Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 28: The League

25 Aug

I started seeing commercials for The League and thought two things.  First, that the premise of the show – a bunch of guys playing fantasy football – wasn’t really sufficient to hold up as entire season of a show.  Second, I thought that the show looked very bad.  I was right about the first, but wrong about the second.  The show is only peripherally about fantasy football.  It is a constant and recurring plot element in the show, and the writers do make a big deal to talk about it in almost every episode, but the show is more about five guys in their 30s with fantasy football just as a hook to make the show different from any other show about five guys in their 30s.  I have friends who enjoy the show who couldn’t name more than one or two current football players.   The show is actually pretty funny as well.  It’s often fairly silly humor – one of the funniest scenes in the show involves a character wearing a children’s character costume and carrying a knife, another involves Paul Scheer (of Human Giant fame) falling on his ass, and a third involves someone dropping a cake.

The second season got a bit absurd for my tastes.  During the first season, a couple of the characters are weirdos, sure, but the show more or less lived in the universe of reality. Second season plots include an episode which features Rob Huebel as  a ridiculous sex addict with a bunch of odd fetishes as well as a toilet seat used to smuggle in cocaine that one of the main characters is hooked on sitting on.  The show is funnier when it’s dealing with things in the realm of possibility, when one of the outrageous characters would do something stupid, and everyone else would make fun of it.  It’s kind of a formula, and it’s limiting, but it’s a formula that works.

The show gets a couple of cameos from NFL players.  Antonio Gates, Chad Ochocinco and Josh Cribbs all make appearances.  All the devotion to fantasy football though leaves you wondering exactly why the characters are so bad at it.  Many of the football comments made in the show make absolutely no sense to the average sports fan, and that’s even counting for the lead time between the writing of the show and its airing.  The best example of this might in the draft board for the second season, which they didn’t need to show, but show well enough that you can read all the players, and a lot of it makes no sense to anyone who played fantasy football last year.  Two of the stranger choices are Ray Rice falling all the way to 11 and Steven Jackson somehow falling to the fourth round.

Why it’s this high:  It’s a pretty funny show about guys giving each other a hard time and wacky antics, and Paul Scheer makes me laugh

Why it’s not higher:  It’s trending in a direction where the strangeness overwhelms the funny, and the episodes can be very hit or miss

Best Episode of the most recent season:  “The Anniversary Party” – Pete, played by Mark Duplass, one of the founders of the mumblecore movement, runs into his ex-wife, now with a new, older man, and the two have an extremely silly battle to prove whether or not her new man can keep up with Pete at partying

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