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

The League: "The Bringer Show"

Illustration for article titled The League: "The Bringer Show"

Here’s a question that I’ve been asking a lot lately: Of the main cast, who is your favorite character? I qualify it with “main cast” because I know that Rafi is quite the fan favorite—even when he’s not on the show—but I’m more curious about the rankings of our main six. There are a lot of sitcoms that feature “awful” characters, and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is the obvious comparison here, not just because of its time slot but because of the many other similarities (at the core, both shows are essentially about a group of friends who hang out and often act terrible to each other, bound together by just the bare minimum: a fantasy football league, a flailing bar). What’s telling is that everyone seems to have an immediate answer with Sunny, but with The League, there is usually some hesitation. Of course, our Sunny characters are more cut-and-dry, and the show has had a longer time to really flesh everyone out, but maybe it’s also because they are actually more abhorrent as a whole. The friends on The League aren’t the best people, but they aren’t downright despicable. They are mean, and they do shitty things sometimes, but they never seem to harbor any true hatred toward each other. They want to see each other lose in the fantasy league, and will do just about anything to ensure that happens, but they still have a lot of fun hanging out together. Their levels of meanness tend to ebb and flow per character, per episode, which is why it’s hard to pinpoint which character—if any—I find myself particularly attached to.

I bring this up because episodes like “The Bringer Show” always remind me of the way many tightknit friend groups jokingly describe themselves: “We’re friends because no one else will put up with us.” In The League, no one outside of the group really has the patience or desire to put up with these guys for any extended period of time. Ruxin’s the only character who has a significant other that sticks around (Kevin and Jenny obviously don’t count), and that’s because she is barely seen hanging around any of them, especially this season, and is usually wary whenever they do cross paths. Ruxin often works overtime to ensure that Sophia’s happy because he’s aware that she’s, well, out of his league in every sense of the word. The league doesn’t really have outside platonic friends, either (and when Taco does, it’s hobos and mentally ill veterans), and basically any encounter they have with a potential friend goes horribly awry—for example, Jenny steals breast milk. Simply put, these friends should stick to only hanging out with each other, which is why it’s so funny when they leave their inner circle.

That’s where the bulk of jokes are in “The Bringer Show.” Jenny decides to join a group of fancy women investors called the Lucrative Ladies Club, perhaps still on an improvement kick from last week’s health food debacle. Jenny, who is probably my personal favorite character, definitely won’t fit in with these women. Sure, she’s pretty, funny, and occasionally whip-smart in a conniving way, but she also curses like a sailor (and passes this trait down to Ellie), lives in a house overflowing with dude-centric sports toys, and keeps the worst company. Jenny joins the club because she wants to learn to better handle her finances (as opposed to Kevin who keeps pizza funds and fun funds spread throughout the house), but there’s also part of her that wants to join because it’s so opposite of what she’s used to. These are refined ladies who don’t talk about football, who think “Kevin” is an unacceptable name for a husband and prefer “Kip.” Jenny’s comfortable with herself, but there’s always that desire to be something else—to be better, for lack of a better word—and that’s generally where it backfires.

This happens with Kevin, too; he has a new gym system to get in shape (and is so uncomfortable with himself that he lies about his height/weight), but his insecurities aren’t limited to the physical. He never ends up working out but instead begins to pour out feelings and inadequacies (which are mostly Jenny related) to his fitness journal turned personal diary. Then, of course, he gets distracted by pizza, but hey, we’ve all been there.

Meanwhile, Andre has reenrolled in a stand-up comedy class after failing the first time. He also spends much of the episode outside of the core group: at the class where he fails to impress his teacher (played by Natasha Leggero) and at the hospital where all of his jokes fall flat, especially when he uses a patient in a coma as a prop. If you really want to stretch the inadequacy theme, Andre’s attempts to out-funny a fellow doctor are equally funny and sad. Still, Andre’s failed comedy gets the biggest laughs of the night because his act is perfectly horrible, ranging from terrible, indecipherable accents to his doctor wordplay to getting hilariously heckled by the homeless man that he invited to fill the room.

Andre does get some sort of redemption with a successful attempt at insult humor aimed toward Kevin, who shows up late and dressed like a hobo, thus thoroughly embarrassing Jenny in front of her new friends. The comedy show is where all of the storylines come together, including Taco’s quick inclusion into the LLC and Pete and Ruxin’s fantasy league conflict. It’s the funniest scene in the episode, one that just turns into everyone fighting, some more seriously than others. It’s also where Kevin and Jenny’s attempts to better themselves backfire; Jenny has to reveal that gross Kevin is her husband, and Kevin has his diary read, out loud, to everyone in the room. The majority of the last act is just everyone trading insults back and forth and definitely shows why they all have a hard time maintaining any friendships outside of the group, but it also shows why they all keep staying friends with each other. They have a lot of fun, as Jenny snaps at the Lucrative Ladies, and that’s the whole point.


Stray observations:

  • This was one of the rare League episodes where every storyline worked for me. Even Pete and Ruxin, who had a small story where Pete tricked Ruxin into overthinking his lineup and therefore sabotaging himself, was funny even if we’ve seen it before.
  • Reading Kevin’s diary struck me as a little too mean-spirited, but then again, Andre is so rarely in a position of power over anyone else and, well, Kevin is often the biggest dick in the show.
  • That said, I felt bad for Jenny who had to hear that Kevin thinks she’s dumb—a joke that worked because she’s so clearly not—but her snapping “I’m awesome” at the LLC proves why she’s so often my favorite on the show. I also love that she quickly picked up on Taco sleeping with one of the ladies.
  • The way the LLC quickly took a shine to Taco and hung on to his every word was great, especially because it showed how ridiculous both the LLC and Taco are.
  • The two things in sitcom that will almost always make me laugh are a) actors acting as bad actors—see Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock and b) purposely bad comedy acts. So yes, I laughed through all of Andre’s “jokes.” I love that even his way to tie everything together—“Keep ‘em separated!—at the end was a shitty joke. Good for Andre.
  • In case you want an update: I totally killed it in my fantasy league last weekend, 205-85.