John Stamos in a feel-good Disney sports story sounds like a complete no-brainer, so you have to wonder why no one ever thought of it before. Fortunately for us, someone finally did with the new Disney+ series “Big Shot,” giving us the opportunity to see Stamos in a role custom made for him that turns a feel-good sports story into a rich character-driven drama.
Stamos is Marvyn Korn, a highly successful men’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin, who loses it all when he crosses the line arguing with a referee. His shot at redemption comes from an unexpected place — a private girls-only high school. But it becomes very obvious, very quickly that Coach Korn has no idea how to coach high school girls. His assistant coach, Holly (Jessalyn Gilsig), tries to help him navigate the rights and wrongs of dealing with the girls. But Coach Korn actually starts to figure it out himself with the help of his own teenage daughter, Emma (Sophia Mitri Schloss), and thanks to their coach, the girls start to find the confidence they never had.
In the premiere, Coach Korn has an immediate run-in with Louise (Nell Verlaque), the star player whose wealthy father helped bring Coach Korn to the school. The coach’s handling of the situation puts him at odds with the school’s principal (Yvette Nicole Brown), who does not want to upset her biggest donor.
This could easily be a run-of-the-mill dramedy, but it comes from prolific TV writer/producer David E. Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “Boston Legal”), so the drama is well written and feels authentic. The experiences these girls have are as relatable to current high schoolers as they are to those of us who graduated years ago. And the pilot looks amazing, thanks to Kelley’s longtime collaborator, producer/director Bill D’Elia, who gives it the feel of a gritty adult drama, as opposed to a Disney one.
But the real appeal here is Stamos, who is a perfect fit for the coach who acts like Bobby Knight but stole his look from Rick Pitino. We know how good Stamos is at playing sincere compassion from all of those years on “Full House.” But it turns out he’s just as good playing the arrogant jerk who struggles to find the necessary compassion. Gilsig is a perfect complement to Stamos, and the girls are talented as well. And Brown brings just the right touch of humor as the nervous principal watching over Coach Korn.
As good of a writer as Kelley is, he can go off the rails sometimes by being too quirky, so I do have some concerns. But until that happens, “Shot” is a slam dunk and another great reason to subscribe to Disney+ — just in case you needed another one.
“Big Shot” premieres Friday, April 16, on Disney+.