Pilot Perception: Back in the Game

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Back in the Game, ABC in the U.S. and CityTV in Canada, Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c

The Pedigree: The show was created and written by Mark and Robb Cullen (Las Vegas), and the pilot was directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love.). The four of them executive produce along with Aaron Kaplan (The Neighbors).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Back in the Game stars Maggie Lawson (Psych), James Caan (The Godfather), Griffin Gluck (Private Practice), Ben Koldyke (How I Met Your Mother), Lenora Crichlow (Being Human), J.J. Totah (Jessie), Kennedy Waite (Plush), Cooper Roth (Good Luck Charlie), and Brandon Salgado (Eleventh Hour).

The Premise: Single mom and former softball star Terry and her son move in with her estranged father, himself a former baseball player, and Terry finds herself coaching a youth baseball team for her son and other misfits who were cut from the “real” team.

A Taste:

What Works: Maggie Lawson and James Caan are both very good, and their father/daughter dynamic was interesting, with a good mix of a clearly heartbreaking past and moments of warmth that definitely made me root for them. The kids were surprisingly interesting and likeable, if cliched at times, and that’s important in which they’ll (presumably) be so central. I liked Terry and Gigi sticking up for their kids. Gigi, actually, was my surprise favorite character of the pilot – she was hilarious and slightly ridiculous but clearly had a good heart. I hope the show continues to focus on her growing friendship with Terry. And I was happy that sexist and otherwise problematic comments and behavior were almost always called out as inappropriate within the show.

What Doesn’t: I think this show has potential, and there were enough elements I liked that I want it to work, but the pilot isn’t quite there. It’s tonally uneven, and it just felt . . . off, and without much momentum. While it explained a lot about the main characters’ backgrounds, I didn’t get a great sense of who they are now. The set-up with Dick and the other mean dads was a bit exaggerated and hasty, as it would have to be to cover so much ground in 21 minutes, but if the show is trying to suggest a possible attraction between Dick and Terry, he’ll have to become a real character. I’m willing to hang in for a while to see where this goes, but they need to find a way to make it gel soon.

Our Favorite Line: “You have issues. We can be great friends.”

You Might Like This if you like family comedies, or want to enjoy the funny side of Little League or PTO politics. It reminded me a bit of other recent single mom comedies like Bent and Ben and Kate, though it needs to do a bunch of work to achieve the utter charm of either of those.

If You’re Interested: Catch up on the first episode on Hulu, the ABC site, or the CityTV site. Then set your DVR for next Wednesday at 8:30/7:30c for episode two.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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