Reboots can be hard sold. Still, Prime Video’s A League of Their Own is a show you all must see. It’s not perfect – I’ll get to its one major issue, storyline juggling later – but over the past weekend I’ve had the best kind of modern streaming experience with the new series.
I went into the weekend with the intention of further progressing at For All Mankind. But after seeing a positive tweet or two about A League of Their Own (and being familiar enough with the original film), I thought I should give it a shot.
Then watching the pilot turned into a random binge watch. In less than 24 hours, I went from being annoyed at having A League of Their Own on the home screen to watching all eight hours of the show’s first season.
So why is A League of Their Own a title you need in your own queue? Allow me to explain – and I’ll start by explaining that anyone who liked Netflix’s GLOW will probably love A League of Their Own.
It’s a story about women working as a team and facing obstacles in a male-dominated society where the cast is energetic and the script is smart. I could still be upset that Netflix canceled GLOW, but maybe this show hit a single so A League of Their Own could blast some things out of the proverbial ballpark.
A League of Their Own Episode 1 is the smoothest pilot ever
You feel that excitement, like on your first day at a summer camp.
Almost immediately I was hooked by the first episode of A League of Their Own. Abbi Jacobson (who appears as Carson Shaw and co-created this series) leads with her strong suit: being nervous and awkward. Your character hastily runs to a train and is completely unkempt.
Before she can make it, she runs into some old friends who are confused by her behavior and are soon talking behind her back about how her bra was exposed. If the period costumes weren’t enough emphasis, that last bit is the big nod that we’re not in 2022 anymore. 1943 is very different.
(Image credit: Nicola Goode/Prime Video)
Once in the big city, A League of Their Own begins building a roster of other women trying out for the teams as the war effort’s demand for men dries up the big leagues.
Carson immediately finds two charismatic, aspiring ballplayers: Greta (D’Arcy Carden) and Jo (Melanie Field) who poke fun at her at every turn. These aren’t the A-League stars you might remember from the classic film, but as I don’t have a strong bond with this slice of cinema? I wasn’t even bothered.
(Image credit: Prime Video)
And with every new member of the cast I met, I kept thinking, “Yeah, I’m going to have fun getting to know these people.” They all collide so perfectly, like Maybelle (Molly Ephraim), the smiling blonde, and Lupe (Roberta Colindrez), the rugged pitcher. And just a small dose of the no-BS Kelly (Jess McCready) and hypochondriac Shirley (Kate Berlant) teases that these women don’t always get along. And if Esti (Priscilla Delgado) is gushing that she’s not the only Spanish-speaking subject? You feel that excitement, like on your first day at a summer camp.
Most importantly, we meet a hot-tempered pitcher named Max (Chanté Adams) and her best friend, Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo). Max only wants to play baseball with these new teams that are forming, but she’s black and that’s still an issue for some – despite the changes in society.
And that’s just one of the ways Abbi Jacobson’s A League of Their Own develops from the previous film. Because by the end of the first episode, you learn that the Rockford Peaches have hidden queer women on their team, and that makes A League of Their Own all the more interesting.
Yes, a separate league had to develop
So, I’m going to get that out of the way now. As you may have heard, the state-of-the-art convention of review-bombing is a league of its own fighting an off-field battle. As Decider (opens in new tab) explains, the reviews section of the show’s page on Prime Video has a lot of people unhappy with the fact that “baseball versus all the other ‘messages’ pushing this show trying to take a back seat to you,” while another wrote, “I really don’t care who you love. I just wanted women to be represented in sports. It has now become who is gay and who is straight.”
Not to get too polemical, but the last comment has an obvious contradiction: some people only want to see the forms of representation that are important to them.
(Image credit: Nicola Goode/Prime Video)
But to be honest, let’s all admit that queer people and people of color are not a modern invention. That their presence and stories are not a modern day Ponzi scheme to make more money from symbolic acts of diversity. To tell the story of women in sports properly, one must tell the story of all women and not hide the women of color in small roles (which the original film did, with a black woman throwing a ball past Dottie, Geena Davis’ Character).
A League of Their Own not only tells the story of women of color on the field, but also explains how queer women lived off the field. How the views of society during this period turned their lives into criminal behavior. And the show is all the better for it. The emotional power of the secret speakeasy gay bar scenes is so strong that I couldn’t help but burst into tears (and later ugly tears).
Let’s all admit that queer people and people of color are not a modern invention.
Yes, watching this show could open many minds to an experience they are unaware of exists. But since the scenes and A League of Their Own capitalized actually work, it’s not hard to see that Max’s story – as well as that of the closed players – is totally worth it.
The only problem of a league in itself
As much as I love Max’s storyline, A League of Their Own can at times feel like it’s vacillating between its story and what’s going on with Carson, Greta, Jo and the rest of the Peaches.
The quest for the Peaches to actually win games runs parallel to Max’s work to be taken seriously as a pitcher. And there’s something about how the show jumps back and forth between them that feels almost chilling at times. It’s never bad enough to annoy, but it’s a season one bug that needs fixing.
Root, root, root for a league of their own
For the seven chapters following that endearing first inning, I couldn’t put A League of Their Own down. I was supposed to watch out for Prey, but I saved that for another time. I also wanted to give this new Ninja Turtle video game a spin. But A League of Their Own got me hooked.
And that’s why I’m writing this, to make sure everyone gives it a chance. In a sea of lifeless reboots and prequels of questionable nature, Abbi Jacobson and her team have created one that has the potential to last for multiple seasons. I just hope the boo-birds in the reviews are drowned out by the viewership. And so far – A League of Their Own ended The Terminal List’s 42-day reign at the top of Prime Video’s TV chart – it looks like the Peaches have a chance.
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