TV’s latest adaptation of a beloved film stepped up to the plate on Friday, with the full-season drop of Prime Video’s A League of Their Own.
My colleague Dave Nemetz has already given his take on the small-screen version: In summary, a swing and a miss. But before you give us your thoughts on the adaptation, let’s recap the events of the first episode:
Prime Video’s version — a take on the 1992 movie, of course — centers primarily on Carson Shaw, played by Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson. The opening scene will look familiar to fans of the film, as Carson races to catch a moving train that will take her to baseball tryouts, just as sisters Dottie and Kit did in the movie. In the show, though, Carson hasn’t been personally scouted like Dottie was; she heard about upcoming tryouts for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and we later learn that she packed up and left for Chicago in a tizzy, despite having just found out that her husband is returning imminently from the war. (!)
Carson meets fellow league hopefuls Greta (The Good Place‘s D’Arcy Carden) and Jo (YOU‘s Melanie Field) while on her way to the tryouts, and the three of them quickly develop a warm, friendly dynamic. And even though the characters in the TV show are different from those in the movie, Greta and Jo remind you a lot of Madonna’s Mae and Rosie O’Donnell’s Doris, no?
In fact, much of the initial plot groundwork laid in Episode 1 is similar to the film’s: It’s still a candy tycoon funding the women’s league (Morris Baker, in this case), and he’s concerned that the ladies won’t turn a profit — or, at the very least, won’t be appealingly feminine enough to get people interested. But as the classic tryouts montage shows us, these women are quite good at baseball, and Morris’ associate Marshall assures him the players will be made more ladylike. (Blech.)
Greta, Jo and Carson all score spots on the Rockford Peaches the next day — but there are two other, more intriguing subplots developing here, one of which is the clear romantic chemistry between Carson and Greta. During the baseball tryouts, Carson seems taken aback by Greta winking at her, and later that evening, she starts penning a letter to her husband that reads, “Dear Charlie, There’s something wrong with me and you deserve better.”
Carson eventually divulges to Greta that she wasn’t planning to attend the league tryouts at all, but when she got a letter from Charlie that announced he was coming home from the war, she packed up and ran to the train like a woman possessed. Greta counters that Carson isn’t running away from anything, and she’s running toward her destiny; later, the two women drunkenly collaborate on a very honest letter that Carson sends to her husband, revealing her true ambitions to him. We don’t get to hear the letter in full, but it’s unfiltered enough that Carson desperately wants to get it back from the post office the next day, only for Greta to persuasively remind her, “It doesn’t matter what you wrote! What are you gonna do, run all over Chicago looking for a letter that you needed to send anyway? Or are you going to be a professional baseball player?” (Carson picks the latter option, naturally.)
On their first night in Rockford, the Peaches venture out to a local bar, and Carson admits to Greta, “I feel like I am screwing up my entire life. And I don’t know why. Everything that I have always wanted… but I’m not stopping, because it feels good.” Greta then leads Carson outside and kisses her behind the bar. They pull away, there’s a pause, then Carson goes in for another, much deeper kiss. But this time, when the women separate, Greta just looks at Carson and says, “I thought so,” then heads back into the bar. Carson’s understandably confused by that interaction — and the confusion only grows when she later spots Greta leaving the bar with a man.
Meanwhile, the premiere also introduces us to Maxine “Max” Chapman (Chanté Adams), a Black woman with a formidable pitching arm who longs to try out for the women’s league. But the racist men in charge of tryouts completely deny Max the opportunity to show her stuff; the only pitch she throws is an unauthorized one as she’s leaving the ballpark, but it clears the entire field, and the other women at tryouts are in awe.
We come to learn that although Max’s father is supportive of her baseball ambitions, her mother is not. “I’m all for you having a dream, Maxine,” she says. “I just want you to pick one that’s possible.” A crestfallen Max agrees to finally start learning the bookkeeping process for her mom’s hair salon, and her negative experience at tryouts seems to have turned Max off from picking up a baseball again any time soon. Later that night, she’s angry to discover that her decidedly-worse-at-baseball friend Gary recently became the second baseman for a recreational team made up of his coworkers at a local factory. But Max’s best friend, Clance, points out a silver lining: The factory only just started hiring white women a month ago, and now they’re welcoming Black men; maybe it won’t be long before a Black woman is hired, too, and Max could play for that team?
That evening, Carson and Max cross paths outside the bar, and Carson remarks that Max’s throw at tryouts was incredible. “Yeah,” Max replies as she walks away. “I know.” And in the episode’s final scene, we see the juxtaposition between the Peaches, excitedly marveling at their new uniforms in the locker room, and Max, who looks newly determined as she pitches baseballs against the brick wall behind her mom’s salon.
OK, your turn. Is A League of Their Own a home run in your estimation? Grade the premiere in our poll below, then drop a comment with your full reviews!