It’s pretty unanimous here at the HuffPost Culture desk that anytime yet another reboot is announced, we assume it’s going to be a pile of flaming hot garbage. And truthfully, we’re not usually wrong about that. But Amazon’s “A League of Their Own,” co-created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, is so remarkably smart and fresh in so many ways that we are thrilled to be eating crow over here.
From its expansion of storylines centering characters of color — particularly Max (Chanté Adams), a Black aspiring baseball player — to co-creator and star Jacobson illuminating a closeted yet loving queer 1940s community, the series more than validates its existence. Even with its flaws, which we get into in our conversation below, we all agree that there should be a Season 2.
Candice Frederick: I am usually SUPER weary of reboots, and I was about this one too. Because, 1, it’s not necessary. But also, 2, it actually showed that reboots, when done right, can prove very useful and enhance or serve as a really great companion piece to the original material. I think this reboot does the latter.
Erin E. Evans: Yeah, I didn’t know what to expect and really was dragging my feet to watch the screeners. I also kept thinking I should watch the film first, but it really wasn’t necessary because the TV series does a good job of standing on its own. I absolutely loved the whole series from start to finish.
Candice: I did too! I watched the film and really like it. But what I remember most about it, though I haven’t seen it in many years, are the guys (though obviously the women are distinct and fun to watch as well). This one squarely centers the women, who have very full, complicated, three-dimensional lives.
Marina Fang: I similarly went into this feeling skeptical, and with any sort of reboot, I find myself thinking about whether the new thing makes a solid case for its existence. This series, which might be better described as a reimagining, definitely makes that case. I appreciated that it loosely connects itself to the original, while also doing a lot of things entirely new and different. So regardless of your familiarity with the original, you can jump right in. That said, while I generally really liked it and was pleasantly surprised that it succeeded in this crowded reboot landscape, I did have some quibbles with the pacing and length … but we can get into that later.
Candice: The length of the episodes or the season? And I also agree that this stands really well on its own!
Marina: A bit of both: I think some of the individual episodes could have been shorter, and I think the middle of the season kind of dragged a bit.
The Bright Spots
Candice: I get that. I’m pleasantly shocked by how Black the show is. Like, not just ONE Black token character, but they really spent time exploring the complexity of Max’s life and her entire family and friends.
Erin: OK, so let’s talk about that! I was pleasantly surprised by how deep we got into the interior life of Chanté Adams’ character, Max. And her family. And her best friend. It wasn’t just tacked on! We really got intimate with them, and I was obsessed with their world.
Erin: And it wasn’t just — let’s see how she can be integrated into this white people’s storyline. She had her own full narrative. And it wasn’t a B story.
Candice: Right! She wasn’t tokenized. And neither was her circle. They existed on their own accord.
Marina: As someone who is not a baseball person, I was much more invested in the relationships. So once the baseball parts kind of fell away a bit in the latter half of the season, I was much more invested. But obviously, if you do care about baseball, you might disagree! However, I liked that the baseball was just kind of a backdrop for exploring all of these characters.
Candice: Agreed! I’m not into baseball at all. I know that these characters, though, are very invested in baseball. But rather, what it represents to them: freedom, identity, etc. That’s expanded from the movie. I also find most sports films that are not really centered around the sport far more fascinating to watch.
Marina: Totally, that’s a great point. Baseball is the one time they can actually be themselves and not what’s expected of them. I like that it becomes a vehicle for these character dynamics.
I think Max might have been my favorite character, followed very closely by Clance. I loved their friendship and how they unequivocally support each other in baseball and comics, respectively, and if anything, I wanted even more of them. Did you all feel like there were, at times, a bit too many plotlines because of how big (and great) this cast is? Like, there were times, when I was like, Wait, they’re dating too?
What We Wanted More Of
Erin: I definitely wanted more Clance all the time! Gbemisola Ikumelo was so, so, so funny.
Candice: Gbemisola Ikumelo is so good! And I love that her character, like everyone in Max’s world, is richly explored in this too.
Erin: Actually now you mention it, Marina, I’m realizing the storyline with the pitcher Lupe (Roberta Colindrez) had me really confused. And it just felt sprinkled in, without enough development to keep me engaged with it. I absolutely love Colindrez as an actor (she was great in “Vida”) so I would like to see more there if they get a second season.
Candice: GREAT in “Vida” indeed. I’ve seen Roberta Colindrez in a few things and she’s always great. I actually totally forgot about … Lupe’s whole thing until you brought it up. Her fraught relationship with Esti, for one thing.
Marina: Yeah, I’d forgotten too! That’s always a risk with a show with such a packed cast: there will inevitably be plotlines and relationships that feel kind of superfluous or didn’t get enough time to develop or make sense. But it also then lends itself to a Season 2, as you said, Erin.
Candice: I also want to shout out how great Lea Robinson is as Bertie in this. It’s a small but significant role adjacent to Max. I would totally watch a Season 2.
Candice: I LOVED the underground queer club. Like, every moment in it. Until, well, you know … it got raided. I loved the openness, the Rosie O’Donnell of it all, as well as the love. It was palpable. And, as something I read recently pointed out, this was VERY taboo in the ’40s and still in the ’90s when the movie came out, so to have this come full circle is really sweet.
Marina: Yes to all of this! I can’t remember how much I knew going in, but I don’t think I was expecting the level of depth in this show’s exploration of queer and trans identity and particularly what it meant at that time. But again, this is what’s so great about this reboot/reimagining: being able to go so much deeper and tell much fuller stories than the film did.
Candice: True! This is how you can make good use of a reboot. ’90s pop culture was seeped in queer-coded characters, innuendos and homophobia that was reflected in a lot of what was on-screen. I don’t think I quite realized the opportunity to expand on the film’s queerness. But after watching the series, I was like OH, DUH! That makes total sense! And the way that it was explored, still covertly as it would have been in the ’40s yet still giving them this space, is really special.
Marina: I know! The rare reboot that’s actually additive and doesn’t make me roll my eyes in cynicism!
Candice: Who would have thought!
Just A Few Weak Spots
Erin: Should we talk about other things that could have been better? I have one character who annoyed me so much that I almost started fast forwarding her scenes.
Candice Frederick: I am dying to know who this is. Wait, can we guess? Was it Shirley (Kate Berlant)?
Erin: LMAO YES.
Candice: Lol, haaaaaa! I don’t know what her whole deal was.
Marina: I guess she was supposed to be the strait-laced rule-follower of the group?
Erin: I would groan every time. I get that like not everyone was going to be comfortable with queer people in that time period. But her character seemed like a caricature of that. And then her suddenly coming around at the end was like ummm, OK?
Candice: The gossiper, I guess. I kept thinking… this woman is going to ruin y’all’s whole lives.
Erin E. Evans: Exactly!
Marina: Agreed that it felt too much like a caricature, in a show where otherwise, I think they put a lot of care into making each character NOT feel like a type.
Candice: I didn’t quite understand the end either. I thought she was actually going to come out. Like, that would make sense to me.
Erin: Right, that’s what I thought too.
Candice: You know who I wanted a little more from — but also understand that she is perhaps best understood from a distance? Greta (D’arcy Carden). Maybe just because I LOVE D’Arcy (in this, “Barry” and “The Good Place”), but I would have liked to know even more. I realize the show didn’t rely on flashbacks to better explore characters, which I kinda respect. I also think Greta is a wonderfully complex character, who in my mind reminded me of Madonna’s character from the film.
Erin: Agree 100%. Her and Jo DeLuca’s friendship was really interesting. And I kept finding myself wanting to know so much more. And without spoiling it, that one scene in the finale had me tearing up.
Marina: Yep, I got teary too!
Candice: OK, but wait … I really want to talk about that scene. Melanie Field is so fantastic in this! Totally crushed. That final scene demands a Season 2.
Erin: I just kept saying to myself, wow, we MUST see more of this show. ASAP.
Candice: I loved that they kept the realism of the time period and didn’t sugarcoat anything.
YES! Is Jo still playing for the other team (pun not intended)? Folks didn’t really go to therapy much back then, but I’d like to see her healing process after the raid and if she actually finds love!
Also: I am going to take this moment to bow down to Abbi Jacobson, who co-created and stars in this show. While the show centers her character, it’s not exactly about her character. There’s a gigantic “A League of Their Own” universe she helped illuminate.
Erin E. Evans: YES. By the end of the season, I just kept being in awe of Abbi. Like, I already love her from her “Broad City” days, but this really puts a spotlight on her immense talent, behind and in front of the camera. Also, when she tells off Shirley in the locker room? I was like, PUT HER IN HER PLACE!
Candice Frederick: YES! Agree on all fronts. And Shirley needed to be told about herself.
So, Should You Watch It?
Marina: Hear, hear. I have nothing more to add, other than: 1, definitely should watch, 2, what a great way to do a reboot, 3, bring on Season 2 (and I think that would actually fix some of the issues I had with not getting enough of some of the storylines).
Erin: Yes. I have been texting my friends already to tell them to watch it. Put it at the top of your binge list!