The Reel Review
America’s first all-female professional baseball league, established during World War II, is the subject of this Amazon original dramedy series. Based on the iconic 1992 film that starred Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, this adaptation stars Abbi Jacobson (Broad City), who also co-wrote its screenplay with co-creator Will Graham (Mozart of the Jungle). The series also stars Chanté Adams (The Photograph), D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), and Dale Dickey.
The eight episodes feature the same iconic uniforms and new but very similar character archetypes, but the actual storylines themselves are more queer-focused, veering onto very different paths from the original film, as the series explores the era’s blatant sexism, racism and homophobia. As rousing and heartfelt as the 1992 film was, this is a much deeper, more complex story – a sobering reminder of how things weren’t so good for many marginalized people in “the good old days.”
The production itself is a nostalgic slice of Americana, capturing the look and feel of the World War II era, and the ensemble cast is terrific, with some really fun and interesting supporting characters – D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo and Roberta Colindrez, in particular, are standouts. The problem is that the two main story arcs – Jacobson’s struggles with her sexuality and Adams’ struggles as an aspiring pitcher facing a trifecta of sexism, racism AND homophobia – feel like two really busy separate shows that never really gel. Combine that with a kitchen sink of LGBTQ+ representation and dialogue that is distractingly modern for such a period show, and it at times just feels a tad bit more Triple-A than Major Leagues.
Fans of the original film will enjoy its many nostalgic nods to the movie – Rosie O’Donnell even has a cameo as the owner of a gay speakeasy in Episode 6 – and many viewers will appreciate the more honest, in-depth exploration of gender, race and LGBTQ+ sexuality, but the disjointed storytelling keeps this otherwise solid and meaningful series from being the home run that it could have been.
• The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was founded in 1943 by chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley with tryouts at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Rockford Peaches won a record four championships during the league’s 11-year run.
• This is the second attempt to adapt the popular 1992 film into a TV series. In the 1993 series, Carey Lowell, Christine Elise and Sam McMurray (Drop Dead Gorgeous) reprised the roles that Geena Davis, Lori Petty and Tom Hanks played in the film, which also saw the return of two actresses from the film – Megan Cavanagh (Marla Hooch) and Tracy Reiner (Betty “Spaghetti” Horn). The series was cancelled after three episodes.
• Show creators Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham based their character Maxine on real-life Black female ballplayers Mamie Johnson, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan, who helped break barriers by playing with men in the Negro league.