TV Review: ‘Back in the Game’

Back in the Game Review

A not-particularly-fresh take on “The Bad News Bears” — which already spawned multiple movies and a 1979 series — “Back in the Game” isn’t without its modest charms, thanks mostly to James Caan’s turn as an irascible old ballplayer whose daughter agrees (eventually) to coach the worst team in her kid’s baseball league. Granted, this ABC comedy is the equivalent of a big fat pitch over the heart of plate, and will need to get mileage out of more characters, but what’s here has the potential to hold its lineup spot between leadoff hitter “The Middle” and ratings slugger “Modern Family.”

Terry (Maggie Lawson) is the classic single mom forced to move back home with dad, a wayward sort in her youth who insists his grandson Danny (Griffin Gluck) call him by his playing-days nickname, the Cannon. “You stink!” the old codger yells, seemingly lacking any sort of filter as he watches the kid haplessly try to catch a fly ball. (In a way, Caan’s character is the male version of the post-AA mom in CBS’ “Mom,” and in a perfect world, someone would try to arrange a cross-network fix-up.)

A one-time softball star herself, Terry instantly befriends Lulu (“Being Human’s” Lenora Crichlow), a boozy British import whose young son is obviously gay. Crichlow brightens up every scene she’s in, but they’ll need to find some gradations to make her more than a retread of Christine Baranski’s sidekick role in “Cybill.”

Writers Mark and Robb Cullen worked with Caan on NBC’s “Las Vegas,” and he plays the Cannon as all swagger and snarl; still, the grudging warmth between father and daughter — mixed with the broad kid-oriented gags — could mesh with the shows bookending it.

Given how familiar the concept seems (there’s even a slave-driving dad, played by Ben Koldyke, plucked straight out of “Bad News Bears”), “Back in the Game” is clearly a case of playing small-ball, with ABC hoping the show has enough stuff in its arsenal to go more than a few innings. And while the first pitch isn’t bad, based on history and the high casualty rate around “Modern Family,” execs would probably be well advised to keep the bullpen warmed up.

TV Review: 'Back in the Game'

(Series; ABC, Wed. Sept. 25, 8:30 p.m.)


Filmed in Los Angeles by Kapital Entertainment in association with 20th Century Fox Television.


Executive producers, Mark Cullen, Robb Cullen, John Requa, Glenn Ficarra; directors, Reque, Ficarra; writers, Cullen, Cullen. 30 MIN.


James Caan, Maggie Lawson, Ben Koldyke, Griffin Gluck, Lenora Crichlow, JJ Totah, Kennedy Waite, Cooper Roth, Brandon Salgado.

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  1. Puddin34 says:

    GREAT show!!! Intelligent. Goes over the head of many people. It is not “Bad News Bears”. It is simply a show that has a terrible little league team in it (as Lyss stated) – they are not the plot, just a sub-plot. Critics need to find something new than comparing it to an old movie, an old television series, and then a remake, none of which have the same plot.

  2. Rick Cotton says:

    It stinks. Bomb bomb bomb. This show is a turd and they need to just flush it.

  3. JBC says:

    Horrible show. Like Maggie Lawson on Psych, but find this show not a good fit for her. Trophy Wife was much more family friendly and realistic and funny.

  4. Steven Driscoll says:

    this show was really, really bad. Mark and Robb Cullen are behind “Work It” AND “Cop Out.” not surprised at it being the lowest rated fall comedy ABC has had since 2009. i give it three weeks.

  5. bje says:

    I could not watch this show. It was not funny, pushed the Hollywood agenda, not family friendly at all and made me turn off the TV by the fourth sexual reference. It was not funny either and the acting did not seem all that great. I am afraid it will ruin my relaxing Wed night line up of comedies and sure could not get through the whole thing even with two good ones sandwiching it… Wed night has always been family friendly to a degree and this show is just too anti-family to make it in the line up.

  6. elbkDavid says:

    “Its all been done before!”

    Imagine on that basis that there was only ever 1 cop buddy movie/tv series….Or one movie/show with aliens in it….etc

    Its new, and so far my wife and I both liked it enough to watch it together. Sure we can probably guess what’ll happen each scene/show before it happens, but who cares as long as it is an entertaining ride

    • Jay says:

      Sure i get your point and believe me if this was an “entertaining ride” as you put it, i would be right up there with you but i found myself cringing at the cheesy one liners. Maggie Lawson’s acting on this show seems forced and it’s as if she is trying too hard to play a character that is unlikeable and quite frankly, it just does not fit her at all. I think she has made a mistake taking on this boring one dimensional and typical “single mum angry at the world but trying to find love and happiness” role. Also Maggie’s softball skills are questionable at best which incidentally was another aspect of this show that made me cringe to the point that i was actually embarrassed for her. Oh well i just hope this doesn’t damage her career, and like i said in my previous comment at least she still has Psych and she is awesome in that. I hear she is going to have some great episodes in season 8 (reportedly final) of Psych and according to co-star and real life boyfriend James Roday she will have a strong presence. Hopefully if Psych does continue past next season she will still have it to fall back on because i am pretty certain this show Back In The Game will be lucky if it gets a full season.

  7. Jay says:

    Worst. Show. EVER. Saw the pilot TWICE just to make sure that it was actually was that bad. I thought the second time i might find something in this pathetic revamp of “Bad News Bears” that would capture me, but nothing. Apparently future episodes will be centered around Terry dating… YAWN! Oh a single mum, trying to find the right guy, like they haven’t done that before… Really Maggie Lawson could do SO much better than this… It’s a good thing she still has the amazing character of Juliet O’Hara on Psych to fall back on. Thank goodness she decided to stick with Psych as well. I will be very surprised if this gets a full season and even if it does i doubt it will get a second, especially on ABC.

  8. Lyss says:

    Um, just saying, the fact that you used Bad News Bears means that you completely missed the concept of the show. Yes, it is like Bad News Bears ONLY because of the crappy baseball team. These kids on the show won’t get better, and it’s just the backdrop. The REAL focus of the show is the family dynamic of Maggie, Griffin, and James’ characters growing and changing as well as delving into each other their personal lives without the others (ex: Terry Jr’s dating life, Danny’s school life, etc)

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