Sep 23, 2016

Channel Surfing: Pitch - "Pilot"

Scene from Pitch
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
If the modern TV climate would suggest anything, it's that the culture is shifting. Over the past five years, series based around non-white protagonists have become more prominently present in the prime time line-up. Even in the bigger picture, the past few years have seen the rise of women in professional fields. The road hasn't been easy, and many of those who decide to voice their opinion are still met with dissent. However, the shift for a more progressive society is one that's encouraged, and few new shows of the Fall 2016 TV season seem to be exploring them with more elegance and class than Pitch: a show where Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) becomes the first female pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the San Pedro Padres.
To a small extent, the metaphor is a bit on the nose. The show's decision to use this team could be read as literally breaking the patriarchy. It's especially odd given the other social advances that the sport has made over the past century. It could just be that women have their own league, but even that is ignored when compared to MLB's gargantuan stance. To have a show focus on integration feels like itself something beyond being merely a sports program. It's about women's acceptance in society, and how it takes serious effort to make a difference. Over the course of the first episode, Pitch explores the many dynamics by which women are required to go above and beyond simply to be seen as something equal. The opening scene features Ginny surrounded by gifts from high powered women, specifically Ellen Degeneres and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. There's a sense of community within the female characters on the show, and it becomes clear once the men enter the picture.
Despite being part of a team, Ginny isn't necessary treated like a teammate at first. There's accusations of being a girlfriend figure and merely being a stunt performer. Even the fact that her first game doesn't go well results in some backlash that would get her male counterparts a mere shoulder shrug. The only man who is consistently encouraging is her father Bill (Michael Beach), who is seen helping her practice in her younger years. He is a role model who pushes her to glory, eventually sitting in the crowd as she overcomes oppression and has a very successful game as pitcher.
Unlike other series that focus on outsiders yearning for acceptance, Pitch weaves it into the plot in ways that feel organic and effective. In fact, the gender politics almost feel secondary to the feeling of Ginny being an underdog. She wants to be accepted, but it's mostly as an equal. With convincing editing that makes the baseball scenes look like actual games, the show feels catered to those who will probably be watching the World Series in a few weeks. However, you don't have to know what bunts and fly balls are to understand the emotional core of the series. It's more of a condensed portrait of a society that still gets rattled up whenever Beyonce expresses her mind about feminism.
The show also manages to pack a third act twist that adds a deeper emotional core to the series going forward. Without specifying, it features an incredible shift in the familial dynamic that makes the struggle even more personal for Ginny. Knowing about the shift will mean that the quest for acceptance is greater, for it means so much to her father. The question from here is if the show will overcome its shocking twist, or if it will be simply a conventional sports drama. One can only hope that it falls more on the former. Even then, Pitch's premiere packs a hefty punch and makes its case for one of the most promising new dramas of the Fall season.

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