Roush Review: New ‘League of Their Own’ Takes Big Swings
Baseball isn’t just a game; it’s a lifeline and a pathway to self-discovery in Prime Video‘s seriocomic twist on the beloved 1992 movie A League of Their Own, about the pioneering All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during wartime in the 1940s. You’ll have to wait until the fifth (of eight) episodes to hear someone say, “There’s no crying in baseball.” Significantly, it’s not a bullying coach who says it, but one of the Rockford Peaches, chiding one of their own for not standing up for herself and for the team.
There’s also not a lot of laughter, at least of the belly-laugh variety, in the new League’s earnest depiction of gender and racial discrimination and prejudice. “This isn’t even real baseball, kid,” quips the condescending coach, former pro, Dove Porter (an oddly restrained Nick Offerman, who disappears by the show’s midpoint). Reluctant team leader Carson Shaw (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson, a series cocreator with Will Graham) doesn’t want to hear it. “This is our one shot,” she declares. “Stop standing in our way.”
Yet she and her teammates have it easy compared to Max (Chanté Adams), who’s female and Black, and despite being a gifted pitcher with a wicked arm, is unwelcome on the Peaches squad or even the local factory’s team. Like Carson, whose husband (Suits’ Patrick J. Adams) is away at war, Max is a restless soul only now coming to terms with her sexual identity: “There’s no version of myself that makes sense for the world,” she muses. Carson echoes her: “I don’t know exactly where I belong.”
The exploration of their, and others’, sexuality becomes as driving a force of League‘s narrative as the Peaches’ underdog quest to reach the championship. (Rosie O’Donnell, who starred in the original film, makes a cameo as the proprietor of a local and very secret gay bar.)
Lest this all sound too mopey and serious, rest assured that the series comes alive on and off the baseball field, with a vivid mix of colorful personalities taking wild swings at life, convincing themselves this is all real and that it’s OK to want something and live your dream. Jacobson is especially winning as Carson, growing in confidence as she’s drawn into the seductively sophisticated orbit of teammate Greta (The Good Place’s fabulous D’Arcy Carden).
Other standouts among the terrific ensemble include Gbemisola Ikumelo as Max’s married best friend and confidante, Chance, who nurtures her own dream of being a cartoonist; Roberta Colindrez (Vida) as Lupe, the Peaches’ ace pitcher; Kate Berlant as Shirley, Carson’s neurotic and uptight roommate; and the estimable Dale Dickey as the team’s military chaperone Beverly, whose stern dogma about keeping up appearances is softened by her obvious affection for these girls.
You’ll feel it, too. By the end, you’ll be root-root-rooting for them all.
A League of Their Own, Series premiere, Friday, Aug. 12, Prime Video