‘Pitch’ Ends: When Will Actual Female Athletes Get a Network TV Show?

‘Pitch’ Ends: When Will Actual Female Athletes Get a Network TV Show? May 1, 2017

Pitch-FoxFox just axed “Pitch,” its freshman drama about a female pitcher in Major League Baseball (that’s her above, played by Kylie Bunbury).

I’m not passing judgment on whether the show was good or bad, since I only watched the pilot … but I’m kind of glad it’s gone.

I confess, I don’t watch a lot of different sports, unless it’s the NFL, horse racing or other equestrian sports. Those, I watch all the time. One is entirely male, which I like. The other is about male and female horses, and male and female riders. I like that, too.

As a consequence of the above, I don’t pay much attention to women athletes (unless they’re on a horse). But even so, last summer, when Fox introduced “Pitch” at a press conference, my hackles rose.

When’s the last time you saw a drama built around a sport that women actually play on high level, rather than a woman in a man’s sport?

Maybe you can name one. I can’t.

So, toward the end of the press conference, I stuck my hand up in the air, and the following exchange ensued (yes, the Dan Fogelman there is now doing NBC’s excellent “This Is Us,” so no loss there):

QUESTION: Why not a show about a softball team? Why not a show about a women driver or a woman boxer? There’s a lot of women athletes out there.

DAN FOGELMAN: Yeah. That’s a fair question. Again, I think the big story here outside of the sports story of it all is the attention that the world and this country would give that move. It’s about the attention and the scope of there are these four major North American sports right now. If a woman broke into one of them, it would be a monstrous story on a narrative scale. So I think that’s part of it. There’s a great show out there about a woman’s softball team, as you reference, or a female sport. It’s just not it’s not this show, but that’s not to say that that show can’t come next.

QUESTION: So you’re doing the same thing the media would do which is only noticing a woman when she breaks into the boys’ club, but not noticing her what she’s currently accomplishing?

DAN FOGELMAN: No, I don’t think so, but …

HELEN BARTLETT: There’s a quality to the show where as a woman, to enter a male world is kind of fascinating. It’s tough. And a lot of Ginny’s character, and Kylie speaks to this as her character, she’s really trying to not only be herself, be a woman, but also be a ballplayer and be taken as a ballplayer. And that brings a lot of conflict and interest. What it’s like for us to enter into the male world creates tension, so it makes a good story. It adds to the series. And I hope it works.

KYLIE BUNBURY: Also, I think that, just speaking for my character, she likes baseball. I know a lot of girls who used to play baseball and then they got to a certain age and they couldn’t play baseball anymore. They had to play softball. She enjoys playing baseball and that’s what she wants to do and that’s what she’s trying to get ahead at.

RICK SINGER: I also think they’re I mean, to me they’re not mutually exclusive at all. I actually do think there’s an interesting show about a women’s softball team or women’s World Cup soccer team. I think that could be really compelling, that these last these World Cup teams that won the championship were two of the most compelling stories of my lifetime. To me, the specific story we were interested in telling was about Alice getting shot out of a cannon into Wonderland and what it would be like. First off, I was interested in the sports fathers who that Serena and Venus Williams were or Tiger Woods’ father, that story of and what it would be like for someone who had aspirations to make the major leagues, had thought if his father had worked with him, he would have made the majors. His backstory is he only made the minors, but he was determined that his son would make majors. It just turned out that his sons didn’t have those genes; his daughter did. So he turned his attention to her. But that was an interesting story.

But along what Dan was saying, for us the there’s incredible stakes and drama in what this woman has to go through on a personal level to do what she loves and everything that comes along with that in just wanting to be another ballplayer. I think that’s a unique show that I haven’t seen before, and I think that’s what we set out to do, not to say that those other shows wouldn’t make great shows, and ideally we paved the way for those, to show that there’s an audience for those.

So, basically, she’s a woman in a man’s world, and that’s what makes her interesting. Just being a top-flight soccer Olympian or fast-pitch softball player or field hockey player or tennis player or swimmer or equestrienne or pentathlete or fencer isn’t enough.

Nope, she’s got to be playing in an all-male professional sport. Then, she rates a primetime TV drama.

Perhaps “Pitch” dealt with all these issues in a wonderful way. I’m not saying it didn’t. But there’s a disturbing trend these days around downgrading things that women do that don’t necessarily thrust them into a man’s world.

The worth of a person — male or female — shouldn’t hinge on whether they’re breaking some kind of barrier. But TV loves conflict and novelty and firsts, so …

There’s no football or horse sports on tonight, so I’m just going to go watch “Pride & Prejudice” again. Lizzie Bennett got game.


Images: Courtesy Fox

Don’t miss a thing: head over to my other home, as Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions; and check out FTP’s Faith & Family Media Blog.

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