is on a crusade this fall to make you feel, shepherding this roller coaster of emotions as well as NBC’s This Is Us (previewed here). Ginny’s journey is a complicated one — this isn’t the stadium lights-shattering, goosebump-raising finale of The Natural by any means — and the pilot makes a point to loll in the lows as much as cut to the hurrahs of idolizing little girls in the stands.

Bunbury gets a lot of notes to play, whether arriving at Petco Park with the focus of a laser, putting the butt-slapping team captain in his place (and then fielding the brunt of his valid retort) or working through a breakdown. Larter and Consuelos hint at an amusing rapport, as Ginny’s stone-cold publicist and the Padres’ wannabe-charming GM, while Beach brings a lot of heart to the story as Ginny’s father, a onetime ballplayer pitch-pilot-previewwho in unexpected ways pushes her to greatness. Gosselaar, though…. As I tweeted, he dares you to recognize him through a brunette neck beard, a wad of perpetually chewed gum and an engaging mix of swagger and seen-it-all weariness.

On the technical side, the ballpark scenes are spectacular — thanks to a landmark partnership with the MLB, and viewed through the “lens” of (overt) Fox Sports coverage) — but the editing of Ginny’s pitching is cheat-y, often cutting from windup to the “thump!” in the catcher’s mitt. Moving forward, I’ll need more of the continuous, center-field camera POV.

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Will sports fans be occupied by Thursday football (or actual MLB games)? Is this the sort of family friendly fare that puts a surprising amount of fannies in the seats? Pitch could go so many ways. This much is certain: As one of four (4) dramas in the time slot, and with a soft lead-in that previously benefited from the Empire halo effect, it will need every syllable of its sure-to-be-glowing word of mouth to not get knocked out of the game early.

MORE FIRST IMPRESSIONS CBS’ Pure Genius, Fox’s Lethal Weapon, NBC’s This Is Us, ABC’s Designated Survivor, NBC’s Timeless, CBS’ Bull and ABC’s Notorious

Watch the trailer for Fox’s Pitch and then vote in our poll.