Big Shot is a Disney+ original series starring John Stamos as basketball coach Marvyn Korn. Korn was a famous and successful NCAA basketball coach known for his intensity and lack of likability. He eventually took it too far and was fired from his coaching post at Wisconsin after raging at a ref and throwing some chairs. Now, trying to get himself back in the game, he’s coaching high school basketball at a girls’ private school. And his attitude is not likely to fly here.
It’s youth sports season on Disney+ right now, and I’m all here for it. Organized sports are an important space for kids to learn and grow not just as athletes but as people. Big Shot falls into a niche within the sports genre that’s been done plenty of times, say, Coach Carter, for one. But not every TV show needs to totally reinvent the wheel. Taking a tried and true concept, like that of a team that needs to learn and so does their new coach, and bringing it into a modern context for a modern audience can be great. Big Shot shows great potential in its pilot episode, much like its Sirens, but I’m not without my concerns.
The show starts off smart. It has Korn commit basically every sin of working with teens in the book. He demeans them, embarrassed them, and disrespects them. And just when you absolutely hate his guts, you find out he’s divorced, he gets a call from his daughter who loves him unconditionally, and you see a few other cracks in his armor. This setup for his character makes it simultaneously okay to sympathize with him even when he does things wrong while also making it acceptable for him to be his hard-ass self. His daughter repeatedly asks, “are you being yourself” and it’s somewhat vague, but it has me wondering if the moral of the show ultimately is that sometimes tough love is necessary, just so long as it is balanced with some soft love too.
Speaking of love, I have many feelings. Foremost, kudos to Disney for making it clear that in the universe of their show, girls are allowed to be attracted to other girls. It’s sad that it’s something Disney needs kudos for, but given their track record, it’s good to know that there’s at least some level of willingness to accept and portray that reality. I’m just hoping they follow through. I am less thrilled about the initial inkling of romance between Korn and his assistant coach Holly Barrett (Jessalyn Gilsig). I’m all for good and valuable romances, but they’re colleagues, which doesn’t make me comfortable.
Even more discomforting is the numerous times the episode hints at a forthcoming plotline involving sexual harassment, perceived or real. At least four different times in this episode, somebody comments on either how attractive Korn is or how there are boundaries that need to never be crossed, even optically. It’s just clearly pointing towards something to come, and I’m very worried that whatever it winds up being will not be handled well. We’ll see.
The one last bit that I will be mostly paying attention to as the series carries on is how it balances Korn’s struggles and growth against that of his students. While he’s the primary focal point of the show with the household-name actor and all, I don’t want this show to be all about him. The growth and change of an older white man is only so interesting, and while he deserves as much of that as anybody, he’s a coach, and as the school’s headmaster Sherilyn Thomas (Yvette Nicole Brown) puts it, he’s also a teacher. If he’s going to be a teacher, I want to see his students and players actually learn and grow too. I don’t want them just to be vehicles for his growth. Nor do I want to see Thomas be that, or Korn’s daughter, all of whom so far give off slight “we’re here primarily to service Korn’s growth” vibes so far. I just ask that everyone get to be their own people for their own sakes. And so far, the pilot has me wary.
Big Shot’s pilot episode has me intrigued but not convinced. There are some elements that the episode is hinting will be larger themes which concern me. Yet, what did actually exist in this episode was good. I enjoyed seeing where all of the characters are at and what directions they’re likely to move in, and I hope that in watching that journey, I’ll be continuously endeared along the way.
Big Shot airs on Disney+ on Fridays.
Big Shot Episode 1 - "Pilot"
Big Shot’s pilot episode has me intrigued, but not convinced. There are some elements that the episode is hinting will be larger themes which concern me. Yet, what did actually exist in this episode was good. I enjoyed seeing where all of the characters are at and what directions they’re likely to move in and I hope that in watching that journey, I’ll be continuously endeared along the way.