Up until a few years ago, FX was home to dramas, action movies and re-runs. Then It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia came along and changed the whole equation. Last summer FX ordered pilots for three new comedy series’: Archer, Louie, and The League. All were successful enough to warrant second seasons but it was The League that was most talked about. Take a subject all guys love (fantasy football), mix in adults acting like teenagers, add some hilarious improvised banter, throw in some more football references for good measure and you have The League. Continue reading for my review of the first season as well as information about the DVD and special features. Season 2 of The League currently airs Thursdays at 10:30 on FX.
The League follows the lives of a group of 30-somethings who all compete in the same fantasy football league. Pete (Mark Duplass) is the three time returning champion of the league’s “Shiva Bowl” (named after the gang’s high school valedictorian Shivakamini Somakandarkram) but he must divide his attention between the league and his failing marriage. Alternatively, league commissioner Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) has such a tight marriage with Jenny (Katie Aselton) that she practically controls his team. Kevin’s younger brother Taco (Jon Lajoie) is perpetually stoned and knows nothing about football but somehow remains competitive and has even won the league in the past. Ruxin (Nick Kroll) is a defense attorney who has never won the league before and will go to great lengths to finally win. Andre (Paul Scheer) is a wealthy doctor who despite great enthusiasm has never found an ounce of success in the league and is often tricked into being “trade-raped”. Three unseen out of town players also compete in the league.
Although the first season only consists of six half-hour episodes, we quickly get a handle on the group dynamic. The show’s improvised dialogue allows the very funny actors to play off each other with ease while bringing realistic touches to the group relationship. The show’s football references are usually spot on as each episode is a love letter not only to football but the guys who spend hours each week preparing their fantasy teams. The League never feels too sitcommy and never wears its premise too thin due to the great chemistry of the cast. The group of guys have the kind of dynamic that you always wish you and your friends have but don’t.
The season begins with a video message to the league recorded by returning champion Pete that mocks each player in the league and kicks off the new season. The league’s draft is held at Andre’s house where the wealthy doctor tries desperately to both impress his friends and prove that he’s actually serious about winning the league this year. We also quickly see that Kevin’s wife Jenny runs his team, something the rest of the league is vaguely aware of and constantly teases Kevin for.
Over the course of the season, we see how far each competitor is willing to go for a victory including Kevin (a district attorney) and Ruxin (a defense attorney) weaving a trade into one of Ruxin’s clients’ plea agreements. We also get to know the characters outside of the league through their relationships with their family. We learn that Kevin hates his daughter’s “Mr. McGibblets” toy so much that he’s willing to hire Taco to dress up in a costume of the character to scare his daughter in the middle of the night. We also learn that Taco is willing to do just about anything for sex, food and sometimes a bed. Taco also teaches us that more than 90% of the time, the driver of a VW Jetta is a hot girl. The occasional cameo from football heroes like Antonio Gates or Terry Bradshaw give the show a few laughs as well.
The show’s 2-Disk DVD set is loaded with special features. The set features extended versions of all of Taco’s songs such as “Vaginal Hubris” or the “Birthday Song”, an infomercial for Taco’s favorite drink – Three Penis Wine, and a great featurette about Andre’s wardrobe (and his bloated opinion of his own sense of style). Amongst other special features there’s also a deleted scenes, a blooper reel, an episode of one of my favorite shows – Archer, and extended versions of all six episodes. I watched all six extended versions and none of the new scenes felt unnecessary, unfunny or forced. I would definitely recommend watching these slightly longer episodes.
The League is presented in 1.78:1 Widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.