With the current state of politics and women still fighting the good fight for equality, it’s perfect timing for a quality show that brings women’s – nay, human! – issues to the forefront on a battleground that has historically been dominated by men.
There are a lot of firsts going on in the first episode of Pitch: it’s about the first female pitcher to play for a Major League team, and it’s the first TV show Major League Baseball has allowed to use actual uniforms, team names, stadiums, logos, etc, giving Pitch the authenticity it needs to be a home run in FOX’s stacked new fall lineup. Needless to say, the pressure on both semi-newcomer Kylie Bunbury, and her character, rookie pitcher Ginny Baker, is more than a little daunting.
It was (is) vital Pitch be released this year, when glass ceilings and women changing the world are more profound than ever. The writers, producers, directors, cast members and, most importantly, Bunbury herself bring a poise to Ginny Baker and the entire world surrounding her, who understand the impact she’s making without making her out to be a screaming bra-burner that can sometimes (for whatever reason) cause the general public to shy away from the feminist movement.
As a female desperately wanting to feel empowered by a broadcast network show rather than embarrassed by how feminism and women equality is often displayed (which happens more often than not), I was extremely hesitant about Pitch. My concerns were as follows:
Kylie Bunbury’s beauty was going to be the central focus of the show.
It’s plain to see Bunbury is gorgeous, there’s no denying it, but for the first time in a long time on TV, it’s not a lead vocal in a female role. That is, a strong female character isn’t finding her voice in her looks but rather her talent and skills all while maintaining poise. In fact, it plays a small part in the chorus line that contributes to the bigger the bigger story. Looks aren’t likely to carry anyone particularly far in professional baseball, so Ginny’s beauty takes a backseat, plotwise, to her mysterious screwball pitch. But this being television, I’m sure we’ll see problems arise for Baker revolving around her looks, perhaps a love story between her and Mike Lawson (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) or Blip (Mo McRae).
Ginny Baker was going to be an angry, bra-burning stereotypical feminist.
To be clear, Baker is not referred to or comments on being feminist, however, there are shadows of what she resembles, like little girls holding signs saying “I’m Next!” This was the most pleasant surprise of them all. When I started hearing whispers about this show, I was inspired by the opportunity and conversation a well-executed version could provide but also horrified by the opportunity and conversation a poorly-executed version could bring. It would’ve been very easy to make Baker a super-intense, stick-it-to-the-man rage machine screaming “FOR FEMINISM!” in every piece of dialog. But Baker is allowed to be real person with emotion, strength, and vulnerability, incredibly poised and collected despite being an outsider that’s changing the world and making her father’s dream come true.
The same is true for her manager Amelia (Ali Larter). Amelia is a sure-footed straight shooter and has exactly zero f– to give – I’m talking Cersei Lannister’s sister with less of a thirst for blood and more logic to obtain power. Amelia is strong and appropriately more of a battleaxe than Baker, as her manager and probably one of the few female sports agents around. Amelia is breaking glass ceilings in her own right, too, and is doing so with a loud “hi-ya!”. The writing and portrayal of these women is so well calibrated to please the people (like me) wanting a strong female lead that isn’t a cartoonish version of herself as well as those who are shying away from a female-led show about baseball.
It would be alienating.
Just because Pitch manages to gracefully articulate the real life struggles a woman pitcher – or just a woman in general – has to deal with doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. I still think there’s a huge risk of people not tuning in: some people won’t watch it because women don’t play baseball, – there aren’t movies or films about women in male-dominated sports that often (was A League of Their Own the last one?) – and some people won’t watch because it’s a show centered on baseball. The truth is, this isn’t just a baseball show, this isn’t just a girl-power show. At its core, it’s a show about a person working through issues, overcoming insecurities, and jumping hurdles to achieve a goal – the rest is just happenstance.
My concerns were mostly addressed in the pilot, which allows me to breathe easy moving into the rest of the season. There is nothing this show doesn’t shy away from: friendship, insecurities, dysfunction, love and family, but everything seems to fall into its rightful place on and off the field, even when they bleed into each other.
At the end of the day, the MLB doesn’t just grant rights to use their precious, precious trademarks willy-nilly. Producers have said there will be an episode including footage to the actual MLB All-Star game that happened just a few months ago – if anything, the access the MLB has granted to FOX says a lot about the high hopes riding on this show, which gives me high hopes for a great rookie season.