Ah, The League. A show I like to watch just before football season. Almost as if it's somehow related to football season... If you have no idea what this show is about, it's about fantasy football. Sort of. It's about a group of friends who are in a league together. Sort of. It's about a group of friends and their families and all of the hijinks that happen surrounding them and their league. These characters live their lives for fantasy football and the trash talking they can slap each other with while they all try to win the trophy, The Shiva.
If you're not a fantasy football player, there are a few things you need to understand. First off, fantasy football NOW is not what it used to be. It was a group of friends you had who thought they knew better about stats, players, and matchups. Fantasy football was all about bragging rights. This show follows that thread. Secondly, fantasy football is more or less an alternate universe where you and your buddies are team owners and get to draft your own players, but also act as coach and sit/start whoever gives you the best chance to win that week. What you may know of Fantasy football now is things like Draft Kings and weekly fantasy contests - this is for gambling addicts who just can't find enough ways to blow through their government subsidy checks fast enough. It doesn't have the same spirit, and that is explained VERY BRIEFLY in the last episode of the series. But forget all of that.
You don't need to know anything about fantasy football OR to give a shit about football at all to enjoy this show. What you do need to have is some sort of friends group, preferably one who likes to mess with one another verbally. That's the real core of this show and what will make you love it.
Characters and Relationships
We'll start with my favorite main cast member, Kevin MacArthur and his wife Bangin' Jenny Banger (aka Jenny MacArthur). Much of the show happens at their house or relating to their stories - with Kevin being the league commisioner and both of them being in the league (after season 1), you'll see a whole lot of these two. Kevin is an attorney and Jenny is a real estate agent. These things don't really matter to the story, but you'll see a few threads around those details. Living in their attic or behind their couch or sometimes in his own place is Kevin's brother Taco. Taco is in the league theoretically, but he constantly forgets to set his lineup. He's also more concerned with his business ventures like TacoCorp, Taco's Truck, and the EBDB/EBDBBNB.
Next up we've got Andre Nowzick, the unlovable jizz mopper of the group. He's the butt of most jokes and has very little ability to give it back. He's also good-natured enough that he doesn't even see it as being made fun of, it's just friends razzing each other. He's Chicago's number 1 plastic surgeon according to Chi-Town Weekly!
Rodney Ruxin is a fellow attorney who works against Kevin in court at different points, and his main sticking points are his stubborness, quick wit, and overbearing wife who happens to be super hot. It's a prison of his own making. He kind of loves it and hates it at the same time. His wife, Sofia, and her brother Rafi round out the Ruxin side of things. Rafi is featured far more on the show. He's a sort of wild card character who always has a hot dog on-hand. Or.. in pocket.
Finally, we have Pete Eckhart, the most decorated league player. In the beginning of the series, he's married to a horror named Meegan, but they get divorced early on and Pete lives a life of 30s bachelor shenanigans. Meegan makes appearances throughout the show here and there, each one possibly worse than the last.
A running theme of this show is how Kevin and Pete are a couple, due to being best buds out of all of the group. Ruxin in particular runs with that joke throughout the series.
Why You Should Watch It
If you enjoy foot ball or friendship with a ton of insults thrown in, this feels like you're hanging out with your own buddies. These people feel mostly real, although the situations they get into are of the zaniness level you'd expect from a sitcom like this. It's not a hackneyed sitcom with the usual tropes.
Every series has a few great episodes. I'm going to give you a list of my favorites.
The High School Reunion (Season 2, Episode 10)
The origin story of the Sacko! Plus you get to see some of the interactions with the group's old high school circles. There are some funny interactions here, including the unveiling of Ruxin's HS nickname "the herdsman."
The Lockout (Season 3, Episode 1)
Dirty Randy (Seth Rogen) makes an appearance when the Sacko punishment for Andre seeps into his apartment... literally. The draft is ruined by the door being locked, but they get a glimpse of Ruxin's championship ring going deep into someone's hole.
Thanksgiving (Season 3, Episode 8)
Andre's sister (Sarah Silverman) and Ruxin's dad (Jeff Goldblum) guest star in this episode where they're joining the MacArthur's for Thanksgiving. You've heard of turducken, but what about guinurkey? The greatest highlight of this episode is when they try to show each other the best way to eat sorbet.
A Krampus Carol (Season 4, Episode 12)
Taco and Ruxin are upset at the mall for different reasons - Ruxin is pissed about how many days of Christmas music there are, while Taco is trying to get them to celebrate Krampus. The mall manager (Bob Odenkirk) is not having either of their complaints, while making some less than gracious remarks about Jews. Ruxin's dad (Jeff Goldblum) makes a pretty disgusting offer to Ruxin and Sofia, where she's into the idea and Ruxin is appropriately appalled. There's a great dynamic between Goldblum and Nick Kroll.
Every show has its share of filler episodes or even flat-out clunkers. The League is no exception. Here are a few that I don't necessarily skip all the time, but have skipped before on rewatches.
Ghost Monkey (Season 2, Episode 7)
While not necessarily a terrible episode, it's not very good or interesting. Kevin wants to do adult Halloween while the kids trick or treat, but they're "haunted" by a ghost monkey that Taco accidentally lost in a moving car earlier in the day. Oh, and Pete dates a witch who is definitely not in a costume.
The Vapora Sport (Season 4, Episode 7)
Pete wants to buy some running shoes, but a crippled customer (JB Smoove) gets them instead. Pete takes them back when said customer is getting a calf implant consultation at Andre's clinic while Pete is there visiting. I'm not generally a fan of JB Smoove and this episode definitely doesn't change that.
Rafi and Dirty Randy (Season 5, Episode 4)
This episode was written by Mantzoukas and Rogen and pretty much only features them. It's a bizarre little trip to Los Angeles where they become porn kings and someone ends up getting shot to death. Theoretically. It's a bit much.
When Rafi Met Randy (Season 6, Episode 4)
While I do love Rafi as a character, this origin story of Rafi and Dirty Randy (formerly Raphael and Clean Randall) is a bit too much time spent on them. On the plus side, this episode does spawn some characters that make a reappearance later in the series.
Let's Wrap It Up
The show has a lot of great word play and silly phrases that have stuck with me over the years. Frittatas, shit-sippers, "collusion," and "GATTACA!" If for no other reason, you should watch this show for Rafi's guest appearances (just skip the ones where he's the main character if you don't want to get blasted with a bit too much silliness in one episode).
The acting feels pretty solid, though I think Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, and Jon Lajoie are all the most inconsistent. There are a billion guest stars in this, both from Hollywood people and NFL players. It makes you wonder how much their budget was or if people would pop on just for the fun of it. It's also a trip down memory lane for those of us who remember how big Chad Ochocinco was.
Gather up this second harvest and have yourself a good old time streaming this show on Hulu.