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A class of its own 1×01 test game (batter up) with episode criticism

Synopsis for the episode A League Of Their Own 1×01: «Batter Up»

Amazon Prime Video has now made a series for the film A League of Their Own aka Eine Klasse. Again, it’s about a women’s team and the league they play in when the men are deployed to war.

It’s been 30 years since the movie “A League of Their Own‘ by Penny Marshall was released in cinemas. The focus is on two sisters who compete to see who will do better in the American pro baseball league. Because during World War II, the ladies replace the men who fight for their country.

The new series of the Amazon Prime Video streaming service is not about sisters, but about a colorful group of women who have a similar goal. As a replacement for the men, the ladies want to prove that they too can hit decent home runs. However, each of them has different dreams and goals.

The eight-episode debut season of the series adaptation by Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) and Will Graham, directed by Sony TV is produced for the streaming service. I watched the pilot episode Testspiel, which is what the following is about.

The fairly large cast consists of Abbi Jacobson as Carson, Chante Adams as Max, D’Arcy Carden as Greta, Gbemisola Ikumelo as Clance, Roberta Colindrez as Lupe, Nick Offerman as Dove, Saidah Arrika Ekulona as Toni, Kate Berlant as Shirley, Kendall Johnson as Gary, Kelly McCormack as Jess, Alex Desert as Edgar, Priscilla Delgado as Esti, Aaron Jennings as Guy, Molly Ephraim as Maybelle, Melanie Field as Jo, and Dale Dickey as Beverly.

Carson in particular is introduced to the audience as a reference person, but Max and Greta also play larger roles in the opening.

You can now stream the original film for A Class for Yourself on Amazon Prime Video.

What is the episode Testspiel (aka Batter Up) about?

Carson left her native Lake Valley for Chicago in 1943 by train that she had to chase. She is married to a certain Charlie and as the episode progresses we learn that she is fed up with her boring life and longs for a change. She has not dared to tell her partner at the front, but when he announces that he will be back soon, she writes him a drunk letter with the help of Greta.

Carson meets Greta and her good friend Jo in Chicago and joins them on the way to the tryout, i.e. the test in which the athletes are selected for the future team.

As a black woman, Max has less luck and less freedom during this time and those responsible send the talented thrower, who has also come a long way, home almost unseen. In return, she shows her throwing skills as a farewell, which impresses many…

But the everyday racism at the time did not (initially) allow her to join the team. Most of the women we meet in the beginning are hiding a secret or a need that they have not been able to live out before. For example, Max lied to her mother, a hairdresser, that she was going to a concert instead of showing her baseball skills. Carson seems to be sexually interested in men as well as women, which she has probably not been able to try before. But Greta tests her in this direction in one situation and then lets her down. Another player only speaks bad English and is looking for someone who speaks Spanish like her. Everyone dreams of being part of the team.

Those who advance must abide by a few rules. There is no smoking or drinking in public, they should not wear pants in public and they should be home by 10 p.m. So we will witness how they are happy about being accepted or rejected by the team, how angry they are and how they bang their heads at first.

The organizers, meanwhile, have to answer questions from the press, who are skeptical as to whether the women can sell enough tickets compared to the established men or whether they are attractive enough. But the women should still be good for one or the other surprise.

Home Run oder Strike Out?

The film “A class of its own“ is now 30 years ago and the Series creators have already recognized that the film had some thematic shortcomings at the time, despite its high entertainment value, which are now being addressed in the modern zeitgeist and with female creative participation. The team is made up of a colorful array of characters, who of course also correspond to some clichés. The blonde, the femme fatale, the odd bisexual or lesbian character, the Spanish-speaking faction, and the odd weirdo.

Because the topics of sexuality and skin color were hardly touched upon in the original film, Jacobson and Co make both a much more central focus. Max and her friend Clance are the representatives for the latter, because actually there is no logical reason to exclude the top thrower except because of social discrimination. However, it’s already a special situation to let the women play at all, so you can certainly come up with something to involve black women in the 1940s.

The style and tone of the series reminds me of a cross between GLOW and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. One is a series about women in sports-entertainment and the other is set in a very similar time period in terms of dress and style. So if you like the formats and can also get something out of the film, you should maybe take a look.

Of course, one can ask oneself whether the material has so much to offer when the original was actually entertaining in around two hours, but you can certainly cover a wide range of topics in the eight episodes, each lasting 45 to 60 minutes doesn’t have to rely so much on montages. Personally, I would have preferred to see half-hour episodes, but maybe you still fill the available time sensibly.

Speaking of montages: The baseball montage in the episode of the classic “Sing Sing Sing‘ is probably the highlight of the entertaining debut episode, which may not deliver enough baseball for my taste, but you have to get to know the many characters first. In the series format, you’re not under the same time pressure as with a film, where you have to get going faster. In any case, the ensemble leaves a good impression.

I know and respect Jacobson because of Broad City, and similarly Carden because of her involvement with the NBC comedy series The Good Place. The rest of the women who do get screentime, especially the Sam and Clance cast, also make good first impressions, most of whom I probably only knew superficially from other projects. However, are also reliable supporting players like Nat Faxon or Kevin Dunn (Prison Break), while the mostly entertaining Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) doesn’t play a big role in the opening.

In addition, I always welcome it when there are other films and series that are about female team athletes, because the focus is often enough on boys and men. Except Big Shot, “Kick It Like Beckham“, GLOW or one or the other roller derby film (e.g. “Roller Girl’) there is definitely still some catching up to do.

Conclusion

A League Of Their Own offers charming retro sports comedy action with a nice ensemble cast and a bit lacking in baseball so far. After the opening test match, the question arises as to whether the makers will find the balance between the women’s private lives and dreams and performance on the field. In the first episode, you are understandably more interested in establishing the (inner) conflicts, but that’s by no means a bad thing, because it creates the basis for the narration of the other seven episodes. If you like series like GLOW and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or generally funny series with a large female cast, then the sports dramedy could also be something for the series list.

A League Of Their Own: Official Trailer for the Amazon Series

Here finally the Trailer for the series “A League of Their Own“:

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