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The League: The Complete Season One(TV) (2009)
When six friends compete on the virtual gridiron, it's a no-holds-barred, win-at-all-costs free-for-all full of deception, trickery and one-upmanship. Pete, a slacker who has won the league the past four seasons, is determined to triumph once again even at the risk of his marriage. Arrogant yet paranoid, Ruxin would rather brush up on key fantasy stats than dote on his newborn, much to his wife's chagrin. League commissioner Kevin secretly has his wife - the ruthless, confident and vaginally talented Jenny - run his team. Kevin's younger brother, Taco, is a part-time musician who writes inappropriate songs and a full-time stoner. Once a loser in high school, Andre is now a successful plastic surgeon and a just as unsuccessful fantasy league player. Though marched grudgingly into adulthood, the motley crew finds refuge from life's tedium with immature behavior and the thrill of chasing victory.
For more about The League: The Complete Season One and The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray release, see The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray Review
Starring: Paul Scheer, Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton
» See full cast & crew
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 7, 2010
Maybe it's because of my relatively non-athletic disposition, but whenever I hear the phrase "fantasy football," my mind instantly conjures up images of helmet-wearing hobbits barefooting it into the endzone, elves sidestepping orc defensive linemen, and enormous slobbering trolls lumbering up to the line of scrimmage. Instead of a blimp, a dragon circles above the stadium, and the Eye of Sauron, up in its tower, gives a running commentary on the magical gridiron action below. This, to me, seems far more entertaining than real fantasy football—there's an oxymoron for you—the allure of which I've never completely understood. To each his own, though. Some 27 million Americans participate in fantasy football leagues each year, and the FX network has created a sitcom just for them: The League. The show is only marginally about the actual mechanics of fantasy football coaching—the player drafts and substitutions, the esoteric scoring system—focusing instead on the kind of men who enjoy the game. If The League is any indication, though, these guys are all obtuse, sex-starved, homophobic 30-something troglodytes who still act like frat boys during pledge week. Talk about insulting your key demographic.
But maybe it's insulting in an affectionate way, like when one character in The League calls his easily fooled best bud a "sweet, gullible little sucktard." This kind of good-naturedly malicious ribbing is inherent in bro-mantic relationships—especially of the former frat boy variety—and it provides the basis for most of The League's crass, family un-friendly comedy. Seriously, you won't want to watch this one with the kids around.
The show follows the pathetic follies of five friends as they compete in their annual fantasy football tournament, the so-called Quest for Shiva, a contest that serves, primarily, as a brief escape from emasculation at the hands of the women in their lives. When we meet Pete (Mark Duplass), the three-time defending champion, he's on the verge of separating from his wife, partly because she's too sexually aggressive—forcibly, shall we say, probing his prostate during sex whilst aggressively shouting, "I'm the boss." (The last straw, however, is when she donates his "I Shaved My Balls For This?" t-shirt to their housekeeper. This, in case you were wondering, is about as highbrow as the show gets.) Pete's best friend, Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), is more figuratively under the finger of his wife, Jenny (Katie Aselton), who secretly makes all the strategic decisions for his team, and who allows him to watch pornography, but only while he's working out on the NordicTrack in the basement. Bespectacled Jewish defense attorney Rodney (Nick Kroll) is similarly sexually frustrated. He hasn't slept with his extremely hot wife since she had a baby a few months ago, and just when she's about to let him back into the bedroom, she busts him watching online videos of big-boobed women jogging in training bras. Sex, or rather, the lack thereof, becomes a preoccupation for most of the characters.
Only one of the bros is getting any: Taco (Jon Lajoie), an unemployed musician who pulls birds quicker than Alfie, despite the fact that he's perpetually stoned, drinks a vile concoction called "Three Penis Wine," and lives by the code of the "Eskimo Family Tree." To explain the latter, if you and a friend have sex with the same woman, you're colloquially known as "Eskimo brothers." This can come in handy. Case in point: When the boys gets turned away at a nightclub, the bouncer finally lets them in when he discovers that he and Taco are, um, related. Taco is also known to sing extremely explicit songs at inappropriate times, like when he performs this little ditty for Kevin's daughter at her fifth birthday party: "Your dad was so excited / To get inside your mom / That he forgot / To put a condom on." Later in the series, he makes a music video for a catchy number called "Vaginal Hubris." Sample lyric: "Her vagina is a church / And her clitoris is the steeple / Her vulva's one of Barbara Walter's most fascinating people." Classy.
The fifth and final member of the gang is Andre (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon whose wealth is only surpassed by his startling naiveté. When his buds come over to his opulent downtown loft, he proudly shows them the framed remnants of the first joint he ever smoked in college, a doobie which—his friends then tell him—was actually rolled out of their pubic hair. Andre has an advantage in the tournament, though; he's secretly dating Shivakamini Somakandarkram (Janina Gavankar), the former homely high school valedictorian for whom the league's trophy—The Shiva Bowl—is, for reasons that never go explained, named.
At its best, The League calls to mind the spitfire verbal sparring and episodic absurdities of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. The five friends are specialists at talking smack to one another, inventing ever-new insults about penis size and homosexual inclinations. ("Ladies, ladies," says one impatiently during the draft, "make a pick or get a room and rub dongs.") The show is not—it should be clear by now—for the easily offended. Even the hard-to-offend may find themselves periodically wincing, as when the show portrays a mentally retarded Chinese man as an uncomfortable stereotype—thick glasses, buck teeth, talking gibberish. I can live with scatological humor and anatomical explicitness, however juvenile, but borderline racism is an instant comedic turnoff for me. There's still a line between edginess and outright unfunny bad taste, and The League crosses it a few times too many in its six-episode first season. Still, the show has its moments of crass brilliancy, and it's even occasionally perceptive in the way it portrays its developmentally arrested characters retreating into the realm of fantasy football to escape the responsibilities of the real world.
1. The Draft
2. The Bounce Test
3. Sunday at Ruxin's
4. Mr. McGibblets
5. The Usual Bet
6. The Shiva Bowl
Note: The original broadcasts are included here, along with slightly longer extended cuts of all six episodes.
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Video Quality
The League was shot natively on high definition video, so it looks far better than the upconvert of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia's standard-def fifth season, but this is still a fairly low-budget outing from FX. Meaning, as opposed to the 24fps filmic look you get from, say, feature films shot on the digital RED camera, the image here is distinctly video-ish, with a flat quality and occasional flukes like mild aliasing and shimmer. (Especially noticeable on the frames of Ruxin's glasses.) Still, it is what it is, and it works for the show. Clarity is quite strong for this kind of production—revealing background detail and pulling texture out of the character's unshaven faces and scruffy attire—and color is generally lifelike. That is, not bland but never particularly vivid either. Skin tones never waver into the overly ruddy or pallid, and black levels are solid but not spectacular. As is common with lower- budget video, highlights are often blown out and bright colors sometimes seem splotchy and overexposed. None of these quibbles, however, become distractions. For a low-rent basic cable show shot on video, you can't ask for much more.
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The same goes for the show's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation, which delivers exactly what you'd expect from a show like this: clean dialogue, a loud theme song, and the occasional sound effect panned into the surround speakers. There's really not much else to say here. With the exception of music and the rare instance of rear channel ambience, The League's entire soundtrack is shifted up front and center. The show doesn't have much that could be called "action," so there aren't really any opportunities for more aggressive or intricate sound design. What we get, instead, are verbal sparring matches—nicely balanced and always easy to understand. Optional English SDH subtitles are available in easy-to-read white lettering.
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blooper Reel (1080p, 8:49)
Flubs, botched lines, and F-bombs.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 9:48)
Cut material from each episode.
Alt Nation (1080p, 6:38)
Alternate takes of some of the series' choicest lines.
Three Penis Wine (SD, 3:06)
Taco's infomercial for "Three Penis Wine," the virility-enhancing beverage made from the nether-parts of dogs, deer, and snakes.
Vaginal Hubris Extended (1080p, 1:49)
The full music video. Let's hope this song never makes it to the top of the iTunes charts.
Birthday Song (1080p, 2:05)
The complete version of Taco's delightfully filthy birthday song.
Legalize Kevin's Pubic Smoke (1080p, 1:35)
Another song from Taco, this one not nearly as good as the others.
Mr. McGibblets Fun House & Dojo (1080p, 7:40)
Taco stars as Mr. McGibblets in a mock, Barney & Friends-style kids' show.
Andre: Dress With Style, Win With Style (1080p, 5:43)
Andre teaches us how to dress for success.
More from FX: Archer Pilot Episode (1080p, 21:33)
The first episode of FX's hilarious "James Bond meets Arrested Development" animated spy comedy.
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Crass, sardonic, and filthier than a hobo's bedroll, The League is a short-run sitcom about—and for—aging fratboys still holding on to juvenile fantasies about sports and sex. The show is occasionally very funny, but it's wildly inconsistent in execution. I'm all for edgy, offensive comedy, but there are a few scenes here—like the bit with the mentally retarded Chinese guy—that just seem tasteless and even borderline racist. Bad form. Comedy, though, is incredibly subjective, so with a show this outré in its guttermindedness, a rental—rather than a blind buy—is probably in order.
The League: Other Seasons
The League: The Complete Season One Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Amazon Blu-ray Deals of the Week: 30 for 30 and The League (Expired) - September 30, 2012
Amazon's Blu-ray Deals of the Week affect both ESPN Films' ESPN 30 for 30 package as well as Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment's first two The League season sets. Through this week, the 30 for 30 is 56% off its SRP of $99.95, while the League sets are ...
• The League: The Complete Season Two Blu-ray (Updated) - August 3, 2011
Amazon has listed for pre-order the Blu-ray release of The League: The Complete Season Two. This raucous FX comedy follows the antics that arise as five men compete against one another in their fantasy football league. The upcoming Blu-ray will feature all 13 episodes ...
• The League Season 1 Announced on Blu-ray - August 12, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced The League: The Complete First Season a loosely-scripted sitcom set against the backdrop of a fantasy football league, for Blu-ray release on September 14. This BD release will feature seamlessly-branched extended ...
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