I’m an avid fantasy football player. As I write this, it dawns on me that I have a draft tonight at about 11:00 p.m. that I had forgotten about until now. I’ve been the league commissioner in my work league for about a decade, and my Cobra Kai squad has finished outside of the top four in our 12-team league only once. I’m currently cackling with glee over having the likes of Andrew Luck, Odell Beckham, and CJ Anderson as the cornerstones of my 2015 roster. With that said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoy the show The League despite its many, many flaws.
The problems with the show are too numerous to count, but I appreciate a show that appeals so directly to me and one of my chief hobbies: mocking the holy hell out of my friends. Oh, and drinking beer. And, of course, playing fantasy football. It’s kind of funny, the show about fantasy football does a vastly superior job portraying everything other than fantasy football, and anything related to actual fantasy football is eye-roll worthy. I mean, who belongs to an eight team league (in fairness, they’ve addressed and mocked this)? Who actually gets excited about having the top pick in a standard, snake-style draft? Having the No. 1 pick in a standard draft is horrendous. Everyone knows that you want a pick in the middle of the round so that you aren’t picking 1st and 24th, with nothing in between.
Anyway, imagine my surprise and dismay when I discovered that this season – the seventh – would be the final year of The League. It shouldn’t surprise me, really. How much can they really stretch this concept? How many new angles can they take? How many different ways can they make fun of Paul Scheer’s character, Andre? With that in mind, I figured it was a worthwhile endeavor to at least say I’ll be reviewing the seventh and final season, episode by episode. Let’s dive in with tonight’s season opener, shall we?
Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: it’s a little strange to watch an episode of The League that doesn’t actually feature any fantasy football stuff. Well, not any actual, er, league stuff. Through the first six seasons, the first episode has always centered on the annual draft, which basically every fantasy football player will tell you is the most enjoyable part of actually being in a league.
Instead, the season opener focuses on the actual NFL Draft, along with the fallout from last year – primarily as it relates to Taco’s punishments, which he views as fun and exciting and takes on a little too eagerly…particularly when it comes to potential butt stuff. Most of the best laughs in the premiere come from Taco’s continued absurdity, which has become almost its own running subplot throughout the duration of the series. While most of the other characters are grounded in at least some semblance of reality, Taco and Rafi seem to exist in a cartoon world that’s slowly invading our own. I’m not complaining – those are two completely ludicrous, over the top characters, but they’re also consistently the funniest, thanks in large part to the great line readings that Jon LaJoie and Jason Mantzoukas bring to the table.
The main plot development from tonight’s premiere isn’t related so much to the league itself, but something that circles back to the first season and a largely forgotten character: Meegan. Pete’s ex-wife turns up in what you’d have to presume will be a recurring role, at least for a few episodes, as Andre’s new love interest. The tension and ridicule this will presumably create for both Andre and Pete is potentially golden, particularly when you think about the fodder it could provide for a guy like Nick Kroll as Ruxin. He hates everyone and everything anyway, so seeing his loser friend banging the ex-wife of his other, cocky friend seems like the perfect opportunity for some classic Ruxin barbs.
Other than the re-introduction of Meegan and Taco’s unsuccessful punishments, though, this was a largely uneventful episode of The League. Sure, there were plenty of funny gags – such as Rafi emerging from the port-a-potty in the living room with a tray of garlic bread – but even the brief foray into the actual NFL Draft seemed rushed and inconsequential. The opening scene with Taco and Marshawn Lynch on the beach was funny, even if jokes about the Seahawks passing instead of running already feel tired and dated.
I will say, one of the best jokes in the episode came when Tyrann Mathieu put Pete in his place when he began using journalism cliches, saying “a player like Tyrann Mathieu,” and having Mathieu scoff at how trite and almost condescending that sort of phrase can be. The League is often more than a little cartoonish, but still manages to slip in some great little moments of subtle satire like that.
In all, it was solid episode, if a little unmemorable. It felt like the third of fourth episode of a season, rather than the premiere. Hopefully things will pick up a little bit next week with what we can only presume will be an episode devoted to the actual league draft.