Fall TV First Impression: ABC's Back in the Game

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Back in the Game Preview
The broadcast networks have almost 30 shows debuting this fall, including a new Michael J. Fox sitcom, a futuristic tale from the Fringe team and Marvel-ous adventures for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.

Next up on our list….

THE SHOW | ABC’s Back in the Game (Wednesdays at 8:30/7:30c; premieres Sept. 25)

THE COMPETITION | Fox’s The X Factor, CBS’ Survivor: Blood Vs. Water, NBC’s Revolution and The CW’s Arrow

THE CAST | Maggie Lawson (Psych), James Caan (Las Vegas), Griffin Gluck (Private Practice), Ben Koldyke (How I Met Your Mother), Lenora Crichlow (BBC’s Being Human) and others

RELATED | Fall Preview: TVLine’s Grid Showing What’s On When and Versus What!

THE SET-UP | Lawson is Terry Gannon, a single mom who, with her young son Danny, moves back in with her dad Terry Sr. aka “The  Cannon,” a beer-guzzling onetime (sorta) baseball pro. When the “Smarmy” — the group of chest-puffing dads who lord over the local Little League — snub Danny and other misfit moppets under the premise of being shy of resources, onetime softball superstar Terry signs on to coach the Angels (or Angles, as their botched shirts read).

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JAMES CAAN, GRIFFIN GLUCK

RELATED | TVLine’s Guide to All the New Fall Shows

THE FIRST IMPRESSION | I was set to call it a day with this fall’s First Impressions when I started to see the occasional peer and commenter cast aspersion on Back in the Game, which boggled my mind. I mean, there are some dreadful shows debuting in a few weeks, folks, so why anyone would direct animus at this escapes me. Lawson is totally charming as a series lead, convincing as a frazzled single mom and in her element as a ball player. Caan is Caan — warmly grizzly with a thuggish underbelly, and thus perfect in the role — while Gluck shines in material far lighter than all that Private Practice sadness. And maybe it’s because I was quite awful in Little League myself, but the Bad News Bears-esque sequences make me smile.

A few foul balls, there are. Both Terry’s new bestie Lulu (played by Crichlow) and her “effeminate” (as he is labeled) son seem to be living in a much more Suburgatory-like, caricature-filled world. Also, I hope against all hope that the long game here isn’t to pair Terry with Koldyke’s world-class jerk, who is of course named Dick. (Note: The trailer below is kinda lousy, spoiling a fun plot point, using some less-funny alt takes of Danny’s teammates’ intros and offering no sense of the show’s heart.)

RELATED | More First Impressions: NBC’s Sean Saves the World, ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D., Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, CBS’ Mom, ABC’s Wonderland,  NBC’s The BlacklistThe CW’s ReignABC’s Trophy Wife, Fox’s Sleepy HollowCBS’ Hostages, NBC’s  IronsideABC’s Super Fun NightThe CW’s The Tomorrow PeopleFox’s Almost HumanCBS’ The Crazy Ones

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | ABC makes some questionable scheduling calls, but this is a fastball down the middle  — airing between, well, The Middle and Modern Family, two shows it shares a tonality with. (Move Trophy Wife to 9:30, and you’d have one of TV’s most synchronized two-hour comedy blocks ever.) As the only comedy up against a pair of dark dramas (now that NBC has bailed on Wednesday laughs) and two reality contests, Back in the Game will be at least a stand-up double. (Which I never hit. Sigh.)

Watch a video preview for Back in the Game, then vote in our poll below.


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