Available since August 12 on Prime Video, the series “An extraordinary team” – adapted from the film of the same name by Penny Marshall – is a real little nugget that should not be missed.
What is it about ?
With the outbreak of the Second World War, professional baseball players went to the front. In order to save the clubs and the sport, club owners team up to create a women’s baseball league.
An extraordinary team, a series created by Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham with Abbi Jacobson, Chanté Adams, D’Arcy Carden, Gbemisola Ikumelo… Available on Prime Video
Who is it with?
In the role of Carson Shaw, a woman whose husband is gone to the war, and who is recruited in the professional baseball league, we find Abbi Jacobson who rose to fame as an actress and creator of the excellent Broad City comedy. She is also a co-creator of the series.
Facing her, we find several well-known faces from the small screen, including D’Arcy Carden, known for the role of Janet in The Good Place; Roberta Colindrez seen in I Love Dick and The Deuce. They are part of the Rockford Peaches, the baseball team newly formed to join the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) sponsored by a candy magnate. A league formed to prevent stadiums from closing while the men are at war.
Less known to the general public, two actresses shine in this first season: Chanté Adams who plays Maxine, a young African-American woman who dreams of becoming a professional but who cannot join the AAGPBL because of racial segregation; and Gbemisola Ikumelo who plays Clance, Max’s best friend.
Well worth a look ?
You may not have seen An Extraordinary Team, Penny Marshall’s 1992 film starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell. You don’t know anything about baseball and this sport does not particularly appeal to you. You are not particularly curious to see historical fiction about women who practice a sport that is not very popular on this side of the Atlantic.
And yet, you would be wrong to miss out on the Uncommon Team series! Not only does Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson’s series pay a vibrant tribute to Penny Marshall’s film with numerous references and nods – including Rosie O’Donnell’s participation – but it offers a completely different look at this period and this page in the history of sport and the lives of women in times of war.
Because the series, unlike the film, takes the time to dig into the intimate lives of the characters and decides to use this story as a pretext to evoke the life of queer women and black women at a time when not all women have no social status other than that of wife and mother. They do not benefit from any financial autonomy – any bank account must be opened with the husband’s signature – and absolutely no freedom.
Without departing from a light tone and a certain humour, Abbi Jacobson takes another look at these women who are not allowed to live out their desires or their loves and who find, thanks to this sporting adventure, a small space of freedom. The same goes for the character of Maxine (or Max) who dreams of becoming the best pitcher in the championship and challenging the men, when her mother prefers to see her take over her hairdressing salon.
Uncommon Team is a story of emancipation which, curiously, in certain aspects recalls this very nice documentary A Secret Love produced by Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum which follows two former players of the AAGPBL who kept their romantic relationship secret for almost 70 years old.
In addition to offering an almost unprecedented LGBTQ+ prism on an era that has been at the heart of hundreds of films and series, this lovely drama also emphasizes friendship. That of Maxine and Clance is a real delight with each scene they share together. Their unbreakable bond, despite arguments and things left unsaid, allows each of them to face the trials of their personal life.
Within the Rockford Peaches too, we stick together no matter what. Carson Shaw may be shy and not always very sure of herself, but her passion for baseball and her collective sense make her surpass herself when it comes to taking the lead of the team and becoming a coach. Even the chaperone of the team, played by Dale Dickey – magnificent “mouth” of the small screen – is firm but always benevolent towards the players.
Over the course of the eight episodes, as we become attached to these characters, they in turn begin to transmit their love of sport to us. What was initially – it must be admitted – only anecdotal, becomes more and more exhilarating. The authors have put in place a form of pedagogy that is sufficiently subtle and effective for us to want to see the Rockford Peaches win but also for us to get caught up in the game of baseball.
Real good surprise released in the middle of August, An extraordinary team deserves more than a glance, but a real spotlight.
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