Director(s): Ron Underwood, Bill D'Elia and Viet Nguyen
Writer(s): Grace Cary Bickley and Leslie Schapira
Cast: John Stamos, Jessalyn Gilsig, Richard Robichaux, Sophia Mitri Schloss, Nell Verlaque, Tiana Le, Monique Green, Tisha Custodio, Cricket Wampler, Yvette Nicole Brown and Michael Trucco
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Apr 16, 2021 - Disney+
Big Shot is the second sports-themed series I’ve previewed on Disney+ in the last few weeks, the other being The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. If you’re in a hurry to get back to your sourdough starter, here’s the takeaway: Big Shot is initially twice as long and half as good but the show’s team might find some redemption by the fourth quarter. (The curse of reviewing sports-themed shows/movies is the siren song of the bad sports metaphor.)
John Stamos plays Marvyn Korn, an ultra-successful NCAA basketball coach who’s fired and unemployable after he throws a chair and hits a referee. His agent (Adam Arkin) finally finds the one place willing to hire him: an ultra-exclusive all-girls high school in La Jolla, California. Korn reluctantly takes the job and is advised by the principal, Sherilyn Thomas (Yvette Nicole Brown), that the only reason he’s there is because the school’s biggest backer, Larry Gruzinsky (Michael Trucco), wants a star coach to get his daughter Louise (Nell Verlaque) a top college basketball scholarship.
It wouldn’t be a sports-themed story if the gruff, direct coach didn’t immediately butt heads with his assistant, Holly Barrett (Jessalyn Gilsig), the aforementioned star player, and the team’s power forward Destiny (Tiana Le). Will he mold the team or will the team mold him? Can he balance his excessive work schedule with his need to be there for his daughter Emma (Sophia Mitri Schloss)? You’ll have to watch to find out.
With a production team that includes David E. Kelley, Dean Lorey and Brad Garrett, we don’t expect to get a throwaway show aimed just at tweens and the production values are great. I just found some aspects of the first three episodes to be melodramatic and obvious, but again, sports stories are a minefield of tropes and high school sports stories amp up the issue with the addition of peer pressure, teenage angst, and driven parents. Perhaps as the audience learns more about the characters, the melodramatic edges will smooth down a bit.
The gruff coach archetype is easy to handle badly but John Stamos is more than up to the task of capturing both Korn’s intensity and his conflict, and even manages to add in small touches of fish out of water humour, whether it’s navigating high school politics or full-time fatherhood. I don’t think I can name a Yvette Nicole Brown performance I haven’t liked so far, and her principal has the toughness to take on Korn while still being compassionate. Jessalyn Gilsig’s coach Barrett is another strong character willing to call out Korn when needed and support him when necessary. It’s not just the adults though. Each one of the previously mentioned young players have storylines and good performances that will drive the show forward and Tisha Custodio, Monique A. Green, and Cricket Wampler will no doubt have time to explore their characters in the show.
It’s now time for the sports-themed conclusion. While Big Shot isn’t a slam dunk, if the team continues to work together they may not make the playoffs but they will have a regular season record to be proud of. If you subscribe to Disney+ and have family in the target age, you might want to check it out.