The League - Season 2
by Joe Sanders
Available now on Blu-Ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox
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Everyone’s favorite TV fantasy football league is back! Although, to be honest, how many sitcoms are there about fantasy football? But even if the airwaves were populated with rip-offs and carbon copies of this amazing show, The League would still surely take home the Shiva every season. The show centers around a group of high school friends who waste their adulthood in petty competition within their fantasy football league. Now, if you’re thinking of dismissing this show because you don’t know anything about football, or fantasy football, or if you just didn’t have any high school friends, then worry not. As the cast clearly explains in any interview they do to promote the show, you do not have to understand how fantasy football is played to enjoy this series. The comedy all comes from the amazing ensemble of actors and very little of it comes from knowing who Ocho Cinco is. The league compete year after year for their most cherished possession: They’re trophy, which they name Shiva after the awkward Indian girl they went to High School with.
Probably the most famous member of the cast is Paul Scheer (Human Giant, NTSF:SD:SUV::), and even he may not be recognized by a large percentage of viewers. Scheer’s character, Andre, is definitely not the character most viewers will relate to, but one could argue that we all have an Andre in our lives - someone defined themselves by how much othes like him, but who is at best pitied by these so called friends. Scheer takes this loser persona to an ingenious new level; constantly striving to do something new and interesting with the character. As the league winner in Season 1, Andre struts through this second season with a ridiculous level of pride and that can’t help but make him that much more pathetic. Hearing this, it may be difficult to understand why this group keeps Andre around, but it’s actually quite simple: he’s rich and he uses his wealth to make people like him. For example, this season begins with Andre flying the group to Las Vegas for their annual draft. But we soon discover that Andre will never learn that he can’t buy others’ respect.
Ruxin (Nick Kroll) comes into season 2 as some sort of diabolical villain. In a way, each character takes this competition much more seriously than they should, but Ruxin’s need to defeat his friends (not win, defeat) drives him to near psychotic extremes. It’s fun to push characters to this level of obsession, especially about something as completely meaningless as fantasy football, but it’ll be interesting to see how far they can push this concept in future seasons.
The second season is comprised of 13 episodes as opposed to the first season, which was a tight 6 episode arc. This has proven to be a good thing for the series as spreading the season out like this allows the show to explore storylines that are not related to fantasy football. Episodes featuring the gang going to their high school reunion, and Andre training for a marathon stand out as highlights of the series.
Not to say that the fantasy football elements of the show are already getting tired. The League works very hard to keep its repetitive conceits heightened and fresh. Probably the most notable change to the league this year is the addition of Ruxin’s brother in law Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas), who is the most politically incorrect, disgusting, and likeable character you’re likely to see on television. The joke in season 1 was that Jenny (Katie Aselton) was the one running her husband, Kevin’s (Stephen Rannazzisi) fantasy team. Season 2 takes her character on a more interesting arc by having her actively seeking a spot of her own in the league. The Jenny character is vibrant and interesting and Aselton’s performance keeps her perfectly balanced as a loving wife and mother, and one of the guys. As the show plays with the theme of fantasy, it strives to deliver the mans-man’s fantasy wife. If nothing else, it’s easy to see why the Kevin character would be so completely drawn to her. The final big change to this second season is the introduction of the Sacko – the trophy which shall henceforth be awarded to the league member who comes in last place each season.
The League is start to finish hilarity and widely accessible to a broader audience than one might expect. The blending of scripted and improvised comedy highlights the talents of the writers, and this cast alike. The comedy may get too dark and “male” at times, and may then not be for everybody, but there is honestly nothing like this on television right now, and originality is a rare commodity these days.
Special features include deleted scenes, gag reel, Ruxin’s wedding video, and much more.
The League returns for its third season October 6 at 10:30pm on FX.
Joe Sanders is a playwright and college instructor in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has a Master’s degree in playwriting and a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches Thought and Writing.
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