Review: ‘Pitch’ avoids the second-episode slump with ‘The Interim’

A review of tonight's Pitch coming up just as soon as I'm disappointed the episode didn't do a full-on Just One of the Guys homage at some point…

Second episodes are hard. They're made under the assumption that not everyone watching will have seen the pilot, and that even those who did might need some reinforcement on the character relationships and themes. So there's a tendency for them to feel like a repetition of what happened the week before, only less effective because it's being done twice, and without the time and budget that can go into a pilot.

But “The Interim” was ultimately a more satisfying episode than the pilot, which I already liked a lot. No, the scope wasn't quite as big (what little game action we see is presented as a TV highlight after the fact), but there was no Ghost Dad(*), or any other kind of twist to compensate for the lack of that one, and it did a more thorough job of exploring the supporting characters, the dynamics of the team, and the many ways Ginny's presence is creating problems.

(*) The creators have thankfully said that they're done with the device, and that if Michael Beach appears again, it will be in a flashback. 

Ginny spends most of the episode trying to juggle the many conflicting demands on her – to be supportive of Al after his old “easy on the eyes” sound byte surfaces, to weigh in on any and all issues related to women in sports like the college rape case, to maintain her brand by doing a funny bit(*) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and to simply fit in with the team – and “The Interim” could have felt similarly overburdened. Instead, it uses all those stories, plus flashbacks to the start of her partnership with Amelia, plus subplots about Al's tenuous job status, Mike's frustration with growing old and alone, and even Blip's disintegrating slumpbuster t-shirt, to not only underline just how much she has to deal with, but to begin filling in the details about all of the people whose lives are now being radically altered because of her presence. There's some shorthand here and there – I would complain that the fictional rape case was too similar to the Brock Turner case at  Stanford, but then I realized that there are sadly so many of these real-life stories with overlapping details that there's no way to wholly fictionalize it – but other than the Blip story (mainly comic relief), nothing felt especially rushed.

(*) It's to either Kimmel's or the show's credit that he's allowed to assure Ginny the clubhouse decorating tips bit wouldn't have been funny, because it sounded like a Studio 60 kind of idea.

In particular, the episode did excellent work on expanding Mike beyond the cocky but mostly good guy we met in the pilot. He's nearing the end of his career, probably shouldn't even be catching anymore with those knees, puts on a good show about his love love but really misses his ex-wife Rachel (played by JoAnna Garcia Swisher, who has some experience with being married to a ballplayer who likes to talk a lot) and is wondering what it's all been for. His clubhouse explosion was a fine piece of work from Mark-Paul Gosselaar, and I loved the way the show kept cutting back and forth between his rousing clubhouse speech and Ginny on Kimmel – catcher and pitcher each taking a stand in a complicated new reality where their fates are now bound up with one another.

Amelia's story revealed that her own personal life is similarly empty, which is why she's thrown everything into Ginny, and it nicely sets up the silent moment at episode's end where Mike spots her at the bar and the two lonely souls recognize a kindred spirit. I don't like shows that arbitrarily pair off supporting characters, but this feels like something that fits what we know so far about each, and allows both of them to have stories that don't have to revolve around Ginny while also creating additional complications for our main character.

Dan Lauria's a regular member of the cast, which doesn't mean it's impossible Al will be fired, but it does suggest there will be some complications before we get there, whether it's Ginny's Kimmel comments getting traction or Mike's Jake Taylor impression continuing to resemble the real thing and sending the team on a big winning streak.

What did everybody else think? If you liked the pilot, was this reassuring? If you were on the fence, which way did this nudge you?