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League - Season Seven, The
Saying goodbye to some terrible people
Loves: Sitcoms, Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll
Likes: Nadine Velazquez
Dislikes: Seinfeld, Fantasy Football
The Story So Far...
The League, a heavily improvised sitcom from some Seinfeld alumni, focuses on the highly-competitive and verbally-abusive members of a fantasy football league. Each season follows the league as they compete for the trophy and the opportunity to lord over their friends until the next season, but that's just the reason they are together. The show is more about who these people are and what they do in life, just flavored by the constant presence of fantasy football. The show ran for seven seasons on FX and FXX, and the first four seasons were released on DVD and Blu-Ray, while seasons five and six were released on DVD. DVDTalk has reviews of several seasons.
It's been a while since The League was really about the group's obsession with fantasy football, but the seventh and final season may be the most removed it's been. Yes, all the mechanics of the league are still in place, including the draft and the playoffs, and the crippling effect it has on the players' lives thanks to their horribly misplaced priorities. Yes, there are still cameos by NFL players, including Golden Tate, Tyrann Mathieu, Jim McMahon and Randall Cobb, but football seems far less a part of the core of the show. Or perhaps, it's just become better integrated into the characters' so it feels more like a part of the fabric of the show than a plot point. Either way, this season feels like it's more about the people than the game they are playing.
Part of it is the focus on their relationships, and a sense that these people may have hit a point where they need to act like something approximating adults. Pete (Mark Duplass), who has a season-long fling with daily fantasy football (to the chagrin of the league), is facing relationship milestones and a desire to fit in with new referee friends, while Andre (Paul Scheer) has found happiness with a new woman: Pete's ex-wife Meegan (Leslie Bibb). Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) and Jenny (Katie Aselton), with two kids in the house, confront the idea of getting "the snip" (and who will get it) while Ruxin (Nick Kroll) struggles with both his wife (Nadine Velazquez) and her control of him and his general awfulness. And Taco (Jon Lajoie) is still Taco, running his bed and breakfast/sex hostel and coming up with ridiculous business ideas.
At its best, The League is insanely clever, and finds brilliant ways to tie the group's fantasy football addiction to the rest of their lives, like when Pete's hook-up Libby turns 30 and he's considering commitment (or a "long-term deal" in sports terminology.) As he and his pals analyze the pros and cons, and even watch "game tape" of her, the two worlds collide hilariously. The same goes for when Taco brings Tate to Ruxin, who said he would punch Tate in the face for underperforming on the field. Instead, Tate joins Taco in a Workplace Fantasy League, and drafts Ruxin, berating him for his courtroom performance. Sometimes though, the series is just ridiculous, like when Andre fights a gang of Asian chefs in an alley using only the implements of a Gilded Age gentleman, and that works just as well.
The key to the show however is in how it escalates little things into massive problems, like Ruxin's germ phobia at work leading to a lie about his faith which results in him being assigned to work a case with an ultra-orthodox Jew (and more lies) or when Andre wanting a good parking spot leads him to be strung up in a sex harness in a Korean church. If there's anything to be learned from this series, is to not lie, as it will not work out in the end. It's like the Rube Goldberg machine of sitcoms.
With invented sniglets and phrases all over the place and even Larry David stopping by to play future Ruxin (completing a trifecta of genius Ruxin casting with Jeff Goldblum's previous appearances), the DNA of Seinfeld is obvious throughout the show--the result of the creators' involvement with that series. Part of the price of that is what horrible people the main characters are, whether they are aware of it or not (most are, Andre maybe not.) Though there usually is some negative impact on the members of the league, the show isn't overly concerned about the ramifications of any of their actions in the big picture (for instance, Andre should be bankrupt from the malpractice suits he faces) and thus they never learn or change from their behavior.
That's fine for a cartoon (which the show realized and actually animated an adventure by outrageous side characters Rafi [Jason Mantzoukas] and Dirty Randy [Seth Rogen], putting them in their ideal medium.) In a cartoon, you can reset each episode and be back at square one, but if you want viewers to care about what happens to these people, some sense of realism has to be maintained. It certainly seems like the show tried to go down that path with the death of one character's loved one, the effects of which are spread over the final quarter of the season. But at the same time, the series' darker impulses were always just below the surface, so it only meant so much, serving more like a set-up than anything else. Dark is fine, and dark is funny, but the final capper to the series, which takes place years into the future, is just cruel and probably unnecessary, even if it does fit in perfectly with the rest of the show. It just didn't feel good.
As with previous seasons, these are extended, uncensored episodes, but oddly, the censorship is inconsistent. In some episodes, the F-word is silenced, in some it's bleeped and in another, it's untouched. Don't expect anything world changing in the small amount of added material though.
The 13 episodes of the seventh and final season of The League are split between a pair of DVDs, which are packed in a clear, standard-width keepcase with a tray for the second disc, a promotional insert and a two-sided cover with episode lists on the inside. The discs feature animated anamorphic widescreen menus offering options to watch all the episodes, select shows, adjust the setup and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are included in English SDH, Spanish and French.
The anamorphic widescreen transfers here are good, but nowhere near the look of the high-definition broadcasts. Interior scenes fare far better than exterior shots in terms of color and sharpness, with exterior scenes experience a touch of dullness and softness. Fine detail is decent, with a better treatment indoors. Pixelation can be noticeable along hard edges. The animated sequences in episode 11 look pretty great though, with bright, vivid color and a clean image.
The audio is presented via Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks that are just what you'd expect from a dialogue-driven series like this. The center channel handles the voices and keeps them nice and clear, while the sides and rear give a boost to the music, while some atmospheric effects can be heard in the surround. The low-end isn't very active, kicking in lightly during the musical stings between scenes. Nothing about the audio poses an issue.
The extras on the DVDs of The League have been rather consistent, offering a handful of bonus content, starting with deleted scenes. There are 11 provided, running 8:12 in all. There are a few that deserve a look, including more with June Diane Raphael and the kid from Geico's Peter Pan commercial, a run-in between Taco's drone and a nude Jenny, and a funny scene involving hipster Lane (Zach Woods).
The gag reel is longer than usual at 14:40, showing the problems the cast has with pronunciation and how improv makes them break, while also letting you see favorites like David and Casey Wilson screw-up and Aselton almost seriously injure Rannazzisi. The time breezes by in this fun piece.
For an improv show, a piece like the 14:10 "Alt Nation" is a hoot, since you get to see such masters at work, with alternate takes from David, great bits by Kroll from a eulogy and moments of a homeless Ruxin insulting passers-by. Where this one came from in the season is unclear, as this scene wasn't in any episode, but it's a welcome addition to the DVD.
The extras wrap up with another edition of "Taco Tones", even if that name doesn't really fit, since only one song here is really a Taco song. First up is "Taco Making Tacos" (:53), which is a full-screen look at a cooking video seen in the show this season. "Down by Lakeshore Drive" (1:38) is an a cappella parody of a song sung by Andre and his Dre-tones singing group, with the lyrics changes to focus on the show. Finally there's a full-screen look at a song from the series finale (:48), which has a spoiler of a title, so avoid this section until you watch the final episode.
The Bottom Line
Considering how The League was able to consistently manufacture comedy from the wealth of characters on board, there's no reason the series couldn't have gone on for several more seasons, but calling it quits after seven seasons means there's never been a bad one. This set has several highlight episodes, though the series' ending is darker than necessary. The quality of the presentation is good, with the same enjoyable extras that have been the norm for the series. The League goes out in fine form with a set of episodes you'll want to watch again.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.