Another modern classic is getting the reboot treatment, but will this one age well on the small screen?
Penny Marshall‘s quintessential sports film A League of Their Own is about to get a second shot on the small screen thanks to Amazon. The buoyant early-1990s comedy-drama that tells the fictionalized account of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) struck out on television once before, back in 1993. But depending on how you look at it, the triumphant display of camaraderie between women could be a great addition to a current TV landscape that’s overstuffed with grumpy men and their grit. Still, exactly how could a simple ’90s feel-good film successfully find life in the general self-awareness of 2018 comedy?
The Hollywood Reporter announced that Mozart in the Jungle‘s Will Graham and Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson will be co-writing and executive producing the half-hour comedy series. Rather than traditionally rebooting the property, Amazon’s take on A League of Their Own is said to have a modern twist to it, despite the show still being set in 1943. The official synopsis gives us an inkling of the themes that the new series will explore::
The show will begin with the formation of the league in 1943 and follows the Rockford Peaches season to season as they struggle to keep the team alive through close games, injuries, late night bar crawls, sexual awakenings, not crying, and road trips across a rapidly changing United States. The series dives deeper into the issues facing the country while following a ragtag team of women figuring themselves out while fighting to realize their dreams of playing professional baseball.
The original League of Their Own starred Tom Hanks as the disgruntled over-the-hill manager of the Rockford Peaches, while Geena Davis, Madonna, Lori Petty, and Rosie O’Donnell (among others) are all part of the team of female baseball players (Petty’s character eventually gets traded). None of the original cast members is expected to return for the reboot. In fact, even the characters themselves may be getting an entire makeover: the iconic Dottie (originally played by Davis) and her little sister Kit (Petty) — who are key opponents in the movie — will be notably absent from the Amazon series. This isn’t necessarily bad news, as it wouldn’t throw off the specific reimagining of the film that Graham and Jacobson are reportedly after anyway.
A League of Their Own definitely zooms in on a subject whose story could easily be adapted for the screen in compelling ways, even if the overall effect of the film is rather light and fluffy. It’s a movie that could and should be viewed in a self-contained fashion — regardless of historical context — as it only focuses on a single (and obviously fictionalized) facet of this group of women.
But women — including women of color — were struggling to find their place in a traditionally male-dominated space in the real AAGPBL. This fact is especially important to highlight in a story that’s set during World War II, a time which brought women into the workforce very prominently after the enlistment of many American men. Obviously, I don’t expect a generally cheerful comedy-drama from the ’90s to get all of that right, even in the undertones of the film. That said, simply shifting the focus of the serial version of A League of Their Own towards some differing perspectives among the rest of the Rockford Peaches and other teams of the league would make the material carry more weight as a whole.
That could make the show extra relevant in 2018 without sacrificing its comedic premise either. As demonstrated in Graham and Jacobson’s existing work, they’re fully capable of being subtle in their writing when it comes to creating fleshed-out female characters with personality and humor to boot.
That said, the contained nature of their respective shows could prove a bit troublesome when it comes to encompassing the broader themes in A League of Their Own. Mozart in the Jungle is about a philharmonic orchestra while Broad City greatly focuses on two 20-somethings just trying to live their lives in New York. Those are certainly some niche premises, but it doesn’t mean that Graham and Jacobson can’t ever branch out. Here’s hoping that they’ll be able to find a balance between their respective eccentric shows and the subtlety needed in introducing new female characters to the fictional AAGPBL.