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TV Review | ‘The League’ triumphs with raunchy, improvised wit

Four seasons in, ‘The League’ still scores big

Published: Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 08:12

Let’s face it: There aren’t too many places to turn to nowadays for quality television comedy. With CBS hits like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men” well past their prime, NBC’s “Community” still on hiatus and premium cable comedies requiring, well, premium cable, options are limited.

When you factor in a desire for less−than−family−friendly humor, you’re bound to come up short.

Unless of course, you turn to FX’s continuing triumph, “The League,” a series revolving around the daily lives of six friends and their fantasy football league.

Pause before you jump to conclusions and assume this show caters to sports fans only. “The League” achieves a type of humor that any comedy fan can enjoy, largely due to its cast of improvisational stand−up comedians.

While there are a slew of jokes NFL lovers will surely appreciate, most of the show’s humor comes from a well−written, albeit crude, script that the stars are willing to alter while filming through well−timed ad−libs.

“The League” might not be appropriate for those viewers rushing home to catch “The Middle” every Wednesday night, but if you’re up for a raunchy laugh, FX is the place for you.

Every character in “The League” has their own brand of effective comedy, but standing out amongst them is the crass lawyer, Rodney Ruxin (Nick Kroll).

Brutally insulting, yet immensely funny, Ruxin supplies some of the most consistent comedy on the show, verbally tearing his best friends apart before game time with unique and guffaw−worthy quips.

Kroll might not be the most intimidating person in real life, but on the show he creates a character that is hard not to hate and all too easy to enjoy watching.

Proving far more lovable are the MacArthur brothers, Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) and Taco (Jon Lajoie). While relatively unknown, Rannazzisi happens to be one of the show’s best actors, and his character is one of the series’ most comical. Kevin’s marriage with Jenny (Katie Aselton) has provided some of the most compelling and hilarious storylines.

Lajoie’s plotlines, on the other hand, often end up being far more ludicrous, but equally humorous as he faithfully maintains his classic stoner character throughout. He also supplies viewers with some of his real life musical talent through original, raunchy songs that pop up here and there over the course of the show.

Where the show sometimes falters is with its “straight man” character, Pete Eckhart (Duplass).

If you happen to be a fan of most of Duplass’ indie work as a director, writer or actor, you might enjoy his performance here, for he stays relatively static during the series. But, if Duplass’ highly specific niche doesn’t interest you, then Pete’s antics on “The League” are likely to be a miss as well.

Both NFL fans and comedy fans are rewarded when it comes to the array of guest stars “The League” manages to drum up.

Ray Liotta, Jeff Goldblum and Sarah Silverman amongst many, many others have graced the show in the past, and this season has sported the likes of Timothy Olyphant and Ken Marino.

Notable figures of football fame turn up just as often.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon appeared earlier this year.

You can never quite be sure who will end up on an episode of “The League.” But, as with most pleasant surprises, the stars are always welcome additions.

Whether or not you enjoy football and whether or not you enjoy stand−up comedy, the “The League” is more than likely to entertain you.

Finding humor where other shows never have, it won’t just make you chuckle or grin, it will make you outright laugh. That’s hard to find these days, so enjoy it while you can.

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