Back in the Game Deluxe, Two-Episode Review and Recap (I’m Sorry)

In an effort to get this show off the air faster, ABC pulled a fast one on us, dear readers, and showed an episode last week, even though it had originally said the show was on hiatus until this Wednesday. Their skullduggery is your gain this week, though, reader, as you get a super-sized double review and recap of the last two episodes. So far, this series has gone to great lengths to demonstrate the awfulness of all of its characters, and to portray humanity as a greedy, oblivious, selfish, and devoid of empathy. Let’s see if they can do better going forward. Maybe the extra time off has caused them to reevaluate the general tone of this unfunny dreck. I mean, if it can’t be entertaining, maybe it can be pleasantly benign.

Nope, it turns out it can’t.

Episode Seven opens with the team “shagging fly balls” in practice. While your Little League team probably put players into positions and spread them out, Coach Terry and The Cannon instead let their players huddle in a mass of squirming, shoving 10 year olds who jockey for position, all shouting “I got it” over each other until all of them dive out of the way at the last second, and the ball falls to the ground. Let it not be forgotten that Terry and The Cannon are, in addition to being rotten people, terrible coaches.

While “Regional Safety Officer” Sheldon Bickle (a paycheck-cashing John Michael Higgins) looks on, one fly ball hits Dong square on the head when he forgets to put up his glove to catch it. This is accompanied by actual Looney Tunes sound effects. Horrified at the lack of medical attention Dong receives, Bickle orders both The Cannon and Dick, the misogynist league president, to attend “safety school” (safety schools being a concept this show’s creators are probably very familiar with).

Meanwhile, Coach Terry stays late after practice with Dudley (the fat kid) because his parents forget to pick him up for what sounds like the umpteenth time. They’re divorced, you see, and far more interested in hating each other than paying attention to their lonely son. They even refuse to attend his games, because, as his father says “It’s not my custody day. I got plans. And besides, do I want to sit in the stands with my ex-wife yelling at me?”

Anyway, Terry basically adopts the kid, letting him stay at Cannon’s house for a while, and where he is excited there are “no rules,” though he has to endure about a dozen James Caan “jokes” about his weight that would be devastating and abusive in real life. Since this is television, this is supposed to be funny.  He burp and fart and fat jokes his way through the episode until the game, where both his parents show up (thanks to Terry’s conniving) and he almost gets a hit before the right fielder throws him out at first base. Terry unsuccessfully lobbies the umpire to call him safe because, apparently, the rules don’t matter if you’re sad and lonely enough, but Dudley’s parents magically stop fighting and decide to take an interest in their son, now that he’s made solid contact. They walk with him off the field after the game suddenly ends without explanation. The timeless message of this episode being, if you don’t want your parents to ignore you, stop sucking.

Here’s the episode:

Episode Eight finally pins down Danny’s age, as he prepares to celebrate his 11th birthday. Alas, Terry can’t afford a paintball party, so it looks like it will be another lame year of pizza and movies until it becomes clear that Michael (the gay kid) has the same birthday. His mother, Terry’s best friend Lulu, suggests they share the party, and thus can Danny get a paintball party everyone loves and Michael can get a Dancing With the Stars party everyone attends.

While that kind of a genre mashup party would be kind of awesome to see, this episode is more about the conflict this party generates between Terry and Lulu. Terry wants to pay her fair share ($2,000 for a birthday party, which is ludicrous and further evidence these producers have no connection to the realities of human existence, in addition to human emotion), but Lulu keeps adding additional costs because she feels Michael is accustomed to a certain level of party. After Lulu mocks her best friend’s poverty, it causes a rift that can only be healed by both women admitting they’ve done something wrong: Lulu threw her money in Terry face while Terry didn’t have money to throw back in Lulu’s. Truly, they are both monsters.

Meanwhile, the Angles’ biggest rivals, the Pirates, have heard about the paintball party, and arrive armed and armored-up to try and ruin the fun. Despite The Cannon’s coaching, the Angles are predictably no better at paintball than they are at baseball. With the rest of the team eliminated, Danny is alone on the field of battle, and the Pirates are closing in. But Danny’s playing possum, feigning an injury and tears to draw them in. Then, set to Bobby Rydell singing “The Joker Is Me,” in John Woo-esque, two-gun slow-mo that succeeds in fetishizing the gunplay, Danny shoots down five Pirates in rapid succession, finishing off Dick, the misogynist league president’s son David with a sideways grip and several shots to the chest. David removes himself from the field, and cries in his father’s arms, as Dick tells him he’s getting what he deserves for trying to be a tough guy all the time. The timeless message of this episode is that there is nothing more inspiring or empowering than a child shooting his tormenters with a gun.

Here, torture your eyes and ears:

The Cannon’s Baseball Tips of the Weeks

On catching fly balls: “Shield your eyes with the glove, watch it, catch it.”

When you get hit by a pitch: “Don’t rub it, people will think you’re hurt.”

References to Real Baseball

Ha! No. Why are we still doing this?

Age inappropriate things kids do and say:

Terry: “Do you like video games?” Dudley: “Are you hitting on me, Coach?”

Danny still has a stuffed bear named “Mr. Cuddles” that he lends to Dudley when the latter says how much he misses his dad tucking him in and giving him a stuffed animal to “snuggle.” These boys are roughly 10.

“If you have to ask about Dong, then you’re already dead.”

Life lessons learned through baseball:

“Pain is temporary; crying hurts you for the rest of your life.”

Continuity problems:

We not only get Looney Tunes sound effects, but cartoon interludes for the first time in the series. It’s just jarringly terrible.

How many teams does Dick coach? I feel like this is his third. No, I’m not going to go back and check.

Terry buys one pizza for 20 kids.

A paintball party in Chicago for 10 players is $350. How in God’s name is Terry on the hook for two grand?

I might be wrong, but I don’t remember James Caan having this facial hair before. Regardless, it shouldn’t be allowed to exist in real life:


Quotes that sum up this series:

Cannon: “Hold it, whadija bring the fat kid home for? I only made food for 40.” Danny: “His name is Dudley, Cannon.”

Terry: “I am a complete failure as a parent.” Cannon: “No argument there.”

 Final Verdict:

We have reached a new bottom. I’m not even talking about the supposed comedy, none of which garnered even the slightest laugh from me, but in the spiritual bankruptcy of this series. The second episode features two mothers fighting for control over their kids’ birthdays, with one mother actively mocking the other’s poverty and behaving horrifically insensitively to her supposed friend’s financial limitations, and the mocked mom having to apologize by literally saying “I acted like a complete jerk because of my lack of money.”

Then, the bullied child gets his revenge by literally shooting his tormenters, which might not have raised an eyebrow 15 years ago, but that is an unconscionably poor resolution in a world that has seen so many, many tragic mass shootings by disaffected and/or deranged people.  If I didn’t already hate this show for so many reasons, this episode alone would have been enough to persuade me that it is unbelievably out of touch with what is funny and what is acceptable in modern culture. I hope the people responsible for writing and producing this episode are forced to toil forever doing rewrites of Asylum scripts because Tara Reid, Lorenzo Lamas, and Stephen Dorff don’t like their dialogue, never feeling fulfilled by the work they do ever again. They don’t deserve to be happy.

At least we only have five more of these to go.

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Mike Bates co-founded The Platoon Advantage, and has written for many other baseball websites, including NotGraphs (rest in peace) and The Score. Currently, he writes for MLB Daily Dish on SB Nation. His favorite word is paradigm. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBatesSBN.

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The Return of Rambo Diaz
The Return of Rambo Diaz

How do shows this awful continue to get thought up, approved, written and produced year after year? My gosh…


The major networks are continually losing viewers to online and premium network, which means their profits are decreasing, which means that they can no longer afford to buy good shows, which means they resort to buying shitty shows like this, which means they lose more viewers. It’s a vicious cycle, which is quite similar to the plight of the U.S. Postal Service.