THE LEAGUE First Season Blu-ray Review

     October 6, 2010

The League’s based on a premise unimaginable only a couple years earlier. No, The League has nothing to do with superpowers, it’s a fantasy football league that Pete (Mark Duplass) has won for three years straight. But, regardless of the thing that brings them together, the idea of men getting together to compete and act stupid is timeless and The League has assembled some crack comic performers and improv vets to pull it off, including Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll, Stephen Rannazzisi, Jonathan Lajoie and Katie Aselton. The results show more promise than actual results in the first year (often the case with comedies), but there’s enough here to think that the show might come together eventually, there’s no lack of talent, and it regardless of if you play fantasy football or not. My review of The League follows after the jump.

The show starts with Pete starting the new season as the cock of the walk. But outside of the draft he has problems because his wife (Leslie Bibb) wants to get pregnant (recalling Duplass’s work in Humpday). He’s not entirely committed to the idea and when his friends Jenny and Kevin (Aselton and Rannazzisi) talk about having another, Pete’s reluctance ends his marriage. And that’s the first episode. But Pete as a bachelor character is good, as it sends him to the bar with the others singles in the league, the fashion-challenged Andre (Scheer) and beautiful but incredibly stupid Taco (Lajoie). Jenny is considered the mastermind behind Kevin’s draft, and as the married couple they often entertain with Ruxin (Kroll), who is also married and dealing with a wife who just had a baby and never in the mood.

Adult men acting foolish is always good comic fodder, and there are some inspired bits here and there, but as the show is largely improvised, some of the callback jokes or big set ups come across as labored. Pete goes on a couple’s retreat with Andre because he couldn’t cancel his reservation, and meets a cute clerk. Pete also makes a trade with Andre that might be hinky. Revenge is self evident. There’s a framed first joint, which was made out of shaved pubes. There are some times where the jokes seem more like concepts than actions.

Ultimately, when it comes a show like this, the lack of structure can be good, but when it tries to tie things up it feels disingenuous – the occasional neatness runs contrary to the slice of life approach. The makers haven’t figured out if there’s going to be growth, or what direction to take things in these first eight episodes, but the show seems stuck between its shaggy dog sensibilities, and old school sitcom thinking. There’s a good show in here, but often it falls back on tired beats, and unfortunately a performer like Jonathan Lajoie ends up coming off funnier in the supplements than in the show.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Blu-ray is excellent though, with the show presented in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. This is a TV show, based around improv, so it’s not exactly barn-burning to have it on Blu, but the transfer and content is excellent. Each show is presented in the TV cut, and an extended cut, which adds usually a minute to at most three of additional material. The disc also comes with a gag reel (9 min.), five deleted scenes (10 min.), Alternate takes (7 min.), a fake ad for “Three Penis Wine” (3 min.), a music video for the song “Vaginal Hubris” (2 min.), an extended take on “Birthday Song” (2 min.), a song made of “Legalize Kevin’s Pubic Smoke” (2 min.). My favorite thing on this disc is “Mr. McGibblets Fun House and Dojo” (8 min.) where Taco plays as a Barney-esque character and also trains to fight people, while “Andre: Dress with Style, Win With Style” (6 min.) lets Scheer riff on his bad taste. Since so much of this is riffing, you’re given the odds and ends, but these are talented performers, so you get some gold. The pilot for the FX show Archer is also included, and it looks like something from Cartoon Network.

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