On tonight’s Pitch, everyone has bodies on the brain.
While assessing his own taped-up muscles and giant bruises, Lawson steals an envious glance at a younger player’s six-pack (Pitch may be a baseball show, but this moment was right out of every ballet movie, fyi). Meanwhile, the front office has produced a Ginny bobblehead that might haunt my nightmares tonight, so cartoonish are its Betty Boop curves and neon-pink blush. And, of course, those pesky nude photos of Ginny finally come home to roost.
Last week, I demanded that the payoff be epic after so much buildup. And it just… wasn’t. It was flat and watery and barely passable. Was it a cute idea, having the guys step up in solidarity to pose naked alongside Ginny for ESPN the Magazine‘s Body Issue? Absolutely. Any reason why we had to wait three episodes for that twist? Nope.
Another major problem with the naked-pics story line: Uh, the pics never actually came out. I guess we’re all to believe that hackers with access to some seriously revealing shots of Gin would be all, Oh, never mind, she’s on the Bodies Issue, now these full-frontal pics are worthless.
Speaking of full frontal: That’s how Lawson greets hot recruit Livan Duarte, whom you might remember from that time Oscar shaved a doll’s head and begged. Lawson may be feeling like most of his bits are old and sagging, but there’s clearly one body part he hasn’t lost confidence in — and when Duarte comes into the clubhouse for the first time, Lawson wags that body part at him proudly. (And he’s just out of an ice bath! Seriously? It must really be intimidating. So ballsy, literally.)
Then we get a brief exchange between Blip and Ginny about the naked photos: He thinks she was dumb to take them, she protests that it’s “my body, my business. I didn’t do anything wrong.” That’s the other problem with this story line: It plays out so predictably, I could almost guess the lines as we went along.
Unfortunately, that phoned-in cliché habit seems to seep its way into the rest of the episode, too. Oh, so the hot prospect Livan Duarte has a bad attitude, and not much else in the way of a personality? So Lawson is lonely, the poor little rich boy staring out at his pool? So the old pitching coach doesn’t know who Bradley Cooper is? Mediocre character development is undefeated tonight.
NEXT: When Pitch misses
Even Lawson’s flashback — perhaps the most anticipated of the season for fans of these things — falls kinda flat. His mother (who looks not unlike his eventual wife, by the way) is just a cardboard cutout of a bad mom, making them move constantly and teaching her kid to hustle sympathy bucks out of his coach… who turns out to be Lawson’s dad, of course. If you like your backstories schmaltzy, you are in the right place tonight.
“San Francisco” shines a light on the real weakness of the show: Pitch often lacks imagination. And it’s not just about all the aforementioned, lazy clichés. It’s about the fact that the characters simply don’t relate to each other in interesting ways. At any given time, in fact, it seems reasonable that characters could swap story lines — could Lawson have taken Ginny to a SoCal lookout tonight to cheer her up, instead of Coach? Feels plausible. When people inside a TV world can afford to trade lines and action, you’re in trouble.
So far, the only guy I’m going to remember — really remember — from this show is Mark Conseulos’ Oscar. For all that I’ve mocked his silly, clinging suits and his pretty-boy persona… well, at least he has a persona. And Consuelos is so good, it feels like Oscar really is running something. I kinda want to hire him to whip the characters of the show into having actual individual traits and desires, wants that last across a few episodes. Too often, the show tries to pass off people snapping at each other as people going after something they want.
Oh: and Katie Nolan was back.
Oh: and Eliot was inexplicably absent (band practice), but was also the only person who could say for sure that in three or four days max Ginny’s nudes would be everywhere. What? What kind of expert is Eliot, that he’s so sure about this? Did his little mustache allow him to infiltrate some sort of Internet perv forum?
We don’t know. And that happens too much in Pitch. It happens almost as often as, in this episode, Coach calls to the bullpen for new hurlers — three times during one at bat in the 10th inning, if the scoreboard was to be believed. Factcheckers, eat your heart out — sometimes, the most interesting thing about Pitch is the little MLB inconsistencies. Unfortunately, thanks to everybody being on edge and nobody being on point, this episode is one of those.
Episode grade: B-