Hardball ran from September until October 1994 on FOX.
This short-lived baseball comedy spent much of its time in the locker room of the Pioneers, am inept American League Baseball Team, and quickly struck out ( It might have been bad timing as the show premiered at the same time that the real Major League Baseball Players went out on strike and resulted in the cancelation of the World Series).
Dave ( Bruce Greenwood), the intelligent, wise-cracking team leader , was a veteran pitcher. Mike ( Mike Starr), the team's starting catcher and Dave's best friend was a former all-star who had put on so much weight he could barely squat behind home plate. Frank ( Joe Rogan), the teams overpaid 25-year old superstar, had a big ego, a big mouth, and no tact. Others around the lockers were Arnold( Phill Lewis), the stylish second baseman; Lloyd ( Chris Browning), a naive rookie pitcher with a strong arm but limited control; and Happy ( Dann Florek), the new manager, a disciplinarian who terrorized them all. Brad ( Steve Hytner), the Pioneers General Manager was a manipulating conniver, while Lee ( Alexandra Wentworth), the nervous young publicity manager had her work cut out keeping Frank and his teammates from getting bad press for their verbal and social indiscretions. Mitzi ( Rose Marie), the widowed owner of the team, hated finishing in last place and yelled at the team with language worthy of a truck driver. Nelson ( Adam Hendershott), Mitzi's grandson, was the team's batboy and Hardball, the team's mascot, was a guy in a pioneer uniform with a giant baseball head and a bad attitude.
A Review from Variety
((Sun. (4), 8:30-9 p.m., Fox))
By TODD EVERETT
Videotaped in Los Angeles by Interbang, Inc. and Magic Beans, Inc. in association with Touchstone Television. Executive producers, Jeff Martin, Kevin Curran; producer, Mark Gossan; co-producers, Tracy Newman, Jonathan Stark; directors, John Whitesell, Peter Baldwin; script, Kevin Curran, Jeff Martin.
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Mike Starr, Alexandra Wentworth, Dann Florek, Joe Rogan, Chris Browning, Steve Hynter, Phill Lewis, Rose Marie, Ashlee Levitch, Adam Henderschott, Mel Winkler, Eddie Velez, Nancy Valen, Charles Cyphers, Christpher B. Duncan, Dave Sebastian Williams, Jonathan Stark, Jack Kenny, Terry Cain, Frank Medrano, Jim Breuer, Joel McKinnon Miller, Jimmy Danelli, Brian Levinson, Louis Lombardi.
Pro baseball's the setting for unambitious, forced sitcom new to Fox's Sunday night lineup. Unavailable to critics before airing, it should have remained in the dugout for further retooling.
In latest incarnation of pilot that's been shot at least twice, Rose Marie is featured as Mitzi Balzer, tough-talking, boisterous owner of perennially losing major league team the Pioneers; she's a toned-down version of Marge Schott, complete with hand-held pooch.
Ernest (Happy) Talbot (Dann Florek) is the Pioneers' new manager; Lee Emory (Alexandra Wentworth) has come aboard as the team's PR staffer. Remainder of featured cast are ballplayers, a rowdy, irascible and stereotyped lot including big and dumb Lloyd LaCombe (Chris Browning), bulky Mike Widmer (Mike Starr) and Phill Lewis as Arnold Nixon, who must be the first black nicknamed "Lightning" on television since "Amos & Andy" left the air.
Bruce Greenwood toplines as Dave Logan, the team wiseacre and resident hunk, this show's analog to Steven Weber's character on "Wings." Everything on this show has been seen before, even the team's logo, based on that of the Cleveland Indians.
First episode introduces everybody, has Logan unwittingly bed Talbot's daughter (the appealing Nancy Valen, who's not a regular so far). If he'd seen "The Paper Chase," Logan would have seen it coming, but it's unlikely that anybody in or watching this series is a fan of that film.
Wentworth's character comes through with a publicity stunt that gains the fans' attention and instills some much-needed team spirit.
Earlier version of pilot didn't have the Schott character and -- though subplots and even much dialogue were the same as on the aired incarnation -- was more subtle and funnier than what landed on the air. Maybe Fox knows their audience, but what they've got would probably be better off following "Married... With Children" than "The Simpsons."
A Review from USA TODAY
TV PREVIEW/BY MATT ROUSH
The most promising of it's premieres , Hardball is a minor-league Major League ripoff of a baseball sitcom, harmless enough in an early pilot. But a revised version , with new characters including Rose Marie as a crass Marge Schott-like team owner , was unavailable for preview-not a good sign.
Otherwise it's Fox business as usual: schlock and raunch.
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