John Stamos returns to TV as a short-tempered basketball coach at an elite girls' high school
Offering advice to impressionable young women isn’t new territory for iconic Full House uncle John Stamos, but in his new role as Marvyn Korn, a hothead men’s basketball coach who gets ousted from his job in the NCAA after throwing a chair at a referee and must take a job at an elite, private, all girls’ high school in an effort to redeem what’s left of his reputation and career, Stamos might be the one learning most of the lessons.
Disney+Indeed, Coach Korn quickly discovers that this new gig will force him to step out of his comfort zone, to challenge his priorities, and—here’s hoping—become a better man. Meanwhile, the girls learn to take themselves more seriously, rising to Coach Korn’s standards of excellence, finding their footing both on and off the court.
The show that mixes comedy with drama has been a long time coming. Showrunner and iZombie producer Dean Lorey wrote the pilot six years ago with perpetual hit-maker David E. Kelley, but at the time ABC deemed it a no-go. The script, however, was so memorable that Bill D’Elia, who was attached to direct back then and happily returned to the project, still had a copy of it. “I saved it,” says D’Elia. “It’s one of my favourites.”
For its star, the road to Big Shot felt like quite the emotional rollercoaster. “I got a call from my agents and managers and they said, ‘You are going to get an offer on a new David Kelley show.’ I said, ‘He’s my favourite. I just love him. What will I play? Do I play a lawyer?’ They said, ‘It’s a basketball show,’ and my heart sunk, because I am so bad at sports,” recalls Stamos. “I don’t play. I’m not a player. Do I play? Am I an old player? They said, ‘Just read it.’ Then it was like, ‘Do coaches have to play?’”
Disney+Luckily, Stamos can lean on Glee alum Jessalyn Gilsig, as assistant coach Holly Barrett. “It’s been so much fun for our two characters to make room for one another, because he’s really stepped into my world and I’m really protective of the girls and of this environment,” says the Canadian actress. “I am blessed to have been on a few David E. Kelley shows and they are so character driven. What happens is you put these two well-drawn characters into a room, release them and see what happens.”
To the creative team, the show is about second chances, and being forced to see the person behind the stats. “Marvyn was a guy who was enormously successful in college ball and saw players as Xs and Os. They were just things that you moved around on the court,” says Lorey. “We wanted to put them in a situation where, in order to be successful, he was going to have to start getting personally involved in the lives of the players because they were going through all of these dramas that affected their game play. We really wanted to see him to be challenged.”
While Stamos can get away with mediocre dribbling skills, the younger actors that have to actually play basketball were sent to a month-long boot camp led by athletic coordinator Keyla Snowden. “Some of them already came in with skills and others didn’t so much,” says Lorey. “But they really worked very hard and really feel like very much a team on camera now.” While the kids’ ability to pick up the sport is a plus in Stamos’ eyes, because it makes his character more believable, it’s their on-screen chemistry that matters more. “I’ve always said that this show won’t work unless those girls work. And with each episode, they really find their characters,” says Stamos. “Dean’s writing really specific things for them and they came through. They’re gelling. They’re friends. They feel like real kids, you know? We had to have that.”
Disney+What may not set the show apart from other sports dramas, but should broaden its appeal to those who could care less about high school basketball practice, is that, while set in a very particular world, this is ultimately a feel-good show about ambition, personal development and relationships with a much-needed focus on women in sports. “We’re living in, like, a Marx Brothers movie. Everything is upside-down and sideways, and discord is at an all-time high, and decency is at an all-time low. We need shows like Big Shot,” says Stamos. “It’s aspirational. It’s about redemption for my character. He accepts that he needs to change and he needs to learn. And what better place than with all these women? It’s one of my favourite jobs I’ve ever had.”
Big Shot streams Fridays on Disney+