Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pilot Review: Back in the Game

Back in the Game (ABC)
Premiered September 25 at 8:30pm

When I assessed this show back in May when the networks offered up previews of their new series, what I noticed was that Maggie Lawson, who was always one of my favorite players on “Psych,” was getting her own show, and that esteemed actor James Caan was going to play her father. The premise didn’t seem overly complicated, but it looked relatively appealing. What I didn’t process was that it was being put on by ABC, a network that, recently, has found success with shows like “Modern Family,” “Suburgatory,” and even “The Neighbors.” This series about a single mom with a son and a crotchety dad who all love baseball feels like a sitcom that might air on CBS, or maybe even FOX. But it doesn’t seem to fit into the current ABC slate. Airing on the wrong network isn’t a cancellable offense, but if the tone of the show doesn’t match up to any of the channel’s other offerings, that can be problematic. The main issue, however, is that the show has promise but doesn’t fully deliver on it. Lawson is great, and I’m very happy to see her in a lead role. Caan, on the other hand, isn’t trying very hard, and his character is a bit too unhinged and overbearing for my tastes. Young actor Griffin Gluck is spunky but fairly precocious, and his anti-bullying tactic is unconventional if nothing else. Lenora Crichlow, from the British “Being Human,” feels like she’s just been dropped in from an entirely different universe to help pull a few important strings, and she’ll be featured all too much throughout the show’s run. Showcasing misfits is always a welcome strategy, but this show needs a little more work before it truly finds its voice.

How will it work as a series? Now that Lawson’s Terry has discovered that The Cannon was actually invested in her success during her childhood, she’s likely to trust him more, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be any less blunt or obnoxious. Giving Jerry a life of her own outside of her son and her father should prove positive, and the baseball stuff might not be too bad either.
How long will it last? Its pilot ratings were decent but nothing to write home about, higher than what the renewed “The Neighbors” netted in this same timeslot last year but not substantially. It’s all a question of how much ABC wants its Wednesday night comedy block to succeed, and I suspect they’ll give this one a chance at least for a few months.

Pilot grade: C+

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