Is it possible to go back home and not repeat the past time and again? That's part of the premise behind ABC's new comedy "Back in the Game," which followed one woman's quest to right some wrongs from the past. The story may seem familiar, but due to some appropriate casting the execution was much better than it should've been.
"Back in the Game" followed Terry Gannon, Jr. (Maggie Lawson) was once a promising Baseball star who made a few wrong turns in her life that forced her to move back in with her estranged father Terry Gannon, Sr. (James Caan). She had to let go of her failed dream of being a Baseball star to raise her son Danny (Griffin Gluck) after her marriage failed miserably. She struggled to find a new job and find a place to fit in. Terry thinks that she might have that chance when Danny wants to continue the family tradition and try his hand at Baseball by trying out for the local Little League team. Unfortunately, his motives for joining the team were to impress a girl at school named Vanessa (Kennedy Waite) who had a boyfriend named David (Cooper Roth) who was willing to bully Danny to get his way. Terry was forced to deliver a crushing blow to her son when she was informed that he didn't make it on the team. In an effort to fight for her son, she decided to challenge a local man named Dick (Ben Koldyke) to try to fend off one of her pitches to see if she could coach a team of kids who didn't make the cut, which included her son. Terry had some help from a wealthy neighbor named Lulu Lovette (Lenora Crichlow) to help finance her team of misfits, but she had to deal with her issues about her playing days and how they ended badly. She was also forced to confront her father with the feelings that she often ignored. Can Terry work with her father to help coach the team to victory or will it end in disaster?
In terms of questions, the show only had one that seemed to linger throughout the premiere about whether the team will be victorious by the end of the season or have a serious of comedic errors. It's likely that the latter option will definitely be happening throughout the season as Terry and her father continue to make mistakes to coach the boys to victory. The show's premiere felt like an episode of "The Bad News Bears" that was full of comedy and could cause some potential controversy with Caan's character pushing most of the buttons. On the surface, Caan's Terry, Sr. could be a mixture of stereotypes, but the actor gave Terry a rough exterior that hid someone who was capable of love even though he could never truly show it. The show would be wise to explore Caan's on-screen rapport with Lawson because it seemed genuinely convincing. They could pass for father and daughter in terms of their on-screen temperaments. As for the kids, Gluck, Waite and Roth had a potential triangle going that wasn't necessary a romantic one because their characters are too young to fully understand it. Let's hope that the show will continue to explore their connection without embracing too many possible cliches. Leave it unresolved for a while to leave viewers guessing. Sadly, the only wild cards were Koldyke and Crichlow who both seemed out of place in the premiere. Future episodes should be able to fix that by placing them in the center of Lawson's storyline because that's where both of them made the most sense. Only time will tell if that's the case before they get their own stories.
As for breakout stars, Lawson and Gluck led the pack because the bond between Terry and Danny was what gave the show an extra emotional impact. Lawson's Terry loved her son enough to coach a potential team of players that weren't the most athletic, or normal for that matter. She embodied Terry with the right mixture of spunk and vulnerability as she fought to get her life back on track. Her most memorable scene in the premiere came when Terry realized that her father actually did support her dreams and secretly taped all of her college games. Lawson showcased Terry's reaction with a quiet smile and a touch of sadness that she wished she knew the truth sooner than she did. Maybe, things could have been a lot different for everyone involved. Gluck, on the other hand, gave Danny a balance of innocence and unpredictability. He made Danny more than the precocious caricature his character could've been. His strongest scene came when Danny was being bullied for talking to a girl at school that he had a crush on. Instead of hitting the boy, Danny kissed him on the mouth for the mere purpose to shock the boy into leaving him alone. Part of his plan worked, he got the boy to leave but he also got the girl to notice him for a different reason. Let's hope that the show will give Gluck the chance to shine on his own as well as with Lawson and Caan, separately and together. It wouldn't hard to imagine at least one episode involving Caan and Gluck finding themselves in trouble, but the results would surely be hilarious to watch.
"Back in the Game" premieres on September 25th and airs Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on ABC. Xfinity is currently screening a free preview of the pilot episode. The episode is also available on ABC's website as well.
Verdict: Lawson and Caan's natural approach to their roles helped to generate some laughs on an otherwise familiar premise. Hopefully, they will continue to get the opportunity to draw some humorous storylines.
TV Score: 3 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)