Mini-preview: Back In The Game 1×1 (ABC)

Mild comedy for women aka ABC's masterplan

Back in the Game

In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC. Starts 24th September

After the past couple of years’ disastrous attempts by ABC to try to get men to watch its shows – bizarrely, through terrible programmes like Work It and Zero Hour – ABC is this year once more reverting to its two core strengths: female viewers and luke-warm comedies.

This year, apparently, women who appreciate luke-warm comedies are into domesticity. We’ve already had a look at The Trophy Wife, in which a former party girl settles down to a life of comparative drudgery, tending to the needs of three step-children; now we’re going to have a look at Back In The Game, starring Psych‘s Maggie Lawson as a woman who gets divorced from her cheating husband and together with her son Donny, move back in with her father (James Caan from Elf. Yes, that’s the credit I’m going to list him with). Caan is a former pro baseball player who ruined Lawson’s life with perpetual baseball practice and indoctrination after her mother died, so Lawson has decided never to bother teaching Donny baseball.

But now Donny wants to impress girls, so it’s time for Lawson to bite the bullet and teach him – and since the current little league coach Dick (Ben Koldyke from… shudders… Work It) thinks Donny sucks, Lawson decides to run her own team full of no-hopers (fat kids, weird kids, gay kids, etc) rejected from the main team.

And like The Trophy Wife, it’s okay. Caan’s not really trying but is fine nevertheless, funniest when he’s proposing some ridiculous piece of over-the-top violence to wrongdoers; Lawson is trying for all she’s worth and doing a good job of it. The writing plays with gender and other stereotypes and subverts them, it has a good line in putdowns and is occasionally smart. Mandatory Brit Lenora Crichlow (Being Human) hams along nicely as Lawson’s rich new best friend; Koldyke hams along more entertainingly than he did in Work It.

It’s still not exactly a laugh a minute, but it’s a lot more promising than last year’s pilots (The Neighbors, Malibu Country, Family Tools). I’ll stick with it for a while, at least.

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