'The League' review: It could go all ... the ... way

league-cast-3.jpgHere's the thing: whatever your feelings about FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" -- love it, hate it, ambivalent -- chances are you'll feel the same way about new comedy series "The League," premiering Thursday, Oct. 29.

I have never been in love with "It's Always Sunny," but "The League" made me laugh out loud several times. It focuses on a group of guy friends who play in the same fantasy football league every year and as I happen to be an avid fantasy football player, I found the jokes punchy and clever.

The five guys are League Commissioner Kevin ( Stephen Rannazzisi), a married father and assistant DA; Kevin's best friend Pete ( Mark Duplass), the reigning champ and three-time winner of the league who has a controlling girlfriend; Kevin's brother Taco ( Jon Lajoie), a stoner slack-off ladies' man; Ruxin ( Nick Kroll), an intense defense attorney; and Andre (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon, terrible fantasy football player and the group's punching bag.

league-cast-2.jpgThe interactions between the men are amusing and realistic. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in the company of men, will find that the pranks, shenanigans and ragging on each other rings true and sports fans will enjoy the football-centric dialogue. The writers obviously know what they're doing, as evidenced by the use of real-life NFL players and real-life fantasy football mistakes:

[ to Andre, remedial fantasy football player]
Pete: Andre of the previous seasons is gone. The last thing he is gonna do this year is draft Tiki Barber, even though he's actually just a commentator.
Kevin: You know what you should do this year? You should look at Phil Simms or Boomer Esiason.

However, when the show veers away from the buddy time and the football talk, it gets into the absurd "It's Always Sunny" territory and that may lose some viewers.

The best example is the sexually-explicit song Taco writes for brother Kevin's daughter Ellie's 5th birthday. Not only is it hard to believe someone would write a song like this in the first place and actually think it's appropriate for a child's birthday party, there's not a chance Kevin's wife Jenny ( Katie Aselton) would have let the performance go on as long as it does. Therefore, the joke falls flat.

Speaking of Jenny, she's the character who needs to get more screentime. While both Pete and Ruxin have controlling girlfriends -- Meeghan ( Leslie Bibb) for Pete and as as-of-yet-unseen Sofia ( Nadine Velazquez) for Ruxin -- it turns out Jenny is quite the fantasy football guru and essentially runs husand Kevin's team as the (Wo)Man Behind the Curtain to the Great and Powerful Oz. Hopefully she continues to be "one of the guys" because her character is immensely enjoyable.

Overall, "The League" leans more heavily towards The Funny and not as heavily towards The Gross and The Absurd of "It's Always Sunny."
 
Oh, and for the record: I'm currently 8th (out of 12) in one fantasy football league but am 2nd in the points total. In my other league, I'm 18th (out of 18) but am 6th in the points total, which shows you how much I've been getting jobbed week in and week out.

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