Last Night’s ‘Pitch’ Followed An Annoying TV Cliche

A few thoughts on last night’s Pitch coming up just as soon as I see the hit-and-run sign…

Like its main character, Pitch hasn’t been perfect so far in its in rookie season. It’s had a tendency to make Ginny too naive about basic baseball culture in order to explain things to the audience. The flashbacks started getting redundant in a hurry (though the last two weeks have been an improvement, since both focused on characters other than Ginny, and last night’s were set during the events of the series). And for a show that aspires to be the wonky baseball equivalent of The West Wing, it’s weirdly opposed to sabermetrics and those who believe in analytics.

Despite those flaws and others, the fundamentals of a very good show are there, and the core trio of Ginny, Mike, and Blip well drawn and likable enough to keep me watching, and hopeful that reports suggesting Fox might renew it in spite of poor ratings might be true. There was almost literally only one thing the show could do to make me not enthusiastic for its return…

…and unfortunately, last night’s episode did exactly that.

For most of its running time, “Unstoppable Forces & Immovable Objects” was humming along just fine, and was an example of the exact kind of story a show like this should be telling. It’s never going to be able to create on-field action as exciting or surprising as the real thing, but it can take us backstage for common baseball events like rain delays, and dramatize rituals like kangaroo court (which Ginny had also somehow never encountered in the minors or in her many lessons from her pop) or the tension between a front office guy like Charlie and a traditionalist grunt like the team’s head groundskeeper Russell (played by Mark Christopher Lawrence, aka Big Mike from Chuck). Ginny’s brother trying to drag her down with a bad business idea wasn’t thrilling, but his previous appearance had already established that he’s bad with money and that Ginny is overly loyal to him. So all was solid enough…

…and then Mike began looking at Ginny — minutes after having dissuaded a teammate’s belief that the guy was in love with her — and realizing he felt more strongly about her than just as a teammate or friend.

TV has a hard time — a historically hard time — with the idea of platonic male/female friendships. It’s rare to find shows over the life of the medium that had unattached male and female leads and didn’t try romantically pairing them up at some point or other, to the point where Tina Fey had to periodically deny the idea of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy hooking up, both in interviews and meta jokes within 30 Rock. Sooner or later, showrunners — and/or the executives who give them notes — have to make like Billy Crystal at the start of When Harry Met Sally and insist that men and women can’t just be friends, even though there’s often much more interesting — and novel — material to be found there.

That Ginny is a beautiful young woman is of course going to lead to some conflict, and Pitch has already done one story about her dating a player. But baseball movie-wise, they’re so much better as Crash Davis and Nuke LaLoosh than they are Crash and Annie Savoy. Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar have crazy on-screen chemistry, but not all chemistry has to translate into romance, and having him develop feelings for her in that way, and act on them, is now going to color every interaction they have in the future, even if they never actually become a couple (or try it briefly and then split up). For the same reason Ginny never wants to date another player, Pitch would be very wise to keep her from doing that for a long time, if ever, and they’re already diving in after 8 episodes — and within days, in-story, of Mike again insisting that he’s still madly in love with his ex-wife.

I get it. Sexual tension makes for an easy promo, and there are fans who will ‘ship literally any potential couple (I assume there’s Mike/Blip slash fiction out there somewhere), and the show has two attractive leads who play well off each other. But the strongest part of Pitch by far had been the slow-cooking mentor/protege relationship between Mike and Ginny, and now that’s about to be set aside for something much more conventional, and something that, by TV emotional logic, will almost certainly overshadow everything else.

We’ll see what the final two episodes do with the idea, but that closing sequence really bummed me out.

What did everybody else think? Are you buying a ticket on the good ‘ship Minny, or were you similarly dismayed? And would you like to see Pitch survive to a second season?