Pitch boss on Fox baseball drama's struggle, future
Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season finale of Pitch. Read at your own risk!
Ginny’s fairy tale first season, where she became the first woman to pitch for Major League Baseball, ended in a nightmare during Pitch‘s season finale.
In the wake of Ginny and Mike’s near kiss, the two are extremely awkward around each other, both seizing opportunities to lean into other romances — with tech mogul Noah (Tyler Hilton) and Mike’s ex-wife Rachel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), respectively.
As the Padres’ season comes to a close, the front office decides to shut Ginny down, allowing her one more start with limited innings. But when Ginny starts throwing a no-hitter, the team leaves her in a bit too long and she ends up getting injured.
She wasn’t the only one to get hurt, though. When Amelia (Ali Larter) forces Will (BJ Britt) to admit he stole some of Ginny’s money, Ginny fires her agent, sending her packing. Meanwhile, with the restaurant not moving forward, Blip (Mo McRae) wants to have more children, but Evelyn (Meagan Holder) shuts him down, leaving Blip pondering the state of their marriage.
So, what’s next? While Pitch has not yet been renewed for a second season, EW turned to executive producer Kevin Falls to get the scoop on what could be in store for a sophomore year, as well as the show’s ratings struggle and what would change if they do get a second season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In writing the finale not knowing whether Pitch would be renewed, did you consider other endings?
KEVIN FALLS: Not really, because we felt so good about the show. We knew we were writing to that end line. From the beginning of the season, that’s where we knew we were going to end up. We talked briefly — there was one brief discussion about whether to come up with an alternate ending. We didn’t feel that throwing a no-hitter was really ever going to be something that we were going to have her do — do something magical. But we could’ve maybe ended where she got the runner out or we could have ended with some version of a different ender that’s more upbeat, but then we started thinking, Why are we trying to help the decision to end the show by wrapping the series in a way that satisfies everybody? We feel like we’re a great show that we feel deserves a second season. Not to mention that in this era of repeat viewing, word of mouth, people can go back and binge it and then they want it. So the feeling was that we just wanted to have a cliffhanger, because we want a second season and we always thought that we’re going to get one and we’re still confident that we will.
Why did you want to end the season with Ginny getting injured in particular?
Because what we wanted to do is set up something where she gets her sea legs, she finds her voice, if you will, but in the process of doing that, things got emotional between her brother and Amelia, and a different type of emotion with Mike Lawson. And she said, “Everyone needs to stand down and let her by herself, let her do what she does best,” which is throwing the baseball and what she loves doing. But in the process of doing that, she sent some people away at a time where she could use those people. What we wanted to do is go into another season where the pieces are broken and we’ve got to put it back together.
With our show, the concept of the first female pitcher in the major leagues, it’s not something you can do every season, so you want to be able to start the next season with a different set of obstacles for her, and that would come with an injury and trying to get back and make the team. That is something that isn’t specific to the first female athlete, it’s any athlete, whether it’s a rookie or a veteran. We wanted her to do that, but also not have the support system going into the next season and just make it harder for her. We think it will just be more emotional if we see her overcome those obstacles. So that’s what we were attempting to do.
Why do you think Pitch didn’t quite catch on this fall?
That’s a good question. I wonder if people thought — I mean, if people who are baseball fans, thought, “Well, I don’t believe that they would be able to throw a baseball, I don’t believe a woman can be a starter in the major leagues,” if those people didn’t show up or if people thought it was going to be a show about sports, people who don’t follow baseball or sports thought it was going to be a sports show, or they checked out the novelty in the pilot. I don’t know, it’s confounded us because I think we have like a 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes [score]; most of the views of the pilot were extremely positive. We feel, and I know that the studio and network feel, like we delivered as a series creatively and we have a baseline of fans that really are not necessarily a strong wide viewing fan base, but they always come back and we get the +3s and +7s, they always kind of end up being the same number. The question is whether you can build on that number and we were hoping that we could. We certainly would’ve loved a different spot on the schedule, but that’s [something] every show can say that’s struggled, so I wish everything was better. But honestly, I don’t know, because between the critical reviews and the content and quality of the show, I don’t know. We struggle with that because we are so happy with the show.
Had Pitch debuted in spring with the launch of baseball season — as it was initially slated — and not up against a thrilling World Series, do you think it might have had a better chance?
Look, it’s always harder for a show to launch. There’s other shows that don’t find their audience in midseason. We liked the idea of taking on shows in the fall; we certainly liked the idea of trying to get that Scandal audience that wasn’t there because of Kerry [Washington]’s pregnancy maternity leave. That was something that we were willing to take our chances on. And maybe, maybe it would have helped that you start to get your head around a baseball show when spring training is starting. I don’t know. How do you explain that the numbers to start weren’t great and we were in the middle of pennant races when we launched? And I agree, once you get deeper into winter, your head’s not going to be in the baseball spirit, but it’s a still a good show. There was more than baseball going and these were wonderful actors performing at the highest level, so the people who watched knew that there is a loyal fan base that gets it, that is going to be heartbroken if we don’t get a second season. I’m optimistic, but I’m not delusional. I realize the numbers are what they are and it could end up being the final factor, but I do know that even as early as last week, there were discussions about putting it on in the summer. I know that there’s been no final decision made on the show, that they have a love for it a great deal. So we will see what happens.
Let’s turn to what may happen in season 2. Where would you want to pick up with Ginny? Might we see her back down in the minors rehabbing?
I think that’s fair to say if she’s certainly been rehabbing over the weekend. What also happens is what we get to do in the second season that we didn’t in the first; the first season dropped her right in June, in the middle of our fictional 2016 season. This one would be one where it would be five months later and a lot happens in life, certainly in baseball where so much happens — you have changes of player personnel, you have changes in ownership, in managers. There’s so much that happens over a winter; families change, these baseball players go home to their families. I think we’d probably explore a lot of what happened over those last five months and catch up in a way that we use flashbacks — we wouldn’t use as many flashbacks in the second season as we used in the first, but if we did them, it would be to catch you up with what happened over the winter or we would pick it up in the winter after her injury. All of those things would come into play.
But spring training does give you a different world in which you would start the season, where everybody is competing for jobs in a different environment and a different light that’s shined on spring training that it is not on the regular baseball season. I wouldn’t say it would be a complete reboot, but I imagine creatively it would be a completely different start to the season. And Dan [Fogelman] prides himself at being so great on these twists and surprises, so who knows what we would hit you with. We have some ideas that I’m not going to share that we would do in the early part of the season to show what is going on here.
Even in the dress episode, Ginny had already mulled quitting. Where do you think she stands with those feelings now after getting injured?
I think that would actually be something that she would think about in the offseason. What we do in the writers’ room is, we start with the logic of it, because sometimes what you would logically do in a situation like this is it provides you with an obstacle to get past. You raise a very good point, which is, “Why am I doing this? I proved that I could do it. I hurt my arm. I signed my deal. I have some money in the bank. Why don’t I go into broadcasting? Why don’t I do something else? Or go back to school? Why do I want to go put myself through this?” And I think that would be something. Who knows, you could see her on an island with Noah, but that calling to baseball is certainly going to be there, just because we feel that’s very much part of the show. Yeah, I would probably think you’d see a little less baseball in the next season and we get deeper into their lives, not that we would ever not do baseball, because we like doing that, but I think we would go even deeper into the character’s lives.
Depending on where we would find Ginny in a second season, what I found interesting is when she delivered the speech on the mound in the finale, she told Mike that as long as they are teammates, nothing can happen between them. Now if she’s injured or gets sent down to the minors, they’re not teammates technically, so where does the relationship stand?
Clearly, we set up in that last episode what’s going to happen between Mike and Rachel. I think Mike has an epiphany in that scene where Al talks about the Cubs were the new girl, they are young and made you laugh. I think Mike is getting his head around those words; he admired her, he had some feelings, but as long as he’s playing the game, I don’t think this is going to work. He’s certainly not going to let Ginny struggle as she comes back in rehab. I see him taking on more of the role of the mentor, especially at a time where she needs people to help her, no one more than her catcher. Mike Lawson is not the type of guy who will let her struggle alone.
I think that’s always going to be there, I think it’s going to be buried by both of them because they showed their hand, but — and I’m speaking as the showrunner — in the room we talk about things and we can always change our mind, but let’s get back to the mentor relationship that we had. You’re always going to get that chemistry, it’s going to be in there, and it just feels like Mike isn’t going to swoop in just because you’re not playing baseball anymore. He’s certainly not going to try and make that something he’s interested in romantically. I think that he would be exploiting her if it was something like that. Don’t you think?
With Mike having been on the precipice of giving up on this team, and you see their reaction to that in the finale with the team shutting Mike out, what does that mean for his future with the Padres? Is there a question of instead of being traded that he could decide maybe this is his final season?
He could. His character’s age will be 37, which is the tail end. You could almost see him playing one more season and then becoming the team’s manager; we talked about that. We discussed the idea that he’s certainly going to come back to the team. He’s got to mend the fence with Blip, that’s another relationship that has to be repaired. I think they’ll come together. I’m confident of that, but it’s going to be fun to see how they do come together. Bringing the team back and also what happens after his career is something we’ve explored. We’ve also explored actually trying to have the team have some more success on the field to where they actually start playing better, even though you won’t necessarily see it on the field.
In terms of Amelia, where is she going as she is flying off? And also, she told Ginny that she would come to regret firing her, so where might you pick up with that storyline?
She’s going to Cabo. If you look at the screen, you’ll see the flight she’s getting on is heading to Cabo. She’s going to clear her head and take a break. She had that wobble where she thought about going back and she didn’t, which is a favorite moment of ours. We talked about that too. Would she come back to help Ginny? Does Ginny try and get her back? Does Amelia represent somebody else? Does she come back to her life in a different capacity? We don’t know. All of those things are on the table. We did like Ali Larter very much, so I don’t see her going anywhere.
Do you see a future season where we see other women also playing for MLB?
I don’t know. I don’t think that’s something that we talked about. I like the idea more of like Amelia, or some woman, in the front office. We had Wendie Malick, who was one of the owners. We probably want to see another woman with responsibility that you usually see a male in a management position in baseball, so maybe a woman can take that job on. That’s interesting to us, the MLB is always very supportive of that. We discussed the idea of having, and the MLB was very supportive, the first gay male player come out and they would actually be somebody that Ginny can confide in. All of those things are the kinds of things that we want to do on the show. We actually talked about doing a gay character coming out in this first season, but it’s hard to take the spotlight off of Ginny — she’s the star of the show and we wanted to go down the road with her journey. There are other things that are just topical and touch upon social issues [and] are the types of things that interest us. We discussed not standing for the National Anthem and what kind of repercussions that would have on a team. Those are the kind of stories that we would love to keep doing, and I think a show like this allows us to do it, and that’s why I think TV could use a show like this to stick around.
Can you talk about where Blip’s mindset is? He’s playing with his ring in that final scene. Is he really mulling leaving Evelyn in that final scene?
I wouldn’t take the ring thing too literally. I think I play with my ring and I’m happily married. What we do with all of these characters, with the exception oddly enough of Mike and Rachel, which was kind of the one thing we wanted to do, was let’s have one story end on a positive note with those two, even though they will have ramifications with Ginny and other people, and certainly it will be difficult with Michael. But Blip and Evelyn in their marriage, which is just a wonderful part of the show, it’s like any marriage, there are just going to be moments where you hit bumps in the road, and you’re going to have to work through it, but we love them together and I’m sure we will test them, but I think the strength of their marriage will keep them together.
You mentioned that a potential second season might lean more into the personal lives of the players than going hard into baseball. Do you look at something like that as among the things why people didn’t tune in?
It’s hard to say. I’m sure at the end of this there will be a lot of research, but so many people love the baseball and the behind the scenes. Here’s the thing, this is a workplace drama and the only time you get these players together is in their locker room. Otherwise, they are all at home and they’re not interacting and they’re just hanging out with their families, when in fact, baseball is six to nine months of their life. They travel together and that locker room is their workspace. That’s why every once and a while we have to go outside those doors and show you some baseball, because I think people really do like that. Like on Friday Night Lights, where there was one game a week, which is a great show, it’s one game a week in this Texas town. Baseball is every day during the summer with the exception of the day off once every ten days, so you can’t run away with that, and it supplies drama.
I think one of our best episodes was the bottle episode where they had the kangaroo court, and because of the kangaroo court, we were able to induce some drama and we had people in tight environments during a rain delay act out. That doesn’t mean we can’t have drama, we have plenty of drama there. But I imagine that we would exploit the offseason to tell some stories where there is no baseball going on, which may be more of an argument for not necessarily starting with baseball. We may just be starting somewhere in January when people are at home. These are all things that we’ve discussed and will talk about as we move forward.
Read our postmortem with Kylie Bunbury here.