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I first heard about The League through the AV Club‘s Website. I am a fan of Paul Scheer from Human Giant and as Donny the Page from 30 Rock, as well as Nick Kroll from his appearances on Parks and Rec and in Date Night. It is nice to see good comedic actors getting their own shows.
The League focus’ around five friends and their fantasy football league. The loosely scripted show is written by Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and his wife Jackie Marcus Schaffer. I like the raw style, it feels very natural and although not all the jokes are fantastic, the genuine reactions are priceless.
The best part of the show is the trophy the winner receives, The Shiva. Based on their high school classmate Shivakamini Somakandarkram, the guys have her high school picture on the base of the trophy. The Shiva blasts come randomly but are always hilarious.
The first episode ‘The Draft’ begins with Pete Eckhart (Mark Duplass) introducing the guys to the fifth season of their league. This show uses video chatting frequently, which makes a lot of sense since most people with lives cannot be with their friends all the time. The video chats are esentially just shit talking, and the opening scene allows for the viewer to see the relationships the guys have with each other.
Pete is the alpha dog of the bunch and three time winner of the league. This is clearly a very important part of his life and his wife Meegan (Leslie Bibb) is extremely unsupportive. Meegan is also a little crazy, as witnessed by the very uncomfortable sex scene. The two seem to want very different things from the relationship, she wants kids, he does not. Their relationship is clearly doomed and by the end of the episode Pete has decided to end the marriage. (The straw that broke the camels back was when Meegan gave away his lucky draft shirt).
Pete’s best friend Kevin MacArthur (Stephen Rannazzisi) is the commissioner of the league and has never won the trophy. He is often accused of having his wife Jenny (Katie Aselton) run his team. This episode shows his daughter Ellie’s (Alina Foley) fifth birthday party, and to tie it in with the league, the children’s race becomes the deciding order of the draft. This was hilarious, the guys were way more involved in the race than the children.
After seeing how ridiculous these men are in their personal relationships, it was interesting to see Kevin and Rodney Ruxin (Kroll), everybody calls him Ruxin, at work. Kevin works as an assistant District Attorney for the state and Ruxin is a typical (dick) lawyer. In order to get his client less jail time, (his client robbed three liquor stores and waved in the camera) Ruxin trades his first round pick with Kevin. The league even finds its way into their work relationships.
Ruxin is married to a woman much hotter than him, Sophia (Nadine Velazquez) and they have a son, referred to as baby Geoffery. He is very paranoid and believes the guys are always working together to make him lose. Ruxin really loves his wife and does really nice things to make her happy. In this episode, he has a very creepy relationship with a nine year old boy they call The Oracle. This boy knows a lot about football and Ruxin kidnaps him for help during the draft (“Paging ‘To Catch a Predator’”).
Andre Nowzik (Scheer) is the most ridiculous character. Being a plastic surgeon, Andre is loaded and is very generous with his friends. His niceness is often taken advantage of and he is constantly ridiculed for his outfits and sayings. (“Hey Bing Crosby, lose the hat you’re freaking the kids out.”) When at Andre’s house for the draft party, the guys notice a joint that has been framed. This was from the first time he got high, which is later revealed to be a trick as it was stuffed with Kevin’s pubes.
Taco MacArthur (Jon Lajoie) is the younger brother of Kevin, and is an unemployed musician/huge stoner. (“Taco, we’ve been friends for 15 years.”) Taco has won the league once, even though he does not recognize The Shiva when he sees it. (“This was in your house for a year.”) Taco wrote a song for Ellie’s birthday, which consisted of him telling a very dirty story involving giving head, doing a 69 and having sex. He has no idea what he is doing in the league, picks his draft picks at random and even has the girl he’s hooking up with in Andre’s bathroom pick a player for him.
This episode featured a lot of football jokes, which were completely lost on me. The guys do great shit talking, and their relationships are really great. Though it is not the best episode, it is one of the better pilots I’ve seen, and it only gets better.