In an always expanding entry into the category of judging books by one's cover, I had (for whatever reason) kept the FX show The League at arm's length. Maybe it was because a show with six friends using a Fantasy Football League as backdrop of sorts was seemingly suspect at best. Then as I learned about who was part of the show, I regret not getting involved with it sooner. Because said Football League is really less a backdrop and more a means to keep the performers interacting with one another, which in this show is not a bad thing.
Set in Chicago, the sextet of folks is entertaining. There is Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Blart: Mall Cop) and his wife Jenny (Katie Aselton, Jeff, Who Lives At Home). Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) is Kevin's younger brother and seemingly the perpetual loser in the league. Andre (Paul Scheer, Human Giant) is a plastic surgeon and the butt of many jokes in the group, mostly by Pete (Mark Duplass, Do-Deca Pentathlon). Rounding out the group is Ruxin (Nick Kroll, Get Him to The Greek), a lawyer and defending champion of the league and its trophy, better known as the Shiva.
In terms of storytelling, the character development is certainly there, though it is spent on the married folks. Kevin and Jenny not only spend time raising their daughter, but Kevin also talks about his desire to have another child. They also deal with having Taco under their roof for long periods of time as well. Ruxin and his attractive wife Sofia are living fairly well, and Sofia's brother Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas, The Dictator) popping in from time to time to make the life of the group as awkward as possible with his violent and pansexual behavior, sometimes at the same time. And having the moments inside the family structure work as well, sometimes better than those where the guys are at the bar, shooting the crap. For instance, Ruxin hires an au pair (played by Brie Larson of Scott Pilgrim notoriety) for the implicit purpose of being able to gawk at her, but his plan soon backfires to predictable and hilarious results. Along those same lines, Ruxin's father visits for Thanksgiving, played by someone that once you see who he is, turns out to be perfect casting.
An added perk of The League is seeing real NFL players appearing on the show. Granted, not having them in actual jerseys (presumably due to money issues) is a little silly in a 1982 Topps football card kind of way, but seeing them in the opening scenes set to a parody of the cheesy Chicago Bears' "Super Bowl Shuffle" is a sight to behold. Matt Forte in the hospital visiting someone and getting hounded by Andre also breaks out the chuckles.
Circling back to the 'responsible' members of the League for a moment, it is fun to see how they juggle the demands of their professional lives and/or raising a family with how pervasive their fantasy football demands have become. We do see that in varying degrees of evidence, but it is the wheeling and dealing for players in exchange for real-life pleasantries that make it funny and fascinating to watch. I had that itch for a while, but nothing to the effect that these guys have. But there is a level of adolescence there that I certainly relate to (for better or worse), and the fact that such a talented ensemble can handle this and more over the course of three and now four seasons (the show is currently airing on the FX network) is a testament to their humor and creativity.
The show's 13-episode run is spread over two discs, all of which appear in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Going strictly from assumption the show had to have been shot in high-definition (I believe there is a Blu-ray release), but the standard definition discs look good. There is oodles of image detail (in the foreground) to be gleamed from watching them, the source material is pristine as can be and there is nary a hint of edge enhancement or haloing. As far as viewing the show on DVD goes, The League looks pretty, pretty good.
Dolby Digital 5.1 surround rules the day for these discs. The show is dialogue-driven, though it does take advantage of its own moments of channel panning and directional effects. Those moments are somewhat erratic though, and for as full as the show sounds, the lack of any real subwoofer engagement was disappointing, though not distracting. The show is a comedy with modest production values and does well with what it has, and sounds fine.
A little bit of everything I guess. On Disc One, nine deleted scenes (7:17) are cute and full of laughs, as are the ones on Disc Two (9, 5:28). The remainder of the extras are on Disc Two, with "Alt Nation" (14:10) housing a bevy of alternate lines the show did not use. "Taco Tones" (5:31) include the various original songs the show included, and a funny gag reel (11:30) completes the set. It should also be noted that 10 of the season's 13 episodes are available in extended versions ranging anywhere from 22 to 28 minutes.
The League is one of those shows where if you have not seen it before and you jump into it at any point of its life (as I have), you will want to seek out as much existing content as you can. Its jokes and its sensibilities are funny, and the performers, be it main, supporting or guest, all deliver stellar turns that result in supremely funny moments. For those who have not seen it, seek it out and you will not be disappointed in the least.