‘A League of Their Own’ Gets Makeover in Ambitious But Uneven Amazon Series



The basic bones of the story made popular by the Penny Marshall-directed movie haven’t changed — centering on an all-women’s baseball league raised during the war — and yes, someone still says “there’s no crying in baseball,” eventually. But the emphasis has shifted, the role of the manager (Tom Hanks there, Nick Offerman here) has been significantly reduced, and the occasional misogyny of the time has been significantly amplified.

It unfolds primarily through two stories: Carson (Abby Jacobson, who co-created the series with Will Graham), who runs away from home while her husband is serving to play and comes to some important realizations about herself; And Max (Chante Adams), who has a killer fastball but stays out of the majors until after the war because black people are kept out of the women’s league.

He’s surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, starting with the charming and seemingly free-spirited Greta (“The Good Place’s” D’Arcy Cordon), who has her own system — “rules by which I must keep myself safe,” as she puts it — to survive this male-dominated world; And Clans (Gbemisola Ikumelo, especially good), Max’s married friend, supports her baseball dreams but clearly yearns to join the club where she’s settled.

Mostly, the series reminds us that the good ol’ days weren’t good for everyone — the male announcer exclaims, “These diamond girls are still housewives at heart!” — Capturing the ignorance that surrounds disadvantaged groups, one straight woman worries about being around gay people, which is said to “spread like a flu.”

Essentially, the producers have traded in the nostalgia factor that inspired the original to look more adamantly at the romantic portrayal of those years, and in that last case, that meant a black or gay woman. Norms and underground clubs lived in fear of police raids at a moment’s notice.

Rosie O’Donnell has a brief cameo, serving as a nod to the film, but to their credit, Jacobson and Graham clearly set out to build something new and unique around the equity in the title.

Especially with a narrative pace that moves as fast as a bunt down the third-base line in the first half of eight episodes. Things pick up after relationships are built and this “league” ends on a note that hints at the promise of more baseball in its future.

Inevitably building toward a bigger game, “A League of Their Own” doesn’t go down as an unqualified success at the box score — it’s basically a solid single — but an interesting idea for the producers, slickly constructed, feels a bit overextended and slowly spread over eight episodes. As for the streaming realm, that’s a league, frankly, in which the show has plenty of company.

“A League of Their Own” premieres August 12 on Amazon Prime.



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