Posted in Television

Television Tuesdays: Pitch

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Premise

Pitch centers on Ginny Baker, the first woman to ever become a Major League Baseball player. She’s called up from the minor leagues to pitch for the San Diego Padres. Suddenly, she’s thrust into the spotlight as she garners attention from her new teammates, fans, and critics alike. Pitch airs Thursdays, at 8:59 EST on Fox.

Overview

Pitch is, of course, about baseball. Or rather, it exists in the world of baseball, but it’s about personal goals and the struggles and sacrifices that must be made to live the dream. Ginny isn’t just a celebrity, she’s a new celebrity and a professional athlete and must therefore learn to carefully navigate the sometimes-thin line between her public and private self. News reporters want her comment and  young girls clamor for her autograph, leaving Ginny to learn how to be in demand.

Not all of her time is spent surrounded by adoring fans and curious media. Her new teammates are, at best, skeptical. At their worst they are sexist and chauvinistic, forcing Ginny to raise her hackles and fight extra hard to prove herself. She gets to practice early and puts in extra training while balancing media requests and being the sole player on her team asked to give public comments about difficult topics, like the rape of collegiate female athlete.

I’ve been told by friends who know professional baseball better than myself that the MLB games portrayed on Pitch accurately reflect reality. For baseball fans tuning in, that may be an important factor, but even people who don’t follow baseball or even care about sports can find something to root for in Pitch. The show is full of heart and humor. I’m insanely happy to see a professional female athlete being portrayed on TV. Not only that, but we have a woman of color leading the show. This representation is a step in the right direction, but there are some limitations: male characters still significantly outnumber the female. This is, to an extent, expected in a show about professional baseball and the female characters we’ve met so far seem to be fully realized with their own ambitions and personalities.

Pitch is one of the rare shows that makes me genuinely happy to watch. It has dramatic moments and an interesting plot, but what really keeps me invested in shows are the characters. I like Ginny Baker. I, like the fans in the show, cheer for her. Her attempts to forge genuine connections with her teammates is relatable. And, let’s not forget, the show has Zack Morris. Zack Morris was my first TV crush and Mark-Paul Gosselaar is just as captivating and fun to watch on Pitch as he was on Saved By The Bell.

Relationships

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Ginny and Mark – Ginny’s closest teammate is her captain and catcher, Mike Lawson. From the start, they struggle to find footing with one another–Mark is about to age out of the game, he has to keep Ginny positive and his teammates in line, and Ginny idolized him as a child (but sure doesn’t want him to know that). It certainly feels as though the pair will maintain a will they/won’t they sexual chemistry, but honestly Mark is an amazing mentor for Ginny. It’s heartening to watch him come to grips with the fact that this girl who’s shaking up the game he’s devoted his life to will be his legacy.

Blip and Evelyn (and Ginny)-  Ginny came up through the minor leagues with Blip and they remain genuine friends. With Blip comes his truly wonderful wife, Evelyn. Evelyn provides a necessary balance for Ginny, a rare female friend that doesn’t work for her. Ginny’s home-away-from-home is in the folds of Blip and Evelyn’s family, from acting big-sister to their 7-year-old twin boys to or little sister to Evelyn. Evelyn genuinely cares about both Blip, Ginny, and the game. Their marriage is something to root for.

Ginny and Amelia – Before becoming Ginny’s agent, Amelia worked as a high-powered Hollywood agent to the stars. She sought out Ginny and forms a fiercely protective way of championing Ginny.

There are plenty more combinations of characters that form relationships of varying importance. The Padres don’t quite know how to incorporate her into their ranks, from the players on through to the team manager. Through flashbacks we learn about Ginny’s fraught relationship with her parents, transient friends and boyfriends she had as she grew up in the world of baseball. They are all interesting and thoughtfully portrayed and serve Ginny’s characterization well.

Posted in Blog Posts, Television

Television Tuesdays: Preacher

Overview

Based on a graphic novel, Preacher is about a West Texas preacher who gains a celestial power, then goes on a quest for God. It’s about more than that, of course. It’s about faith, and relationships, and how brutal humanity can be. It’s about redemption, and betrayal. It’s an interesting portrait of the lengths people will go to in order to believe in a higher power, the faith they put in a man of god, and how that belief can be swayed.

Of course, that’s all putting things way too simply. The show is violent, and takes glee in enacting that violence (at one point, a character’s arm is cut off by a chainsaw, and then the chainsaw drags the dismembered arm down the aisle of a church). I would argue, though, that it’s done well. That the imagination and cleverness that goes into those acts of aggression make it something more than senseless. The audience doesn’t always know why it’s happening, but it feels appropriate. Despite the show taking almost until the end of the first season (which just ended) to get to the real thesis of the show, it’s well worth the wild ride.

It was my favorite show this summer, hitting all of the check boxes that turn shows into my favorite: attractive men (Dominic Cooper wearing all black with a Southern accent 🔥🔥🔥) , mythology, violence, kick-ass women, and interesting conflict. The show also has some of the best cinematography I’ve seen in either movies or television. It’s absolutely stunning. I’m not entirely sure how to write about Preacher without spoiling everything or doing it a disservice. There’s no way I’ll manage to tell you everything about it, but I hope this is enough to encourage you to give it a try.

Characters

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Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is the titular preacher. He inherited his small church from his late father and feels compelled to act as a shepherd of god because, as a child, he witnessed his father’s murder and it was his father’s last wish that Jesse “be good.” Based on flashbacks and allusions, we can gather that Jesse hasn’t always been a good person. Hell, he isn’t for most of the show. Instead, he’s conflicted, and power-mad, and wanting. When Jesse gains the power of Genesis, which allows him to command any living thing to follow his will, he abuses it. He plays god and people get hurt, some vindictively. He relishes the power and refuses to relinquish it, not until his sins are erased and he has spoken to God. When he tries, things don’t quite go according to plan.

Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga) is Jesse’s ex-girlfriend who’s on a quest for revenge. She bursts back into town in attempts to win Jesse back and have him join her as she sets out to ruin the man who wronged them both. Sharp and violent, Tulip refuses to put up with anyone’s shit. She’s proud, commanding, and unapologetic. Like Jesse, she’s not a good person, but that underlying frisson of danger keeps her getting out of bed in the morning. She’s captivating.

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Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is an Irish vampire. Yup, cue the absurdist. However, unless he is actively pursuing some vampiric behavior (such as using a broken champagne bottle as a tap to turn a man into a blood dispenser), it’s easy to forget that particular trait of his. It’s much easier, in fact, to remember his disdain for The Big Lebowski. He is Jesse’s best friend and a wonderful foil – Cassidy, more than anyone else, is the one to challenge Jesse’s humanity and the rationale behind his actions.

Mythology

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Aside from Cassidy’s vampirism, the show delves close to Supernatural territory with some of its mythology. Genesis, the aforementioned power that inhabits Jesse, is a power created by the coupling of an angel and a demon. It’s storied to be a power that rivals only that of God. Early in the show, we see Genesis try and inhabit bodies other than Jesse’s but they can’t handle it. We don’t know why Jesse is an appropriate vessel for Genesis yet, but I’m excited to find out.

Jesse is not supposed to have Genesis’ power, so missionaries from Heaven, the guardians of Genesis, seek it out so that they may return it safely to its vessel. The vessel isn’t anything exciting, only an old coffee can, and its lured out of Jesse with song. I’m still not entirely clear as to why.

The two men pictured above, Fiore and DeBlanc, are Heaven’s missionaries. They seek Jesse out and do everything in their power to return Genesis to its rightful vessel. Their antagonist is a soccer mom-looking woman, a seraphim (powerful angel) whose job is to return the two angels from their unauthorized visit Earth-side. There’s a lot to unpack, and at points in the show it’s unclear exactly what’s going on, but it’s a hell of a ride.

Posted in Television

Television Tuesdays: Great British Baking Show

Overview

You may know it as The Great British Bake-Off, but either way, this show is sheer perfection. Twelve contestants are assembled and each week, one is crowned Star Baker, and one is sent home. There is currently three seasons available on Netflix. Each summer, PBS airs a new (to America) season.

Set-Up

Each episode has a theme: pastries, pies, cakes, biscuits, etc. And then, according to the theme, the bakers are given three distinct challenges: the Signature Bake, the Technical Challenge, and the Showstopper. The rounds are all judged by Mary Barry (cook book writer and a delight) and Paul Hollywood (less shout-y, bread obsessed Gordon Ramsey).

First up is the signature bake, in which each contestant must make their own version of the week’s theme. This challenge is to show off their taste and style.

In the technical, all of the contestants are given the same bare-bones recipes and instructed to make identical bakes. Usually, none of the contestants have ever made whatever they’re being challenged to bake in this round. Their bakes are all judged blindly by Paul and Mary, and then ranked from worst to best.

The showstopper is exactly what it sounds like, the contestants have to make something really cool, and usually some kind of baked structure.

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The Hook

I can hear you sitting there, asking what the appeal of this show is. What differentiates it between any other cooking show on TV? Unlike most reality competition shows, this show doesn’t foster rivalry and hostility, but that doesn’t mean there’s no tension. I have gasped, cried, yelled, and laughed in the course of watching this show. Probably over the course of a single episode. There is no greater drama than that of a cake dropping onto the floor.

I think the show’s real power is in its editing. Viewers are given enough time with the contestants to learn their personalities without having to know their whole life story. It’s easy to pick favorites, and nice to have someone to cheer for. It feels rewarding when we see quiet moments of contestants rushing to help each other when they have a moment to spare or one is in dire need of assistance. Occasionally one of the hosts (British comedy duo Mel & Sue) will accidentally ruin a contestant’s bake by eating some of their ingredients. The time we spend with the judges and hosts is relatively minimal, and the interspersal of gorgeous shots of baked goods sure does help. In the end, the show has high tension with relatively low stakes and the camaraderie makes it more soothing to watch than most other competition shows. Great British Baking Show is the perfect show to watch after a bad day or when you’re in need of a break from reality.