TV Review: “The League” – A Near Touchdown

Written by Guest November 16, 2012

Football over friends

Friendly competition helps bring people together and is a frequent staple in many sitcoms. “The League” is not like most sitcoms. Instead, “The League” focuses on friends that will do anything and everything to decimate their peers dignity and will in order to win at fantasy football. This results in a mostly entertaining show that fosters a good amount of soul.

“The League” is currently on its fourth season, airing on FX on Thursday nights. It was created by Jeff Shaffer (“Seinfeld”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and his wife Jackie Marcus Schaffer. It stars an ensemble cast including Nick Kroll (“The Life & Times of Tim”), Jon Lajoie (“Show Me Your Genitals” on YouTube) and Paul Scheer (“NTSF:SD:SUV”). The cast are friends in real life and this is reflected by the organic feel of the relationships on the show.

The show is semi-improvised with the actors coming up with most of the insults towards each other on the fly. A typical episode involves the six friends in the in-show fantasy football league sacrificing what should be an important aspect of their life, such as a promotion or spending time with a spouse, to gain the upper-hand in trades. Like “Seinfeld”, episodes seldom end on a happy note and one person or many have achieved a significant downfall due to a desire to embarrass and ridicule their friends.

Example plots include the fantasy draft being determined by who can make it through airport security first, the organization of an anniversary party so that no one can watch the football game or make any trades and hiring a pornographic crew to film a parody porn in a characters apartment as an act of humiliation. Many of these plots last beyond one episode with the repercussions having an effect on later episodes. This creates a rewarding experience when the plots are funny, but very often call-backs are made to jokes and plots that were not strong. This causes not only the origin episode of the joke to be weaker, but many after it.

But not football over comedy

The armchair warrior reigns supreme

“The League” is not just for football fans. The focus is on how such a trivial thing like fantasy football and victory over friends can become all-consuming. The pathetic nature of this view is frequently expressed by guest stars who simply see football as just a game, which just fuels the characters even more. The heart of the show comes down to the friendships. Despite how much they deceive, cheat and ridicule each other they do it out of the spirit of the game and it remains believable for them to be friends.

“The League” has a short six-episode first season so it does not require a huge commitment to test it out. The show is still funny now but the first season is a good litmus test to see if it is something you will enjoy. It is an overall strong comedy and works well as a companion to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” that airs right beforehand.

My Rating: 7/10

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