The League: "Heavy Petting"
B+

The League: "Heavy Petting"

The nice thing about this current season of The League is that the show has gotten to a comfortable place where all of the main characters and their actions (and therefore the fallout from these actions) all make sense, even when they definitely shouldn’t. There is nothing really surprising or shockingly hilarious happening in “Heavy Petting,” just loads of wordplay and misunderstandings, but there are still plenty of funny scenes that all stem from years of setup. This is an episode that shows why I keep going back and forth on whether or not I think this sitcom has been getting stale. Last week, I was leaning very heavily toward yes, The League is going in circles, because “The Bye Week” felt very much like a filler episode, something that wasn’t too spectacular but that the writers threw in to help push this season toward 13 episodes. I wish I knew some fitting football metaphor to explain this further, but alas, I’ve somehow managed to not pick up on any jargon within the last five years. Anyway, after rewatching that episode (which I still don’t think was great, but do think it’s not as foreboding to the series as I made it out to be) and then watching tonight’s, I understand that I’m probably being a little too hard on this little show.

As I said, much of “Heavy Petting”—and really, this season as a whole—relies on all of the previous setup, which is impressive, when you think about how there has basically been zero character development since day one. This would be a huge red flag for just about any other sitcom that I watch, but here, I don’t think lack of character development is a bad thing. Sure there are tiny changes: different league champions, a fairly new baby for Kevin and Jenny, a girlfriend or two for Pete, and Andre’s almost wedding in the beginning of this season. But where are we now? The only league champion I can remember is Ted (and that’s only because he was played by Adam Brody), Baby Chalupa is so inconsequential that, as we learned last week, even Kevin and Jenny have both left him in the grocery store, Pete is still single, and Andre’s wedding was called off. We’re pretty much back at square one, but I’m learning that I can’t really complain about that. I loved these asshole characters at the beginning, and I still love these asshole characters now, even when they repeat the same behavior patterns.

These last two episodes have both relied heavily on the classic setups that we’ve come to expect from The League. I found “Heavy Petting” to be more successful because the stakes were higher, leading to funnier and more satisfying payoffs (plus it threw in some great physical comedy which is never a bad thing). For example, Taco’s Truck was funny enough for the wordplay, but this time, Uncle Frank’s van is transformed into Heavy Petting. The joke of the name is smarter, the concept—a petting zoo—is sillier, and Taco’s ignorance is really heightened. Sure, I like that Taco doesn’t get why a truck named after him should sell Mexican food, but the idea that he thinks “puppy” doesn’t relate to the age of a dog but rather an ethnicity (“like Canadian or vampire”) really kills me. The puppies aren’t puppies but rather angry, old, snarling dogs that bite children. Oh, and they’re not just old dogs but they’re old enough to drop dead in the middle of a kids’ party resulting in Taco grabbing a defibrillator and even performing mouth-to-mouth. Taco is so wonderfully disturbing in this scene from his peppy “Grab a shovel, we’re going to play puppy funeral!” to his calm reveal that there’s “already two [dead] dogs” in his van. It gets weirder and weirder, and it works.

Kevin and Jenny also have their marriage story this week and, again, it’s better than last week’s. This time, Jenny is trying to make the family eat healthier, prompting Kevin to hide food in the toilet tank. Not the most revolutionary story, but it’s so worth it for that oddly cute (but gross) scene of Kevin and Ellie sitting around in the bathroom, the toilet made up like a table, and cheers’ing licorice. I love Ellie, not because she’s a particularly great or memorable character, but because the adults’ reactions to her being a total disaster were some of my favorite jokes from previous seasons. We do get a little bit of that when Jenny attempts to defend Ellie’s action by exclaiming “She’s OUR jackass! We made her that way!” Kevin and Jenny’s story comes to a head in a slyly funny way involving Taco nonchalantly waltzing in to the bathroom to get his cheese from the toilet tank while Jenny was in the room.

Also similar to “The Bye Week,” Pete and Andre are paired up again. (Has this always been a common pairing? I can’t remember past seasons, but it’s happened a couple of times this season). They still don’t have the best story, but Pete making Andre into his “trade maid” only to screw him over is a bit more inspiring than their detective duty last week. As for Ruxin, he’s mostly in his own little world as he feuds with a neighbor over someone peeing on her grass—it turns out Baby Geoffrey is the culprit.

Neither plots are over the top hilarious, but both made me appreciate just how great The League is at seamlessly bringing together all of these different stories and elements. The vitamins Kevin are taking turn his pee green, so Ruxin uses them to recolor his neighbor’s lawn, and a shock collar Taco uses on his dogs ends up on the neighbor’s wrist, leading to a fantastic scene and that aforementioned physical comedy. Andre borrows Taco’s creepy looking Heavy Petting van to help Pete out and later runs into a lost Ellie (who has just been hanging out with Taco because she’s avoiding her mother’s healthy food) and tries to coax her into the van. We all know where this misunderstanding is going, but that doesn’t make it any less funny when the cop tackles Andre mid-sentence. If the writers keep finding ways to make its oft repeated and predictable jokes pay off as well as they did tonight, then I’ll officially restore my faith in The League.

Stray observations:

  • “I took one of his wheels off so no one could steal him.”
  • The fantasy league has been so far in the background lately, barely existing except in throwaway plots like tonight’s with Pete and Andre, that I’m betting it’ll come into picture full force during the second half of the season.
  • Between that entire party scene, Taco’s meeting with Ellie (and the way he tosses her a compass to help her get home), and the knowledge that he keeps food in the back of random toilets—including one at the Sears Tower—this was, by far, my favorite Taco episode in a while.
  • So since this is running parallel to the misadventures of Rafi and Dirty Randy, does this mean Rafi’s gong to be away in Los Angeles for the rest of the season? I didn’t think I’d say this, but I miss him.
  • If The League were just a show about the misadventures of Taco having a different truck business every week, I’d still watch it. 

More TV Club