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Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The League" continues to surprise in its third season





When FX's "The League" started a few years ago, it seemed like nothing more than the TV version of the zillions of raunchy bro comedies that have invaded movie screens. It was about a fantasy football league in Chicago and, though fitfully amusing, it was hardly must-watch TV. It wasn't quite sharp enough to be a satire of our sports-obsessed (and status-obsessed) culture. And it wasn't funny or focused enough to be just a buddy sitcom, either.
But, about midway through its first season, "The League," which returns for its third season tonight at 10:30, found its footing.

The fantasy football league went from being the show's focus to just being the mechanism to bring together a bunch of gifted comic actors and writers, including Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Jon LaJoie and Steve Rannazzisi. The humor was still coarse and raunchy, but it became funnier and the show's stars quickly developed into one of TV's funniest ensembles.
The fantasy football stuff is still there, but it's used more effectively. For instance, in the season three premiere, Ruxin (Kroll) celebrates his win of the league's coveted Shiva Bowl last season by recreating one of the more infamous moments in sports history, and it is gasp-to-catch-your-breath hilarious. But, overall, "The League" has become a show about the way guys bond, fight with, harass and insult each other. For instance, this season Seth Rogen makes a funny cameo as the previously talked about (but not seen) Dirty Randy, who helps them play a rather gross prank on the nerdy Andre (Scheer).
The show is almost a little too loose and random in its pursuit of humor. I'm still not entirely sure what tangible role LaJoie's character -- the perpetually stones, perverted ballad-composing Taco -- plays in the show, but he is sometimes very funny. And that's the main thing "The League" has accomplished over time. It went from an unfocused, fitfully amusing series to something that makes me laugh out loud at least once a week.

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