A League of Their Own
Lesbians, lesbians, lesbians, and also baseball. That’s everything I wanted from this Abbi Jacobson and Will Graham adaptation of A League of Their Own, and damn do they deliver. The pilot of the Amazon series opens with a familiar scene from the 1992 movie: Chicago’s Wrigley Field in 1943, women gathering from all across the country to try out for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
But that’s about where the similarities end. Instead of Geena Davis’s quiet Dottie reluctantly joining the league for her sister, we see Jacobson’s Carson Shaw escaping her unfulfilling life as a housewife. Instead of Madonna’s hypersexual Mae and Rosie O’Donnell’s wisecracking Doris, we get Greta (D’Arcy Carden) and Jo (Melanie Field), sarcastic, sexy best friends who keep each other safe in a world that criminalizes queerness. Instead of a single shot of an unnamed Black woman throwing a baseball farther than expected, we get Max (Chanté Adams), who shows up and out at the Wrigley Field tryout only to be rejected and go on her own incredible journey to become a professional baseball player. All the Peaches are complex women struggling to achieve their own versions of success and freedom. While the show doesn’t necessarily have anything new to say about the big issues it tackles — sexism, racism, anti-gay behavior, and intersections thereof — the joy found in watching the Peaches begin to truly express themselves is undeniable. The cherry on top? The season finale is a pitch-perfect sports epic, on par with the “Mud Bowl” episode of Friday Night Lights or the Season 1 finale of Ted Lasso. ALOTO does right by its characters and all the fans of the original who wondered why Geena Davis and Madonna never kissed. —Krutika Mallikarjuna
Where to watch: Prime Video
A show from creator Darren Star has certain signatures: a brightly lit big city, unrepentant gentrifiers with high-powered jobs, bad puns, and hot guys. This is the first time Star (Sex and the City, Emily in Paris, Younger) has used this formula among his own demographic: professionally successful gay men.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Michael, a luxury realtor who gets unceremoniously dumped at his boyfriend Colin’s (Tuc Watkins) surprise 50th birthday party. The eight-episode first season tracks Michael’s grieving process as he cycles through anger, horniness, and sadness. At his side are his friends: Suzanne (the always delightful Tisha Campbell), a fellow realtor and single mom who’s trying very hard not be single, Billy (Emerson Brooks), a vain meteorologist with a penchant for younger men, and Stanley (Brooks Ashmanskas), a snobby art critic who likes to take himself out on dates. Marcia Gay Harden rounds out the cast as Claire, a rich divorcé who’s trying to find a new place to live after her husband leaves her for a millennial.
I cannot say that this is a great show, but Star hasn’t made one of those since Sex and the City (as usual, we shall ignore the movies and And Just Like That). Though it’s not unlike Sex and the City in certain ways — one character literally falls through an open cellar door much like Samantha famously did to avoid holding Smith’s hand. And Michael dates his fair share of hot men with problems, from a dermatologist whose penis is just too big to a millennial who thinks wearing condoms is for boomers.
The real estate is gorgeous and the outfits are nice. I enjoyed watching the show while I was sick this past weekend, and you just might, too. —Tomi Obaro
Where to watch: Netflix
If the multiverse were fair, Paper Girls, Amazon’s adaptation of the hit indie comic series written by Brian K. Vaughan, would be showered with the same adulation and attention given to Stranger Things. On the surface, both shows are nostalgic sci-fi romps starring children facing off against insurmountable and sinister odds. But where Stranger Things is mostly driven by fun and referential spectacle, Paper Girls is driven by the emotional growth of its four young leads.
Paper Girls kicks off the morning after Halloween in 1988, when a group of 12-year-old newspaper couriers ride out to deliver their normal routes; while escaping the clutches of drunk teenagers in shitty costumes, they end up embroiled in a time war. Jumping from 1988 to 2019 to 1999, the girls confront their disappointment with who they become in the future, each dealing with the brutal reality of their adult selves in a different way. It is one of the most fascinating and satisfying depictions of a teenage girl’s mind I’ve ever seen on TV.
But Paper Girls, adapted by Stephany Folsom, isn't all grim introspection; the series shines when the girls are doing normal teen things like stealing tampons after one of them gets their period for the first time or trying to get into grown-up parties they have no business being at. The fragile, unlikely bonds that form between them in those quiet moments are tested by the adults in the show, and, unlike Stranger Things, there’s no chosen one here. This is just a group of funny, bitter, sweet girls trying to survive the chaos of growing up too soon. And just in case that’s not enough, there’s also Ali Wong piloting a time-traveling mecha in combat for the future of humanity. —K.M.
Where to watch: Prime Video
The nebulous world of corporate finance and high-stakes banking can often feel as gray and unwelcoming as the steel-framed skyscrapers that are filled with the world’s biggest financial institutions. HBO Max’s breakout drama Industry, however, now in its second season, offers a sensationalized glimpse into how the capitalist sausage is made. A soapy character study, the show relays how young upstarts become enmeshed in the frenetic chase for career advancement and what personal tax they absorb — both emotionally and physically — in pursuit of an ever-shifting goalpost.
Myha'la Herrold continues to shine as antihero Harper Stern, a young Black American in the London finance world who is ruled by the twin devils of ambition and anxiety. As irreverent as she is inscrutable, Harper does a high-wire dance that’s brought to a new level when the team in London becomes at risk of being absorbed by the New York office, courtesy of incoming hotshot Danny (Alex Alomar Akpobome), who was also mentored by her managing director Eric (Ken Leung). While the RIF — reduction in force — may be in the rearview mirror, the politics of keeping her position remain. As the dust settles, will she manage to land on her feet yet again, or will she be ousted as an imposter for good? —Shamira Ibrahim
Where to watch: HBO and HBO Max
Never Have I Ever (Season 3)
This Mindy Kaling–produced comedy is an undeniable brown-girl banger. It has been since the moment we met Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan), a delightful and volatile teenage cocktail of sad-angry-horny, walk up to the hottest boy in school and ask him if he’s DTF in an effort to get her life back on track after the death of her father. As the brilliant coming-of-age comedy returns for Season 3, Devi has come a long way in managing her grief, less reckless and more present for her friends, family, and boyfriend. But now that she’s actually getting her life together, naturally everything must fall apart.
Season 3 shines in these chaotic spirals. Messy teenage breakups and makeups, academic power plays, unforgivable betrayals of new friendship, disillusionment of family dynamics — they all play into Devi and her loved ones confronting what they actually want for themselves. Even as the distance between who they want to be and who they are fractures, the pieces that fall through the cracks make these characters feel more alive, more whole, than many teen shows that have come before it. There’s also one major highlight of Season 3 that I’m not allowed to talk about, but what I can say is that the Vishwakumar family struggle with the age-old immigrant question of are skinfolk really kinfolk? The answer, as Devi discovers, is yes, no, and maybe. But be sure to ask again later. —K.M.
Where to watch: Netflix ●