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“Back in the Game” Pilot Review

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In ABC’s new sitcom Back in the Game, Maggie Lawson (Psych) plays Terry, a single mom recovering from a messy divorce and a former All-Star softball player who winds up coaching her son’s mostly “athletically-challenged” Little League baseball team.

She’s a little temperamental, a personality trait that she keeps mostly at bay unlike her father, the typical grunting and acerbic sitcom dad Terry Sr. aka “The Cannon”, played by James Caan.

The casting of British actress Lenora Crichlow, whose best known for her work on BBC Three’s supernatural series Being Human, as Lulu Lovette peaked my interest in the series. Lulu introduces herself to Terry by first offering her a flask of tequila, and then she jumps into the “best friend” role quickly thereafter.

Lulu, a widow, is one of the quirkiest characters on the show, albeit a little out-of-place with her British accent, glamorous clothes, and wealthy background in a series about average Joes and Little League baseball. One of the running gags appears to be that her son, Michael, is flamboyant and possibly gay.

At the heart of the series is the father-daughter relationship between Terry and The Cannon. They’re anything but warm and friendly, as the two often butt heads – another typical sitcom dynamic. They’re both snippy with each other, as well, with Terry claiming that her father ruined her childhood. She vows to make sure that he doesn’t do the same with her son, Danny, while the two are temporarily living with him until Terry snags a full-time job.

Danny (Griffin Gluck) joins the Little League team primarily because of his crush on Vanessa, a girl at school. Danny’s got his own quirks – he curses, he’s a little wise beyond his years (not an unusual take on sitcom kids), and his way of dealing with bullies at school is by kissing them on the lips.

After Danny fails to make the Little League team, The Cannon persuades Terry to get Danny on the team by talking to the people in charge. She faces opposition from the aptly named Dick (Ben Koldyke) and his posse of alpha fathers, but a winning pitch guarantees Danny’s spot on the team, as well as Terry’s new job as coach.

The pilot is mediocre at best and lacks any compelling elements to ensure that I’ll continue watching the series. The jokes are flat, stale, and uninspired, and the single-camera format makes it even more obvious that the series is overly formulaic. None of the character dynamics or plot points stand out – we’ve seen this ragtag group of Little League misfits before in movies like School of Rock or Bad News Bears, but with the difference being that Back in the Game completely erases any interesting or humorous qualities about them.

Unless the writing improves, I predict Back in the Game will meet its demise fairly early on in the Fall 2013 television season.

Back in the Game premieres September 25 on ABC. You can watch it online now.

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