December 9, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Pitch”


FOX’s PITCH, co-creator Dan Fogelman’s (with Rick Singer) “other” fall series–he also has a little project called This Is Us–is a modestly engaging drama that deserves another, you know, at bat.  Unfortunately, “modest” also describes its ratings–and that’s being kind–so fill in your further baseball analogies here about tonight’s season finale being two outs in the bottom of the ninth, etc.  The odds aren’t in its favor (the ratings are about 25% of This Is Us‘s recent numbers), but it’s been a welcome note of originality in a mostly dull broadcast season.

This Is Us embraces melodrama and trickiness, and there was a certain amount of that in the Pitch pilot too.  It would be hard to come up with a more gimmicky premise than the story of the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball, here in the person of Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury), and the Big Reveal at the end of the opening hour was that the father she was talking to all through the episode was long dead.  As the series developed, though, it began to sidestep the obvious.  Ginny’s historic status certainly remained a continuing part of the story, but plotlines widened to feature characters like her agent Amelia (Ali Larter), the San Diego Padres General Manager Oscar (Mark Consuelos), team captain Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar), and Ginny’s old friend and teammate Blip (Mo McRae).

Tonight’s season finale, written by Fogelman and Singer, and directed by Paris Barclay, provided a good sense of the show’s increasing control over its tone.  The previous couple of episodes had appeared to be leading in a disastrous direction, as Ginny and Mike were approaching a romance.  This would have been an obvious but bad idea both for where the story would have had to go, and because although Bunbury and Gosselaar have terrific chemistry together, not all chemistry is romantic.  But the finale put both of them in the arms of others, and seemed to settle (at least for now) that they’d stay good friends.  The episode’s set-up had Ginny in the middle of pitching her potential first no-hitter, and she delivered not one but two stirring speeches making it clear that despite team concerns about straining her arm late in the season, she was going to finish pitching the damn game, thank you very much–and then she proved herself ill-suited to judge her own capabilities, as she indeed injured herself and was last seen undergoing a cliffhanger MRI.  And having had an ugly relationship-ending fight with Amelia earlier in the episode, a shot of Amelia still at the airport and seeing Ginny on TV being carried off the field set one up for Amelia turning around and going to her bedside despite their argument–but no, she went ahead and boarded the plane.

The show benefits from some excellent casting.  Bunbury hadn’t seemed all that promising in previous roles on Twisted, Under the Dome and Tut, but she has a handle on Ginny’s mix of heroic determination and pig-headedness.  Both Gosselaar and Larter made their names in lightweight vehicles, but they wear their experience well, and have proven themselves solid character actors.  Even minor characters like coach Al Luongo (Dan Lauria) and Amelia’s millenial assistant Eliot (Tim Jo) have steadily grown from their initial places as stereotypical comic relief.

Pitch suffers a bit from some general mildness, some of which may be due to the fact that FOX produces the show in partnership with Major League Baseball, which may want the league-related storylines to be kept tame.  And sometimes it steers close enough to cliche to fall in, as with the arc about Ginny’s untrustworthy brother.  Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable piece of work that seems likely only to become better with time.

FOX may well have miscalculated the appeal of Pitch, especially since the older male baseball audience may not want to see a woman in the game, while those who might appreciate the feminist theme have little if any interest in baseball.  In any case, at its current level of ratings, the only factors that may help Pitch see another season are the network’s continuing relationship with Major League Baseball (especially after this year’s hugely successful World Series, which got a meta-joke in tonight’s episode when Mike and Coach dismissed his possible trade to the Cubs because they’d never win him a Series ring), and the generally dismal state of FOX’s non-Wednesday dramas.   Sometimes, though, a network, like a team, has to double down on its rookie players if it believes in them.  Pitch feels like it belongs in the big leagues.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."