Maggie Lawson Maggie Lawson

ABC's innocuous new sitcom about likable underdogs, Back in the Game, could just as easily be called "Luck of the Draw." This Bad News Bears-lite gets a major assist right out of the gate with an enviable time period (Wednesday, 8:30/7:30c) sandwiched between TV's best family comedies, The Middle and Modern Family. Which could always backfire, of course, if the show doesn't live up to ratings expectations, and while this Little League comedy doesn't quite measure up to the big leagues, we shouldn't be surprised if family audiences rally around the team, turning a solid base hit into something potentially worthy of extra innings.

The charm offensive starts with Maggie Lawson (Psych), who's adorable as ever as Terry Jr., a divorced mom and former softball All-American who reluctantly moves back in with her grizzled boor of a widowed dad, the elder Teddy, known not-always-affectionately as "the Cannon" from his days in the Majors and played with gruff bravado by a somewhat typecast James Caan. The Cannon isn't afraid to boom forth his dismay when he sees what a klutz his 10-year-old grandson Danny (Griffin Gluck) is on the baseball field. And the kid's hardly alone. When a gaggle of clumsy tykes goes unsponsored, Terry Jr. steps up and offers to coach the "Angles" (cue the misspelled-jersey gag), with the financial backing of bubbly socialite Lulu (Being Human's Lenora Crichlow) so long as her own flamboyantly effeminate son gets to play.

These misfit moppets score with their sandlot slapstick, which enlivens the domestic schmaltz and the time-honored battle of the sexes between Terry Jr. and a chauvinist rival coach helpfully named Dick (Ben Koldyke, a survivor of ABC's Work It), whose son naturally is a bully. Familiarity isn't always a bad thing for this sort of show, and should all else fail, it could join the Friday night farm team of Neighbors (which aired in this time period last fall) and Last Man Standing.

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