5:02pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'A League of Their Own' TV Series in the Works at Amazon (Exclusive)
Amazon Studios is ready to take a big swing.
The retail giant/streaming service is developing a TV series based on 1992's A League of Their Own, the Tom Hanks and Geena Davis feature directed by Penny Marshall. Mozart in the Jungle's Will Graham and Broad City's Abbi Jacobson will co-write and executive produce what is being described less as a traditional reboot and more as a modern look at the story. The project is being envisioned as a half-hour comedy series. For now, the Amazon take is in development, with a mini writers room set to open and deliver scripts before the streamer makes a decision. Jacobson will not have an onscreen role. Amazon and Sony declined comment, as Jacobson's deal is not done yet.
Graham's Amazon Studios-based Field Trip Productions topper Hailey Wierengo will also exec produce alongside Graham and Jacobson. Amazon's modern take will not feature either Davis' Dottie or her kid sister, Kit (Lori Petty), both of whom served as the central characters of the movie.
Here's the official logline: "A League of Their Own is a half-hour comedy infusing the warmth, humor and DNA of the classic film, while taking a contemporary spin on the stories of the women surrounding the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The show will begin with the formation of the league in 1943 and follows the Rockford Peaches, season to season as they struggle to keep the team alive through close games, injuries, late night bar crawls, sexual awakenings, not crying and road trips across a rapidly changing United States. The series dives deeper into the issues facing the country while following a ragtag team of women figuring themselves out while fighting to realize their dreams of playing professional baseball."
Amazon's League of Their Own will be produced by Sony Pictures Television Studios, whose Columbia Pictures produced the classic film about the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was formed when World War II threatened to shut down Major League Baseball. The film — which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year — followed two sisters, Dottie and Kit, as they were recruited to join the AAGPBL and wound up playing for the Rockford Peaches (before a trade that would see them face off in the World Series). Hanks played manager Jimmy Dugan, a character inspired by former big leaguers Jimmie Foxx and Hack Wilson. The cast also included Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Megan Cavanagh and David Strathairn, who played Ira Lowenstein, the league's GM who kept it going after owner Walter Harvey (Garry Marshall) wanted to shut it down after the war.
Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel penned the screenplay based on a story by Kelly Candaele and Kim Wilson. Marshall directed the film. The feature, produced on a budget of $40 million, went on to gross $132 million worldwide. In 2012, the Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry for its portrayal of women's choices and solidarity during World War II that was both funny and feminist.
Sources say Graham and Jacobson reached out to both Marshall and Davis ahead of time to get their blessing for the Amazon take, which will — like the film — explore themes including prejudice and equality, among others. (The original movie included one short but important moment during which a black woman throws a ball back to Dottie in a scene that briefly illustrated the segregation that existed at the time.)
This is the second time that A League of Their Own has been rebooted for the small screen. CBS tried unsuccessfully in 1993 with a sitcom that featured Cavanagh and Tracy Reiner, who played Betty "Spaghetti," reprising their roles. Ganz and Mandel created the series, with Marshall directing. Sam McMurray took over Hanks' role. The series was pulled after three episodes. (A total of six episodes were produced, with three airing in April 1993 and two more in August of the same year.) Watch the pilot, below.
The League of Their Own reboot comes as Amazon has put a renewed focus on broad comedies. The company recently tapped NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke to serve as its head of content, replacing Roy Price — who was pushed out hours after a producer went public with claims of sexual harassment. In the interim, Sharon Tal Yguado has been serving as head of content during the months-long search for a new exec. Her orders, which will be inherited by Salke, were to carry out Jeff Bezos' mandate to find big, broad and global hits. Yguado has done that with the upcoming Lord of the Rings series, among other projects, while also cleaning house of niche comedies like I Love Dick and passing on a handful of comedy pilots. A League of Their Own represents a push for broad comedies after Price quickly canceled the feminism drama Good Girls Revolt weeks after its premiere.
For his part, Graham launched his Field Trip production company with an overall deal at Amazon in December. His credits include Amazon's Mozart in the Jungle and Alpha House and Bravo's Odd Mom Out. He also directed feature Movie 43 and was one of the founders of the Onion News Network, serving as showrunner on the IFC series of the same name and on Comedy Central's Onion SportsDome. Graham also created one of the pilots on Amazon's first pilot slate — The Onion Presents: The News. He is repped by UTA, Kaplan/Perrone and Hansen Jacobson.
Jacobson, meanwhile, created, stars in and exec produces Comedy Central's Broad City. On the feature side, her credits include The Lego Ninjago Movie, Neighbors 2 and the upcoming 6 Balloons. She is repped by UTA and Jackoway Tyerman.
Reboots continue to remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming outlets look for proven IP in a bid to cut through a cluttered scripted landscape expected to top 520 originals this year. Key to the reboots is having the original producers involved — which A League of Their Own has with Sony TV.
Amazon's A League of Their Own arrives a year after Fox teamed with Major League Baseball for the scripted drama Pitch, which focused on the first woman to break the gender barrier in the big leagues. The Kylie Bunbury starrer was canceled after one low-rated season, despite a groundswell of support.