December 10, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Finale Review: “The League”


In an era when even network sitcoms often try to Say Something Meaningful, let’s take a moment to appreciate THE LEAGUE, which devoted 7 prosperous seasons to ingeniously and hilariously being nothing but rude.  Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer’s series gathered together a half-dozen expert comic minds (Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Stephen Rannazzisi, Jon Lajoie) and cast them as the worst, least supportive (let’s face it, borderline sociopathic) friends imaginable, gave them plot points that ranged from just left of mundane to the all-out lunatic to play with, and let them loose, and the results were joyously mean-spirited.

Fittingly, The League‘s series finale featured a visit from its spiritual godfather, Larry David, in a guest spot as the ghostly visitation of Ruxin’s (Kroll) future.  (Jeff Schaffer was a writer/producer on both Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and like the latter, The League was structured as a weekly set of plot and character points that provided a framework for improvisation by the cast.)  It also showcased an essential parting appearance from Jason Mantzoukas’s Rafi (when last seen, he was doing something unmentionable with a watermelon), and from Janina Gavankar as Shiva, inspiration for the league’s trophy.  (Slightly less inspirationally, it also had one last prominent product placement, for Draft Kings, the real-life fantasy football business.)

The guest star who figured most importantly in the episode’s plotline was Meegan (Leslie Bibb), who married Andre (Scheer) and was purportedly the mother of his baby, but who was actually pregnant by her ex Pete (Duplass), a fact that gave the show its final bit of odious friendship, as the rest of the league prepared a video to be played on the child’s 18th birthday, so that (much to his relief) he could learn of his real parentage.  There was also an accidental vasectomy for Kevin (Rannazzisi), and some parting idiocy for Taco (Lajoie), who thought the jury notice he received in the mail meant that he was about to be put on trial for his crimes.

As imaginative as the Schaffers’ plots were–and this season featured one of the most elaborate, a animated adventure in Puerto Rico for Rafi and Dirty Randy (Seth Rogen) in a caper to capture the corpse of Ruxin’s wife Sofia (Nadine Velazquez)–The League always turned on the chemistry and spectacular invective summoned by its cast, who as actors treated each other with all the generosity their characters denied.  In the end, the series was in a sense a victim of its own success in that regard, because the cast became so successful (Duplass alone seems to be trying to colonize all of television with his brother Jay and his wife Aselton) that the low-budget series couldn’t contain them any longer.

The League never won any awards, and its love for the low-brow inevitably made it sometimes indulge in grossness for its own sake.  At its best, though, it was one of the most laugh-out-loud shows on the air, a series that knew no bounds and had absolutely no shame  The final Shiva belongs to the series itself.


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."