Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The League barely gets a “Trophy Kevin” for participation

Illustration for article titled The League barely gets a “Trophy Kevin” for participation

The League is often at its worst when it’s most obviously reminiscent of a typical sitcom. Some shows thrive on the obvious structure of multiple plots, leaning in to overly telegrapher punchlines and the strength of performances to make you laugh in spite of how dorky everything is (I’m thinking specifically of something like New Girl), but The League thrives on its ability to gross out and, if not surprise, then at least repeat its bizarre motifs often enough that the show just gets plain weird. Unfortunately, “Trophy Kevin” is maybe the farthest thing from weird—it’s a phoned-in League episode that somehow feels like its hit the full-episode mark at just a few minutes in.

Partly, this is because, as the show winds down, it’s already hung a lantern on six on how formulaic it occasionally is, and “Trophy Kevin” just reverts to that without any of the final season experimentation. The title plot, in which Kevin’s relationship with Pete becomes strained due to the presence of a younger, shinier Kevin who works with Pete as a ref, is super lame and boring. (The only genuinely funny moment is when Kevin claims Pete as “his” child.) Kevin’s insecurity? Often very funny. Watching it done the same way for the thousandth time? Meh.

The focus on Pete and Kevin’s friendship, one of the show’s oldest sources of comedy, mostly serves to highlight the absence of Nick Kroll, as well as most of the recurring cast. Meegan was doing a surprisingly great job shaking up the cast dynamic, through her relationships with Andre and Pete and couple terrorizing of the MacArthurs. Without her (and with oddly little discussion of her absence), there’s… not that much going on. Case in point: Taco does some stuff, makes EBDBBnB jokes we’ve heard a lot without adding any shine, and flies a drone around, which… is fine?

Andre’s plot involves him getting back into the dating pool, which should ostensibly be funny except that Andre is almost always funnier in relationships (while Pete is always funnier when he’s either single or in obviously doomed relationships he doesn’t care about at all). Rather than dealing with his feelings about Meegan, Andre decides he randomly wants to date someone “down to earth” or something after creeping some girl out at a farmer’s market, and gets on a dating app for farmers that felt like it was news and vaguely interesting a year ago. It’s mostly an excuse for Paul Scheer to sort of pretend to be a farmer and lamely come on to this poor woman, which is fine as far as it goes (at least she seems bemused by his “heirloom hand job farm”). But the idea that a woman who is very conventionally attractive and lives in Chicago would use a farmers’ dating app because she worries about being able to ensnare a dorky, obnoxious plastic surgeon is… just dumb and lazy.

It doesn’t feel great to dump on the episode I’m dropping in to cover, but this really is the worst installment of the season so far, when The League, a show I used to really love, has clearly overstayed its welcome. (For what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed the Meegan stuff.) There are a few good things about this episode: Jenny’s intense focus on winning and amoral competitiveness is still the best, leading her to try to get Ellie’s soccer game rigged so that she and Kevin don’t have to waste their Sundays in Decatur. The ref basketball game is a decent concept, and is close to really being over the top in a “three penis wine” way. And Trophy Kevin losing his fingers might be single most effective moment of the episode, precisely because of how crazy and borderline sociopathic it is. More of that, please.

Stray observations:

  • “No farmer has hands this soft and smooth.” Is that true? Like, wouldn’t Andre mostly be working with machines if he were doing mass farming by now? (This is a vaguely serious question, since I’m sure he would be doing quite a bit of work with his hands. I don’t know.)
  • “It was a three-pack and these poly-cotton blends mean something to me.”
  • Hi guys! Continuing my streak of doing this subbing thing for the past two years, I’m covering this week and next week’s episodes.