The League is at it's best when it takes a relatively believable situation—a bunch of friends at a bar, trash-talking each other's fantasy football picks—and elevates it, effortlessly, into a realm of the completely absurd. The logic between the gang on The League rivals that the McClaren's crew on How I Met Your Mother in their complete devotion to the integrity of made-up rules. Any normal human might take pity on a friend who was, say, finagled by a bet into not shaving or cutting his hair for seven months while playing the flute for people waiting for the bus. But not on The League, where poor Andre was doomed to a sad topiary-looking goatee and the plaintive defense "It's flautist, thank you." (Though I did love Pete's protest: "I just told him his punishment was that he had to play the flute! He took the lessons on his own.")
Yes, vindictive behavior is the reason for the season, and Ruxin knows it well. As winner of last year's Shiva, he not only has a ridiculous Superbowl-style championship ring crafted for himself ("it says 'suck it'" on the side"), but has one final, devastating punishment for the Sacco-bestowed Andre to come. Namely, to banish him from his own apartment during the draft so that the ever-scraggly Raffi and his comrade-in-arms Dirty Randy (played by a pretty spot-on Seth Rogen) can shoot a porn video in Andre's otherwise meticulously-curated loft. It's a premise that neatly sprints past "hilarious joke between friends" and into "cultivating mortal enemies" territory.
Dirty Randy got in a couple of great lines—"Puns are as vital to porn industry as to the pet shop and child's hair salon!" and his lament that he got no publicity from Toebangers III being among Osama Bin Laden's porn collection—but it seemed like more of a stretch than the show was capable of handling, and most of the Dr. Andre NoDick jokes were straining. Of course, in the weird karma loop that comedy shows have going for them, Ruxin ends up locking Kevin, Pete, and Jenny out on the patio during his bizarre Bachelor-esque ceremony ("If you get a haircut and I don't say anything, it's because I think you got a shitty haircut"), and everyone's team except Andre's gets auto-chosen. It was one of the funnier moments to watch Andre's confusion and alarm at everyone else's unorthodox picks, which he assumed were some sort of strategic genius, as the others watched the names tick down behind the writhing porn actors in horror.
This episode was funniest when the characters had more room to react to each other—as in the torrent of amazing insults for Andre's new look ("anorexic David Crosby" was my favorite), or Taco's amazing tale of starring on the Algerian soap opera Sands of Passion playing "an American rapper/cowboy/cautionary tale." Jenny's whole dog-training-her-husband Kevin plotline could have gone really wrong, until it turned out that both Pete and Taco had also been using those methods on Kevin for years. (The magic word is "Pumpernickel.") The team's decision to fix the draft order—and Ruxin's immediate copping to it—was also an interesting moment; at least insofar as it confirmed that Kevin is the weakest link in any conspiracy the gang forms. But of course, no one has any kind of lineup this year, regardless of the machinations of the cobra bowl. The premiere had moments where zany over-the-top humor trumped the quiet, jabbing mirth it's good at, but there were enough funny moments that I predict a promising season for the show, if for none of the characters.
- "Do you see yourself more as a rapist who does magic or a magician who likes to rape?"
- "Pile into your clown car of lies."
- "Oh, you play the flaut?"