Exec producer Stephen Kronish’s teleplay about young, struggling ballplayer Joe Dugan, out of the game for good thanks to a head injury, reaffirms the pleasure of the short-story form in a half-hour drama slot. Well directed by John Patterson, fallen pilot has “sincerity” splashed all over it; trouble is, sincerity doesn’t sell in the series game.
Widowed, a deliveryman, Joe lives with his two wee children and his mother, Irene (Caroline Kava, turning in a polished perf), and is broke.
When his daughter (Amy Reedman) reluctantly mentions a church weekend camp trip they can’t afford, a pal, Patsy (Paul Ben-Victor), lines Joe up with a numbers racket delivery that pays off in murder.
Joe gets paid plenty, enough to whisk the kid off for the weekend; the moral lesson is wobbly, but considering “Crow’s Nest,” half-hour drama immediately following “Jumpin’ Joe,” there’s an overall purpose to the two programs’ storylines.
As sincere-mixed-with-bland Joe, Ron Eldard has to contend with a go-nowhere role; Scott Burkholder, in for a flash as an icy-eyed racketeer, rings the bell. Young Reedman is credible, as is Sam Malkin’s cafe owner.
Production looks good thanks to Jill Scott’s art direction, John S. Bartley’s camerawork. Walter Murphy has provided an understated, attractive score.
Program opens cold with a tight c.u. of an open-mouthed kissing match; it’s a bad omen. “Jumpin’ Joe,” designed to lead off a series, leaves viewers on the top shelf.