Fox’s ‘Pitch’: Figure a double, not a home run
The network's best new show follows MLB's first female pitcher
September 22, 2016
One in a series of Media Life previews of the new shows debuting this fall. You can find past previews here.
Thursdays at 9 p.m., premiering tonight
Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is a pitcher with a mean screwball. She also happens to be a woman, the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball history.
She joins the San Diego Padres, and as you would imagine, it doesn’t go all that smoothly. There’s a lot of testosterone in the locker room, and not everyone likes the fact that the team’s sudden new star is a woman.
Ginny also, in the tradition of so many gifted athletes, has a driven (or is he bonkers) dad who’s helped get her to this point.
The show was co-created by Dan Fogelman (“This Is Us”) and is being filmed with the full cooperation of Major League Baseball, a first.
“Pitch” is the best new drama on Fox’s schedule, though that’s not saying much—“Lethal Weapon” and “The Exorcist” look like duds.
Still, “Pitch” has heart that the other two lack. It’s not entirely about sports, though you’ll find the usual clichés about overcoming odds and being the underdog.
But “Pitch” also explores issues such as what it’s like to work in a place where no one else looks like you and what role a parent should play in an adult child’s life.
Having the backing of MLB is no small thing.
Fox (not coincidentally) owns broadcast MLB rights, and the network will push “Pitch” hard throughout the playoffs, plus the league has used some of its own marketing power to promote the show, which is even shooting at MLB parks.
But “Pitch” does have one major hurdle, and that’s its timeslot. It airs opposite “Thursday Night Football,” and that will steal away sports-minded viewers.
More troubling, its lead-in may struggle. “Rosewood” aired with “Empire” on Wednesdays last season, and now it’s moving to lead off Thursday night.
There’s no doubt the second-year drama’s ratings will take a hit, and that means “Pitch” will need to be a self-starter, a tall order.
What media people say
Buyers have very mixed feelings on the show.
They think it has potential. Yet they worry about whether the concept will grow thin.
And they’re not convinced it can survive in the tough timeslot.
“The network seems to be sticking to a successful sports formula with underdog, feuding teammates, and a difficult parent/child relationship,” says Harmelin Media’s Chris Bono in the agency’s fall preview.
“[This idea has] gained an audience in theaters, but I’m unsure of how it will come together on the small screen.”
What our readers say
In a Media Life poll asking readers to rate “Pitch’s” chances of survival this fall, the largest share of readers, 36 percent, predicted it will get a full-season pickup, though 29 percent said it will finish its initial season order and nothing more.
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