I suppose fantasy sports leagues offer their participants a way to imagine themselves in the game without requiring any talent or physical ability. In the comedy The League, a fantasy football league provides a bunch of friends and family members with the opportunity to act like
obsessed, onboxious jerks in pursuit of their imaginary championship.

Rodney Ruxon (Nick Kroll) is a product-liability attorney (representing despicable clients: "The way I look at it is, if you can't afford a Porterhouse you deserve hepatitis") who is an obnoxious league winner, disgusting trash-talker, and paranoid about the others conspiring against him (which they usually are). Pete Eckhart (Mark Duplass) is a bit of a womanizer who likes to manipulate the other league members into bad trades. Kevin MacArthur (Stephen Rannazzisi) is the league commissioner who's never won the Shiva. Jenny MacArthur (Katie Aselton) is Kevin's wife, a league member since season 2, and quite comfortable with being described as a spciopath. Taco MacArthur (John Lajoie) is Kevin's brother, a very happy stoner musician always coming up with bizarre plans -- and who doesn't care much about the league, though he's wound up as its champion. And rounding out the league is Andre Nowzick (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon who seems to follow every fad and makes himself the butt of the other's jokes. This group hangs out, gets in bizarre (and often juvenile and/or disgusting) situations, and seems focused on making trades, updating their weekly lineups, winning the Shiva (the trophy for the team doing the best) and avoiding the Sacko (the trophy for the worst team, made from... well, you don't want to know).

The League is largely improvised, which makes its strength not the plots (which can be fairly typical: Kevin and Jenny's young daughter curses after hearing her parents, Ruxon has to pretend not to be sick in front of his boss) but in the one-liners and character discussions. Fortunately, they work very well, from Taco's wildly inappropriate birthday song to Taco's having a "guest bong" in the home of all of his friends. There are also some terrific guest-stars: numerous football players; Sarah Silverman as Andre's sister, who slept with most of the people in the league; Nadine Velazquez (from My Name is Earl) as Sofia, Ruxon's beautiful wife; Seth Rogen as Dirty Randy, a porn producer; and especially Jason Mantzoukas as Rafi, Sofia's brother and a violent, erratic, somewhat insane vagrant -- who has some of the funniest lines on the show when he's on.

The League goes for base humor pretty often (though it's nice that Jenny is just like one of the guys, instead of a bland woman reacting to the craziness around her), but when it's funny, it's really funny. This won't make you want to watch football or join a fantasy football league -- but it will make you laugh.

Overall grade: B

Reviewed by James Lynch

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