Second Look: Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 6 – “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team”

Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team

Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place Season 1, Episode 6 “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team”
Written by Mark Ganzel, Vince Calandra & Barry Wernick
Directed by Rich Correll
Aired April 15, 1998 on ABC

Given Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place is a sitcom about young twentysomethings in late 20th-century Boston, it’s no surprise one of its first self-contained episodes is about forming a co-ed softball team of hot women. What is surprising about “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Softball Team” is what it does with its incredibly silly, weightless premise; though certainly not an episode anyone will remember as enlightening or memorable, the second half of “… and a Softball Team” has the feel of a young sitcom finding its rhythm, an exciting, unexpected display of versatility lifting an otherwise pedestrian episode.

After an angry Sharon reveals the softball team she’s been kicked off is co-ed, a bored Berg is inspired by a simple theory: build a roster of hot, athletic young women (and Tammy from the local strip club), and let the sex and trophies flow like water. The plot of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team” is really that simple; save for a few minutes dedicated to a subpar plot of Pete pursuing a new teammate, “Softball Team” relies entirely on its barely-established character beats and interpersonal chemistry to carry it through the majority of its running time – a gambit that almost fails the episode before it can get to the good parts.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team

It’s not that the first 80% of “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team” is wasted television; letting the show introduce us to Sharon’s competitiveness, Pete’s gullibility, and Berg’s unquenchable desire to twist fate to his liking is an incredibly smart move for the young series, even if the explicit material doesn’t exactly generate a ton of short-term laughs. Whether it’s Sharon throwing something into the boys’ apartment before she even says hello, or Pete’s uncanny ability to get dumber as he gets hornier, “Softball Team” feels light and nimble on its feet, even when its jokes aren’t landing particularly well (or in the case of Berg, is crass in a way Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place typically avoided).

After losing their first game in embarrassing fashion, the gang find themselves in a tough position when they learn an unknowing Bill has made a bet with Tessio’s Pizza before the next game – a decidedly sitcom-y way to raise the dramatic stakes for the episode’s climactic act, albeit a necessary one to deliver on a handful of punchlines in its final minutes. But for a few minutes there, particularly when Bill arrives to see what hell awaits them again Tessio’s, “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team” feels a bit adrift – in a way that is incredibly unsatisfying, until it delivers a sequence showing off the incredible potential lying at the very heart of this series.

One of the most underrated aspects of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, especially as it grew and evolved over its four seasons, was its formal experimentation; the closest contemporary comparison I can think of would be Community, though that show’s obsession with its formal experimentation would be a lot more wide-ranging. On “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team”, it comes in the most unexpected form: a near shot-for-shot homage of The Natural‘s climactic moment, with Mr. Bauer filling in for Robert Redford.

Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team

Though simple in its depiction, the fervor one can feel with the delivery of the sequence’s visuals is palpable; it’s a bit that exists entirely for the satisfaction of the writers, but its indulgence is a welcome addition to the episode – and more importantly, shows off an unprecedented amount of comedic range for the young series. Unfortunately, it’s probably also the best use of Mr. Bauer during his short run on the series; but that makes the moment all that much sweeter, a pitch-perfect bit of cinematic homage to cap off an episode about a couple horny dudes putting in a ton of effort to get laid (which… is kind of an important plot point to The Natural, or any baseball movie worth its salt, for that matter).

Though “Two Guys, a Girl and a Softball Team” is not an episode anyone would consider monumental, or even particularly memorable, it is still an important moment of growth for the series – in a way, it’s a solid proof of concept for a more realized, flexible version of the series. It’s a version we aren’t too far away from seeing – for now, it’s but a glimpse in the third act of an otherwise ordinary episode, though one to remember as the show heads into the second half of its freshman season.

Grade: C+

Other thoughts/observations:

  • “Co-eds? As in boys and girls working, toiling… sweating together for a common goal?” Ryan Reynolds’s delivery of this idoitic line is so perfect.
  • They couldn’t think of a better fake strip club name than Topless, Topless, Topless?
  • The softball team plays at Bill Buckner Park, alluding to the kind of luck they’d experience on the baseball field.
  • “You don’t know a strike zone from a calzone!”
  • Berg, to Pete: “Are you willing to sacrifice the team just so you can have sex? I’ve got to respect that.”
  • How can we tell this season has major continuity issues? Because Pete’s been fawning over Pinball Girl for THREE months, despite breaking up with Melissa in the previous episode. This is something we’ll want to keep an eye on.
  • I appreciate how Pete eventually gives up his “morals” to try and win the game – and they lose anyway, after Sharon beans Tessio with a pitch, causing a bench-emptying brawl.
  • The closing shot is a good one, with Berg, Pete and Bill discussing genetic engineering in their silly pizza costumes.
  • Up next: Berg tries to play matchmaker in “Two Guys, a Girl and a Recovery”.

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