The Time: Thursdays, 10:30 PM, FX
A show about five friends who take nothing in their lives more seriously than their fantasy football league, The League is an acerbic exercise in juvenile humor, deception, one-upsmanship and a win-at-all-costs mentality. The protagonists are Pete, who essentially sacrificed his marriage for the league; Kevin, a district attorney who needs help from his wife, Jenny; Nick, a defense lawyer who will sell out a busload of his family to win; Taco, an inveterate stoner, slacker and Kevin’s brother; and Andre, a rich plastic surgeon who’s naivete makes him the easiest target for the others, both in the league and in life. To these four, plus occasionally Taco, life consists of Xs and Os on an imaginary gridiron; and manipulating them – and each other – for their own benefit is the only way to score.
– Mark Duplass as Pete Eckhart
– Nick Kroll as Ruxin
– Jon Lajoie as Taco McArthur
– Stephen Rannazzisi as Kevin McArthur
– Paul Scheer as Andre
– Katie Aselton as Jenny McArthur
– Leslie Bibb as Meegan
– Nadine Velazquez as Sophia
– Alina Foley as Elli
The Episodes: “High School Reunion”, “Ramona Neapolitano”, “Kegel The Elf”, “The Sacko Bowl.
The final four episodes of the season wrap up the final stretch in the quest for the league season championship trophy (aka The Shiva, aka The She-Dre). But along the way there are plenty of shenanigans and diversions, including the gang’s high school reunion, a parent teacher conference gone wrong, and the usual pettiness, skulduggery and stabbing in the back by all those involved. In “High School Reunion,” Dre is looking to show off his success as a plastic surgeon, Ruxin, who was known for dating fat chicks in school, can’t wait to show off Sophia, and Pete and Kevin are looking for a name for the new last place trophy andare determined to name it after some high school loser. In “Ramona Neapolitano,” Kevin has friction with sports radio hosts, John Hansen and Adam Caplan, who steer him wrong on a pick. Ruxin has to pretend he has a dead first wife that he spontaneously names ‘Ramona Neapolitano”, after the name of Kevin’s top-of-the-line espresso machine that he never uses, when Sophia overhears him on the phone calling the same hosts. Meanwhile, Dre’s all soy diet is giving him man boobs and making him overly emotional.
“The Kegel Elf” finds Jenny worrying about her parenting skills when Ellie’s teacher gives her and Kevin some disturbing news. Taco is working on making thousand-year-old eggs, and Ruxin plans a revenge gift when he thinks that Kevin sent him a gag stinkbomb gift to him, which turned out to be Taco’s eggs. And in “The Sacko Bowl,” the two participants in the Shiva Bowl are trying to one-up each other, and Dre is having issues giving up the trophy. Plus, one of the crew feels the need to mess with someone’s line-up, dramatically affecting the outcome of the championship; and Taco is strangely interested in the outcome of the League…for once.
I’ve covered the show a couple of times (here and here), and finally managed to get to the the last four screener episodes. At the risk of sounding repetitive, the show is simply great. Frequently hilarious even. At the risk of repeating myself yet again, it’s got that loose, Curb Your Enthusiasm style, typically featuring a Seinfeld weird situation milieu. Kind of surprised Larry David isn’t involved with this show. Still, the ensemble cast continually make The League a romp. I’ve seen all 19 episodes to date and generally, there hasn’t been a bad episode in the bunch. A couple have been down in quality, but as a rule, the humor factor on the show is very consistent. The writing is a nice wire-frame hanger upon which they drape a nice sport coat of improv. The show definitely belongs on a network like FX, where it can get a little dirty. The F-bomb isn’t thrown out every other word, but this isn’t a program that would work even on Fox, with the constraints and the laugh tracks and all the other typical sitcom shit one must deal with on network TV. Thirteen episodes is also perfect for a season, because it matches nicely with the actual football season and doesn’t dilute the comedy.
Highlights on “High School Reunion” include Taco trying to capture “vinegar strokes,” the face that a man makes right before shooting a load, on film. He shows Dre his trying to capture his own vinegar strokes, and Dre realizes that Taco was doing it while pounding a hot blonde on his kitchen counter and his desk. Dre also gets it again when his reunion bio is sabotaged and someone informs everyone at the gathering that he lost a testicle in an unfortunate sack-tapping accident; and that he got a nudicle (fake dog testicle) in its place. Ruxin has to get back at a high school tormentor named Paul “The Body” Giabbatti (or Giamatti?). When he brings up his name to the guys, they remember that Ruxin dated fat chicks and of course let him have it with ridicule and scorn. And Pete does something unfortunate when he runs into a guy who had sex in his mom’s car back in high school, but then offers him a great job.
“Ramona Neapolitano” has a funny bit where Taco is writing the obituaries of the guys (I seem to remember that from somewhere…). Pete is spending more time working on fantasy football at his job than he is on work. Sophia is still breastfeeding Ruxin’s 19-month-old son, and there’s a really unfortunate incident that happens when the kid hangs around Dre and his man boobs. In “Kegel The Elf,” Kevin and Jenny send a mean spirited Christmas video card to the rest of the league to gloat about their both being in the playoffs. But Kevin has a slightly inappropriate outburst when he loses. Meanwhile, Pete is dating Ellie’s teacher, who is doing Kegel exercises post-baby. This proves to be quite painful during a sexual encounter. Really. Painful. And in “The Sacko Bowl,” Kevin reveals that he can read lips, a skill he developed while watching porn on his phone in the shower while yanking it. Pete buys a black Crown Vic and plays up the image of the cop for whom everyone mistakes him.
There’s some really funny actual situation comedy to be had with The League. But the most engaging thing about the show is the opportunities any of the characters will take to screw over one of the others or capitalize on a situation that comes along. And it doesn’t even have to be league-related. Biting one-liners and insults for each other are also choice. Fun stuff.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars