Big Shot

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Throw a basketball into a hoop? People love you. Throw a chair into a ref? Not so much.

Marvyn Korn knows this well. Boy, does he know it. With one furniture fling, Marvyn went from being the winningest active coach in college basketball to being the best-dressed guy in the unemployment line.

No college program in the country would touch him after that. But there is a high school out west—an all-girls’ private academy in sunny San Diego—that’d like to turn its basketball program around. And one of the school’s biggest donors thinks Marvyn Korn is just the guy to do it.

It’s a step down, Marvyn feels. And on some levels, it is. But he quickly learns the truth: Coaching in college? Hard enough. Leading a crew of high school girls? Yeah, the level of difficulty has just moved from Hard, past Extreme to You Gotta Be Kidding Me.

Full-Court Mess?

Part of the difficulty lies with Marvyn. He’s hard, obnoxious and pretty clueless about what it takes to actually relate to people. When he asks Holly, his assistant coach, for advice on how to coach girls, she says, “I’m tempted to say just treat them like the boys … [but] you didn’t treat the boys so well.”

But the girls—these girls—come with their own particular challenges. Most are rich. Many are destined to become doctors and politicians and CEOs. “Some of them are smarter than you,” Holly cautions. And given their parents’ wealth and connections, “Some of them are more powerful than you,” she adds.

And for many of these teens, their love of the game is complicated by other factors. Destiny Winters just wants something for her college applications. Olive Cooper enjoys playing, but she finds whistles “triggering.” And the team’s pouty star, Louise Gruzinsky, plays mainly to satisfy her wildly demanding father. And given that Dear Old Dad got Marvyn hired in the first place, managing her is a challenge all of its own.

But as Marvyn and his team (the Sirens) grow to know each other better, each is slowly changing the other.

Sure, Marvyn’s helping the squad pile up a few more wins than they’ve had in the past. But he’s also teaching them a little about life, too. And if he’s making the Sirens tougher on the court, they’re making him a little softer off of it. Through their tutelage, Marvyn’s seeing that life goes beyond X’s and O’s. Why, they might even help him relate a bit better to his own teen daughter, who lives a couple of time zones away but dutifully calls every night.

Yes, Marvyn came to San Diego to help the Sirens win. But Marvyn is learning—slowly—that wins don’t always show up on the scoreboard.

Hard Foul

Big Shot, Disney+’s latest inspirational sports dramedy, features John Stamos as Coach Korn, lots of new talent and plenty of sweet lessons as part of the mix. And I gotta confess, I’m a sucker for these sorts of stories: When sports become catalysts for folks to become not just better athletes, but better people, I’m emotionally all in.

But while Big Shot hits a few three-pointers, it tosses up plenty of bricks, too.

Unlike Disney’s other high-profile sports series, the kid-friendly The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Big Shot is made for an older audience. And that means it comes with more mature issues and problems.

For instance, one or two girls may feel the tug of same-sex attraction. “The girls are exploring, they’re experimenting,” Holly explains to Marvyn. “This is the time when you want them to do it,” she adds, saying that the adults in their lives can help them course correct if they make mistakes. And while it’s very early in the show’s run, you can bet that other high school-centric issues won’t be far behind.

Language can be problematic, too. While hardly on the level of a 13 Reasons Why or most other teen-centric shows, we do hear mild profanities such as “a–” and “h—.”

I also wonder whether all the show’s lessons will be uniformly positive. Forty years ago, the entertainment world gave us another disgraced college coach sent to coach high school. It was called Hoosiers. Early on, Coach Norman Dale benches a player for insubordination, even though it’ll mean playing short-handed.

In the opening episode of Big Shot, Coach Korn also benches his star player, forcing her to watch most of the squad’s first game together from the bench. But then, in the closing seconds, Marvyn puts her in in an effort to win the game. Contextually, you can see why he did it—both in terms of the bottom line and in the lesson Marvyn was trying to teach the player and the team. But with the move, the show (purposefully, I think) pushed aside the black-and-white morality of Hoosiers and settled into a more contextual space. Here, we’re going to be navigating shades of gray.

Again, that’s not inherently a bad thing. But it makes it all the more important to not let the lessons go unchallenged. If parents choose to let their teens watch this show, I’d encourage them to watch as a family and talk about what they see afterward. Was this a good decision? A bad one? Don’t automatically rubber-stamp the show’s sense of ethics. Like Marvyn’s teaching his young players, it’s important to challenge the offense now and then.

Coach Marvyn Korn might not be throwing chairs anymore. But he still deserves some scrutiny if you want this show to be part of your entertainment lineup.

Episode Reviews

April 16, 2021: “Pilot”

Disgraced basketball coach Marvyn Korn heads to San Diego to lead a private, all-girls high school team to a few more wins. But when one player tells him that whistles are “triggering” and another accuses him of fat-shaming her, Marvyn realizes that the challenge may be more daunting than he realized.

One player, Louise, tells Marvyn that he’s “kind of cute” in front of the rest of the team—being openly insubordinate (and earning her a suspension). Other team members privately agree, though, and talk about it during lunch in the cafeteria. When Marvyn has a private discussion with a player in her car, the school’s principal confronts him over it, saying it was inappropriate. “Optics,” she says. (It should be noted that the previous coach was dismissed for “misconduct,” though we’ve not learned what that misconduct was.)

When Marvyn asks two players to spend more time with each other, one reacts awkwardly: “The Mouse [the uncomfortable player’s nickname] thinks I like her too much,” the other responds. (The purported lesbian says Mouse blew an earlier incident out of proportion, adding that she has a boyfriend. Assistant coach Holly dismisses the discomfort as “the usual confusion for girls that age.”)

We learn that both Marvyn and Holly are divorced, and that Holly’s was caused by an affair that she had. (She suggests that Marvyn, like her husband, was inattentive.) We see a female player in the dressing room wrapped in a towel.

In flashback, we see when Marvyn threw a chair and hit a referee, knocking him over. The incident is referenced elsewhere. Marvyn teaches one of his contact-shy players, Destiny, how to make a block; in a game, she seems eager for more contact. And when an opponent’s star player is making too many easy baskets, Marvyn instructs Destiny to commit a hard foul (but not “kill” her, as Destiny suggested). Destiny does indeed knock the player down, high-fiving one of her teammates afterward.

Holly and Mervyn talk over beers at a bar. Characters say “a–”, “h—” and “p-ss.” Mervyn’s daughter jokes about stealing cars and robbing convenience stories.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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