A League of Their Own (2022)
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Loosely based on the film A League of Their Own, the new series follows new characters and stories about the formation of a World War II-era professional women’s baseball league, delving deeper into the issues around sexuality, racism, and war that surrounded the first women to “go pro” in the sport.
Abbi Jacobson, who co-created and stars in the series as Carson Shaw, also co-created and co-starred in Broad City. Chante Adams, who plays Max Chapman, starred in A Journal for Jordan. And you’ll recognize D’Arcy Carden from The Good Place and Barry (she stars as Greta Gill).
Adapting one of the most beloved sports films of all time is no easy feat, but this fresh take on A League of Their Own echoes the charm of the original film while also delving into facets of history the original film did not.
The premise and setting are the same: the story revolves around the origins of the All-American Girls Professional League, which actually existed during WWII. In both the film and series, certain fictional players are based on real-life ones, like Dottie Hinson, the counterpart of Dorothy “Kammie” Kamenshek. And the players did actually have to attend charm school and receive makeovers, just as they do in the film — and in the new series.
The new series starts with fictional farm gal Carson Shaw (Abbi Jacobson), who hops aboard a train (literally) to Chicago for tryouts. While in the Windy City, she meets the ultra feminine Greta (D’Arcy Camden) and her brash buddy, Jo (Melanie Field). They make it onto a team called the Rockford Peaches, and we’re introduced to some of the others: the neurotic Shirley (Kate Berlant), no-nonsense Jess (Kelly McCormack) and two very different Latinas: the peppy Esti (Priscilla Delgado) and the forlorn Lupe (Roberta Colindrez). The bonding between the players and their not-so-lady-like antics are reminiscent of the original film, and the actress’s natural chemistry feels a lot like it did in the original film.
Where the series differs is in going deeper into the challenges the characters face against the backdrop of the era. Black women were not allowed into the All-American League due to pure racism and segregation, a fact that is briefly alluded to in the film. But here we witness the experience through the eyes of Maxine (Chante Adams), a talented player who is immediately disregarded because of her race. And it’s not the only racism we see Maxine face; she is turned away from applying for a factory job and blatantly ignored her because she is Black. Maxine is tenacious, however, and she finds her way to join the team. Her strife is undoubtedly historically accurate, and represents an important example of why the new League stories needed a series to be told in more depth.
Maxine’s bestie, the comic-book loving Clance (Gbemisola Ikumelo), is more than just the goofy sidekick. Clance’s love of superheroes certainly defies expectations, but it’s through Clance that we see the strict feminine ideals women of all races were held to in the 1940s. A newlywed who is doing her best to be the perfect housewife, she panics when she doesn’t think she can deliver the crabs for a crab boil she’s planned. While she does her best to get Maxine to behave like a lady, she’s clearly exasperated by her friend’s behavior.
Clance and Maxine are by far the most interesting part of the series. Ikumelo and Adams have delightful chemistry, and their plotlines don’t feel like retreads of stories that have already been told. Too many stories centered around Black Americans tend to focus on pure misery, so it’s refreshing to see a story focused on Black American joy.
One question that comes up and has yet to be addressed in the series is the idea of passing. It’s clear why Maxine was automatically dismissed, but it’s not clear why Esti, who doesn’t speak a word of English, was let onto the team. The logical guess would be that Esti “passes”: she looks white while Maxine doesn’t. Passing is a part of American history that is still largely unknown (thought it’s portrayed beautifully in the film Passing), and the series is a great place to explore what it means.
The other characters’ stories examine another marginalized group: the LGBTQ community. Two of the leading ladies engage in a relationship, and watching one of them, who is married, hesitate repeatedly is rather heart-wrenching. The way the other women refer to certain girls as “queer” in hushed tones serves as a reminder that being out and proud was not an option 80 years ago, and sadly, in some cases, it still isn’t.
Like the original film, A League of Their Own will make you cheer. It embodies the same upbeat spirit while proving that women can dream and do anything a man can do (and in this case, better).
A fun, heartfelt, and inclusive take on America’s favorite pastime, the new A League of Their Own series also offers up history lessons. Consider this one for your next cross-generational watch (16+).
Fans of the original film will appreciate the series’ irrefutable charm, and will want to share it with younger generations. Baseball fans will like all the baseball talk. History buffs — or the history-curious — will be interested in the series’s exploration of life for American women, particularly women of color, during World War II.
All-American Girls Professional Baseball League alum Maybelle Blair served as a consultant on the show, before she came out publicly at age 95 during the Tribeca Film Festival in June.
Also: You might be hard-pressed to actually find the new show on Amazon, as the title pulls up the original — with no sign of the new one. But here’s a direct link to the new series.
And this is actually the second attempt at a TV adaptation of A League of Their Own. The first attempt was a CBS sitcom that included many of the series’ original writers and director. Sadly, only three episodes of the series aired before it was canceled. Thanks to streaming, this one won’t be canceled mid-season.