Sometimes when The League is at its best, it often feels like the sitcom equivalent of hanging out on the couch with close friends, drinking beers, talking shit, and trying to one-up each other with silly jokes. The stakes are low, the environment is comfortable, and it doesn’t matter if there are a few groaners here and there. On the other hand, sometimes when The League is trudging through a clunker of an episode, it reminds me of that friend who gets broken-record drunk and stuck on one joke that just doesn’t work. You know the kind: He’ll make a joke that no one laughs at but then continue to spend the rest of the night repeating it, expanding on it, and ignoring everyone’s wary looks. That was basically my problem with much of “The Near Death Flex-perience.”
Like always, there were some aspects of the episode that I did enjoy. There was the requisite reminder that fantasy football is still a thing in this show, this time done through Kevin’s titular near death flex-perience. He couldn’t decide his flex player for the week but gets an answer when he nearly crashes his car and “meets” Greg Jennings who encourages Kevin to play him. It’s a good storyline that brings together two things that have always worked in The League: the gang’s tendency to put the fantasy league above everything and the fun relationship between Kevin and Jenny.
As Jenny points out, Kevin’s “life flashing before his eyes” experience focuses solely on his fantasy football life. He doesn’t see his wife (or “the other ones,” as he hilarious refers to his two children) but instead Jennings shows him the mistakes that he’s made in fantasy and how his life could be if he plays the game better. When Jennings tries to tell Kevin to spend more time with his family, Kevin cuts him off to ask about his hair. It’s typical narcissistic and stupid Kevin, but that’s a Kevin that usually makes me laugh a lot. The storyline really works when it comes full circle and Jenny’s the one in the car. Unlike Kevin, her near death experience doesn’t come with any fantasy advice but just features her family. After her earlier gripes, I love seeing her yell “This is bullshit” in response to Kevin saying “We love you.”
Aside from that, the rest of the episode kept losing me. I once mentioned that I would still love The League if every episode were just about Taco having a new business out of his uncle’s van every week, but, well, I may have spoken too soon. Sure, the basic concept of Pubercuts: A Groin Salon where Taco is a pubic barber is funny for about a minute, but as the episode went on, I found myself disliking it and becoming increasingly bored. The interactions between Pete and his younger girlfriend or the scene where Ruxin reluctantly becomes one of Taco’s customers should have worked—especially the Ruxin one—but instead, I kept groaning and wishing the episode would go in any other direction.
Taco’s food truck endeavor worked because of his gross incompetence (and the way Ruxin threw himself into the job) and Taco’s petting zoo worked because of his obliviousness and how totally—but hilariously!—fucked up the whole idea was. They also both involved outside people too, so we got reactions from those not used to his antics. Taco’s barber business doesn’t work as well because the whole idea is just hey, pubic barber is a funny phrase, let’s throw that in the episode with the insistence that it’ll get funnier the more the guys sit around and joke about it. I had a lot of “I guess I should laugh at the idea of a Skrillex cut but, eh” reactions.
That still leaves the worst story of the night: Andre’s ALS patient whose voice box sounds like Ruxin. It started off okay with the patient making fun of how pathetic Andre is, but then it went downhill pretty quickly. Again, it is something that works better in theory than in practice. Of course we knew the guys would use the voice box to imitate Ruxin, and of course we knew that something would go hilariously awry, but when it segues into Donald having phone sex with Ruxin’s wife? Yikes. The League is great at gross-out humor and great at joking about fucked up things (I mean, I think the Ted-has-AIDS story included some of the funniest stuff of this season so far), but most of “The Near Death Flex-perience” felt more uncomfortable than funny. Often, when The League has storylines that don’t immediately sell me, it can still win me back at the end, but even the payoffs here (Ruxin getting pulled over, the pubic wigs) weren’t enough. Ah, well, you can’t win them all.
- Favorite joke: the reveal that Taco thought Ruxin’s full name was “Ruspin Ruxin.”
- I realize I sound extra cranky in this review, but I didn’t think it was truly awful or the worst episode of the series—it mostly just bored me, which is such a shame.
- I completely forgot to update my fantasy team last week (which goes with the theme of me being unable to cover last week’s episode; thanks to Eric for stepping in!) but still managed to win with barely any players. Hooray for flukes!
- There are only two weeks left of The League, so it’s probably a good time to start placing bets on who we think will win.