You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Ferrell Takes the Field’

Featuring: Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell seems mired in a bit of a rut, with a career that of late has been more performance art than anything else, from the deadly earnest Lifetime movie “A Deadly Adoption” to his wraparounds for IFC’s two satirical “The Spoils … ” miniseries to this latest HBO special, “Ferrell Takes the Field.” While this latest is, at least, for a good cause, it’s an awfully thin construct, one that was probably a lot more fun if you happened to attend one of the five spring training games in which the comic competed, all to raise money for charity.

The backstory, frankly, is much better than the special, and one wishes more of it had found a way into this 49-minute project: Craig Pollard, a USC fraternity brother of Ferrell’s, had his baseball career cut short by cancer. As a result, Pollard founded Cancer for College, to help support cancer survivors by bestowing scholarships.

The conceit for “Ferrell Takes the Field” was for the comic to participate in five games with 10 different teams, playing different positions in each one (including, just to round things out, third-base coach). In so doing, he’s replicating a feat by shortstop Bert “Campy” Campaneris, who was 23 when he played all nine positions in a 1965 game for the Kansas City Athletics, and also makes an appearance in the special.

As a consequence, there’s a sort-of “Paper Lion”-like quality to Ferrell’s gambit as a 47-year-old guy, although unlike participatory journalist George Plimpton, he goes through the whole exercise playing a character, as if he’s a journeyman ballplayer with the misfortune of being traded all the time.

Ferrell does deliver some dryly funny moments, either interacting with the players (who engage in some performing of their own regarding how seriously they take the stunt) or in his direct-to-camera interviews. In the latter, he trashes general manager Billy Beane — the guy Brad Pitt played in “Moneyball” — insisting he’s a jerk who just sits in his office, watching the movie on a continuous loop.

Produced in conjunction with Major League Baseball, “Ferrell Takes the Field” is in some respects an ode to the game, which could use a little of the NBA’s hipness to rub off on it. Yet what the project cries out for, and actually gets only very sparingly at the very end — via a clip of Ferrell as a guest on “Late Show With David Letterman” — is some sense of his appreciation for what it’s like to actually see a major-league-level fastball or line drive zooming at or past you. Instead, Ferrell mostly plays the clown, discussing his likely induction into the Hall of Fame.

Given the charitable underpinnings, and Ferrell’s past association with HBO on “Eastbound & Down” and the 2009 comedy special “Will Ferrell: You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush,” it’s not surprising the network would happily underwrite his latest effort.

Still, however lucrative his association with the Funny or Die banner might be as a producer, Ferrell looks a bit stale right now as a performer. And while it’s better, perhaps, to keep heading to the mound as opposed to just hanging out in the bullpen, “Ferrell Takes the Field” is just another in a series of minor-league endeavors, one that’s nowhere near his best stuff.

TV Review: 'Ferrell Takes the Field'

(Special; HBO, Sat. Sept. 12, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Gary Sanchez Prods. and Funny or Die in partnership with Major League Baseball.

Crew: Executive producers, Will Ferrell, Mike Farah, Joe Farrell, Stuart Miller; co-executive producer, Joe Hardesty; director, Brian McGinn; camera, Adam Bricker; editors, Jessica Brunetto, Bryan Storkel; music, John Jennings Boyd; Brian Langsbard. 49 MIN.

Cast: Featuring: Will Ferrell

More TV

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Whiskey Tango Cavalier

    TV Review: 'Whiskey Cavalier'

    The crux of “Whiskey Cavalier” can be found right in its protagonist’s name. “Will Chase” is a purposefully ridiculous wink of a name that tries to be both debonair and very silly all at once, just like the FBI agent (played by Scott Foley) to which it belongs. This isn’t a regular spy drama, “Whiskey [...]

  • Brody Stevens Dead

    Comedian Brody Stevens Dies at 48

    Prominent Los Angeles comedian Brody Stevens died Friday in Los Angeles, Variety has confirmed. He was 48. “Brody was an inspiring voice who was a friend to many in the comedy community,” Stevens’ reps said in a statement. “He pushed creative boundaries and his passion for his work and his love of baseball were contagious. [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: Rabbit in the

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Feb. 11: 'Masked Singer' Easily Tops Competition

    Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the highest-rated broadcast show of the week in both Live+Same Day and Live+3. For the week of Feb. 11, the unscripted singing competition series went from a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 to a 3.4, a rise of 42%. In total viewers, the show went from 7.8 million viewers to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content