Fox TV’s much hyped baseball drama “Pitch” had a neat hook, following the trials of a young female pitcher who becomes the first woman player for a major league baseball team; in this case, the San Diego Padres. And the fact that the woman is black (well-played by newcomer Kylie Bunbury) made it even more interesting, as we hoped to watch her fighting to survive a tough, male only field, while also dealing with subtle racism, blatant sexism and a demanding father, who also happens to be a failed baseball player – for whom nothing is ever good enough.
The network evidently had high confidence in the series as well, moving it from its original broadcast date of early 2017, to September 2016; and the show did get some good reviews. But Pitch could unfortunately become one of the new TV season’s first casualties, because the show’s ratings simply aren’t strong enough; and any moves to attract a new, or larger audience so that it can survive, are iffy.
For the premiere on Thursday Sept. 22, the show pulled in a measly 1.1 rating, getting just over 4 million viewers, while it was stomped by CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” which got a 4.2 rating and 13 million viewers. At the same time, “Chicago Med” on NBC got 7 million viewers.
The second episode on Sept. 29 fared worse in terms of viewership, than the premiere, dropping 13%, drawing 3.6 million viewers. How this week’s episode will do is anyone’s guess; but it’s obvious that it was mistake for Fox to schedule the show against football games, which always garner huge audiences; especially as other original series programmed opposite football night are faring better, like “Chicago Med” on NBC and ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” which drew six million watchers, and “Grey’s Anatomy” which drew 9 million viewers on Sept 22. These more established series are getting the majority of the counter-programming audience. Also, didn’t it occur to Fox that the very audience that might be interested in a sports drama like “Pitch” might be watching football instead on the same night?
As is usually the case in TV land, a new show tends to perform strongest when it premieres. It’s not a steadfast rule, but they typically score their highest viewership for the very first episode, if only because audiences are curious and want to find out whether the show is something they’d want to keep watching. Drop-offs after episode 1 are expected, so the higher the premiere episode rates in terms of viewership, the better for the long term. If it starts out with underwhelming numbers, unless something is changed to increase viewership, it will only get uglier.
“Pitch” has another problem that (for people like me anyway) hurts it. I watched the first episode and I found it reasonably engaging, though I couldn’t really get into the drama for some reason. Also it didn’t help that the first episode ended with a cheap, shock plot twist that one could have seen coming a mile away, which was obviously there to entice audiences to tune in for the next episode.
The second episode was odd since there was no mention of what occurred at the end of the first episode; it was as if it never happened. No matter, because, unlike the first episode, which I was at least engaged by, I found the second episode boring, and didn’t make it halfway though, before I realized what was really keeping me from enjoying the show.
It was about baseball. And I HATE baseball. Like Bill Cosby once said about it: “It’s nine guys standing out in a field doing nothing”.
While baseball is watched by millions of fans, I’m sure I can’t be the only person who feels the way I do about the sport, and I’m sure there are nuances and details about the game worked into the show that go completely over my head. And while, like a lot of you I would assume (who aren’t sports fans either) who also tuned to check out the show because it has a black female lead, it’s obvious that I’m not the audience for it. And, frankly, I don’t think it would’ve made any difference whether the show was centered around football or basketball, either since I never watch those either. I’m just not a sports fan.
But there are obviously countless sports fans out there – including baseball fans – who I would think would be interested in the series, and who’d want to make sure it survives, because, right now, it’s future is up in the air. The show just hasn’t quite caught on as was likely expected. I should add that there are actually other shows on Thursday nights that are performing worse, like Fox’s “Rosewood”; so, if only for that reason, “Pitch” could hang on, at least until the end of its first season run. However, a second season renewal is unlikely at this point.
If Fox still believes in the show, they could probably help it by moving it to another night. Although, I think it’s maybe one of those series that would’ve been better on a cable TV network like FX, where more chances can be taking, making it edgier, and also because for a network like FX, four million viewers makes for a hit series.
Are you watching “Pitch”? Why or why not?