(FX) The League is one of those shows that takes seemingly ordinary situations and characters and pushes them way over the top, until they bear little resemblance to reality. It's a farce that revels in its own ridiculousness. The snappy dialogue, weird references, and wide-eyed commitment of the actors will keep you laughing the whole way through.
Take this scene from the second season: Pete (Mark Duplass) is reminiscing about the time Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) ran an online campaign comparing Andre (Paul Scheer) to the vampire from Nosferatu. Kevin responds, “To my defense, I thought it was a compliment to be compared to a celebrity.” This would have been a solid gag even if the celebrity in question had been someone like, say, Jason Alexander; however, the reference to a silent film from 1922 pushes it into the realm of genius. Add to that the fact that Scheer really does look quite a bit like Count Orlok, and you've got great comedy.
Immediately after this exchange, Kevin's younger brother Taco (Jon Lajoie) walks into the room with a splint on his wrist and explains, “Like most people, I've always been into traditional Eastern medicine. I just always thought that Western medicine was a bit of a joke. But when I got to the emergency room, I was blown away by how professional it was... This entire experience has really opened my eyes to the ancient wisdom of the West.”
That's pretty much what you can expect from The League: jokes that speed in from all angles, ricochet off each other, and rarely leave time for you to catch your breath. The show could be put next to great ensemble comedies like Workaholics and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in a display case labeled “The New Absurdity.” These are shows that place bizarre, unexpected humor above all else, taking the sitcom format and removing the sense of familiarity and safety that used to define the genre.
The League certainly has the setup of a traditional sitcom: a group of friends in their thirties learn to cope with the stresses of adult life by rallying around their fantasy football league. They argue over trades, and try to trick each other into making mistakes, accidentally addressing issues of friendship and romance in the process. However, where a show like Friends would have used the conceit to heartwarming effect, the writers of The League would rather frustrate and humiliate their characters. There's always an edge of cruelty and disappointment under the lighthearted banter.
Is this type of comedy a reaction to the perception of a harder, less forgiving world in the 21st Century? Are sitcom writers treating white middle-class characters with a bit more contempt these days because of a greater awareness of American privilege and guilt? It's hard to say for sure, but it seems likely. Our lives are filled with things like social media, political advertisements, and nostalgia for increasingly recent cultural events; such an existence is inherently ridiculous and ripe for mockery.
Whatever the underpinnings of this style of comedy may be, the important point is that you should watch it because it's funny. The writers and actors of The League really go for it, finding the little moments of relatable interactions amid the chaos. The show has definitely found its audience, as the fourth season will air in October of 2012. Give it a try, and you'll most likely find yourself among those who appreciate The League's weirdness.
Why We Like It: unapologetically absurd, pushes the boundaries of the sitcom format, great cast