December 23, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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WARNING:  If You Watch THE LEAGUE For Its Plot Revelations(?), Spoilers Below
THE LEAGUE is no longer the best sitcom on TV that no one’s ever heard of.  The show has become consistently, increasingly popular, so much so that it’s no longer riding in the ratings on the coat-tails of its FX lead-in It’s Always Sunny In PhiladelphiaLeague‘s numbers in the 18-49 demo are up around 30% from last year, and it’s already been renewed for a 4th season.

This is a happy development, as The League remains one of the rudest, funniest shows on TV.  It’s a combination of 3 different comedy subgenres:  the Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm cleverness of multiple, seemingly random storylines that manage to converge by the end of the half-hour (Jeff Schaefer, who created the show with his wife Jackie Marcus Schaeffer, is a Seinfeld/Curb veteran), the Judd Apatow school of “giving shit to your buddies” humor (Seth Rogen even showed up as a guest-star this season), and the improvisational mumblecore style of indie film (cast regulars Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton–also married to one another–are writer/directors of indies like The Puffy Chair, Cyrus and The Freebie as well as actors).
The League rotates around the yearly travails of a fantasy football league, and although recent episodes have
moved far afield from that topic (including the season’s highlight, a Thanksgiving episode featuring Jeff Goldblum and Sarah Silverman that may have been the filthiest, funniest half-hour ever to air on TV without any serious four-letter words or nudity), the 1-hour season finale, written by the Schaefers, returned to the main storyline, which is as always the battle among the friends to win the Shiva trophy and avoid the dreaded loser’s Sacko and the year of constant humiliation that comes with it.  In the course of the hour, the scandal of the league’s fraudulent draft finally came to light thanks to Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi)’s daughter’s class project, Ruxin (Nick Kroll) suffered a minor and quickly-healed stroke, Kevin scored some meaningful victories, and best of all, Ruxin’s sociopathic brother-in-law Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas) made an appearance to attempt a mercy-killing on Ruxin, repeatedly threaten Andre (Paul Scheer) with knife violence and make several seductive moves on Ruxin’s unimpressed nurse.  Unfortunately, there was no further news on Taco (Jon Lajoie)’s plan for Neckflix, which would send subscribers (stolen) ties to allow for an endless rotation of neckwear, and actually didn’t sound like such a bad idea.
The League has a lot of funny writing and/or improvising (a great little scene in the finale had Taco insisting that Ruxin take a business dinner–which he used as a verb–with him to discuss his insane “business” TacoCorp, leading to a splended foray into the kind of trendy restaurant where you eat in the dark–complete with night-vision goggles), but more than anything it’s a showcase for its wildly talented cast, who make the nastiest, most scheming, insulting and downright awful of friendships seem very close to lovable, with Aselton’s Jenny–Kevin’s wife and a member of the League–maybe the most underappreciated female lead on television.  The show sometimes struggles to work in its product placements (Bud Light, anyone?), as well as its football-related cameos, but those become part of the joke as well. 
The arrival of football season is always welcome, but not least in recent times because it means The League is back on the air.  It’s great to see that this little-show-that-could, as it turns out, really can.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."