September 26, 2022

Not quite at home

Not quite at home

The 1992 movie “A League of Their Own” got a small screen adaptation in Prime video series of the same name.

The score is amusing enough and should win over nostalgic fans – but it’s not exactly a trip home.

streaming now, “A League of Their Own,” has a similar premise to the movie, which starred Tom Hanks, Gina Davis, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, and Jon Lovitz. Written by Will Graham (“Mozart in the Woods”) and Abby Jacobson (“Broad City”), which also stars in the title role, the series is set in 1943 and follows the Rockford Peaches, a women’s team in the new All American Girls Professional Baseball League, which was formed because World War II threatened the existence of Major League Baseball with Guys from outside fighting.

The series begins with Carson Shaw (Jacobson) taking a train from Idaho to Chicago for baseball auditions. On the way, she meets and befriends fellow baseball hopefuls Greta (D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”) and Joe (Melanie Field).

Baseball players Lobby (Roberta Colendres) and Carson (Abby Jacobson), right, are in a “league of their own.”
Anne Marie Fox / Prime Video
Nick Offerman in a baseball uniform.
Nick Offerman as their coach, Dove, in a “League of Their Own.”
Anne Marie Fox / Prime Video
Dove (Nick Offerman), Carson (Abby Jacobson) and some of the team members "a league of their own."
Dove (Nick Offerman), Carson (Abby Jacobson) and some of the team members are in a “league of their own”.
Anne Marie Fox / Prime Video

There is no single translation from the movie. Carson has roughly the same background as Geena Davis’ character – a housewife turned diamond with her husband at war – but she has a different name, and no sister or plot explores her gender identity (not in the movie). Nick Offerman plays Tom Hanks as their coach, but here’s Dove Porter, not Jimmy Dugan, and he’s not an alcoholic. Many of the other plot points remain the same, such as handling of skeptical fans and media, unwieldy uniforms (they insist “we can’t play in skirts!”) and some inconsistencies with each other, even when they are grouped together from the game. Original star Rosie O’Donnell cameos as a waiter.

“A League of Their Own” also takes a deeper look into issues of race and LGBTQ+ than its big-screen predecessor. When two black women, bowler Max Chapman (Chant Adams) and her best friend Clans Morgan (Gbemisola Ecomelo), appear at auditions, they are told to “go home” precisely because of their race. Meanwhile, Carson’s relationship with Greta quickly turns into a sweet one. These elements deepen the story and explain why a movie like this could be adapted into a show – it has something new to say and blends in.

Carson (Abby Jacobson) with Greta (Darcy Cardin) in "a league of their own."
Carson (Abby Jacobson) with Greta (Darcy Cardin) in “A League of Their Own”.
Nicolas Goode / Prime Video
Pitcher Max (Chanté Adams) and her friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo), right, jump in a field.
Pitcher Max (Chanté Adams) and her friend Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo), right.
Nicolas Goode / Prime Video
Team members Esti (Priscilla Delgado), Maybelle (Molly Ephraim), Jo (Melanie Field), Shirley (Kate Berlant), and Carson (Abbi Jacobson) stand beside the ladder balcony.
Team members Esti (Priscilla Delgado), Maybelle (Molly Ephraim), Jo (Melanie Field), Shirley (Kate Berlant), and Carson (Abbi Jacobson).
Nicolas Goode / Prime Video

But these qualities alone, while welcome, cannot make it a winning game. Much of the pace has a zigzag feel to a particularly monotonous baseball entry, while Max’s story is largely isolated from the rest of the plot – which often feels like the show pauses for a while until the stories line up.

Much of the dialogue is also disturbingly modern (it is peppered with Carson’s “like” and “I mean” speech and phrasing like “so excited!”). While anachronisms in some shows serve as a deliberate choice (“Dickinson, for example), here it is shown as unfamiliar, as if “their own league” is unable to decide whether it wants to feel rooted in the era of World War II. Or rather, a modern series that simply has some window adornment from that era, but otherwise ignores it.

Max (Shanty Adams) standing in a bunker holding a baseball glove "a league of their own."
Max (Shanty Adams) is in a League of Their Own.
Courtesy of Prime Video

For fans of the movie, it is worth watching. And for those looking for a drama about women playing baseball in the 1940s that doesn’t ignore topics like race and gender, it’s fun enough to watch. The cast is charming, and the issues they face seem objective. But he’s also jerky and uneven — with the sense of the show clearing his throat and trying to decide on his tone during his appearance.