Fox has canceled the baseball drama Pitch after one promising season for reasons we’re sure have nothing whatsoever to do with gender.
Television, like baseball, is a game of tough luck. For every show that thrives for 10 seasons or racks up awards, many more struggle to find their groove. Unfortunately, Pitch falls into the latter category.
Fox announced Monday night that it has axed the drama centered on the (fictional) first woman to play major-league baseball.
First of all, how dare you, Fox? After that cliffhanger?!
It’s true that the ratings for Pitch were less than ideal. After earning a disappointing 4.3 million viewers for its premiere, it saw a steady decline throughout its season, with only a slight uptick for the finale. And it’s true that baseball nowadays lacks the popularity of football or basketball – a problem attributed to everything from the slow pace of play to the absence of media-friendly stars to the sport’s racial homogeneity.
And sure, the show had plenty of issues. The supporting players felt either too thinly or broadly written. The melodramatic twists (Ginny’s father was killed in a car accident… by the father of her best friend!) were jarring and unnecessary, as if the writers didn’t trust baseball itself to provide enough drama. The attempt at manufacturing romantic tension between Ginny Baker, a rookie, and her veteran teammate Mike Lawson pushed the boundaries of taste.
But Pitch at least deserved a chance to work out the kinks. It had all the makings of great TV. A beguiling, original premise that could appeal both to those looking for an inspirational underdog tale and those looking for nuanced commentary on gender, race, and celebrity. An idiosyncratic voice full of wit and heart. Above all, lead actors Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar displayed loads and loads of charisma; it was worth tuning in every week just to watch them banter.
For someone who is both female and an avid baseball fan, Pitch was wish-fulfillment in the best way. It took for granted that women belong in baseball, even as it acknowledged the obstacles to making that a reality. It presented an ambitious, spirited, badass heroine without ever treating her as less or more than human (for a glimpse at what could’ve been, check out the standout episode “Wear It”). Losing it feels like yet another reminder that baseball – sports, television – is a man’s world.
Because it’s hard not to wonder whether Fox really did all it could to support Pitch. Even before it aired, some expressed concern about its viability. Would women watch a show about baseball? Would men watch a show about a woman? Maybe Fox never really had faith in it.
Regardless, it’s a shame. At least women and baseball fans have one thing in common: we’re all too familiar with the taste of dashed hopes.
Pitch debuted on September 22, 2016, and ran for 10 episodes, bookending the MLB World Series. It was created by Dan Fogelman and Rick Singer.