The League is framed around an eight-person NFL Fantasy Football League, but while that would almost seem impenetrable for the average UK viewer, the craft of good comedy is about making everyone laugh, even those confused over the more technical terms of setting up a weekly line-up and drafting players each season.
Co-created by Jeff Schaffer, writer of Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Brüno, the show is another like Curb: it has outlines and concepts and allows the performers to improvise for extra jokes. And when that cast is mumblecore filmmakers Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton, YouTube sensation Jon Lajoie, stand-up Stephen Rannazzisi and alt-comics Nick Kroll and Paul Scheer, The League’s team is so strong that it almost guarantees laughs, whatever the subject.
Now Season 5 of the show has hit Netflix UK, we can discuss the 2013 episodes, which continue a string of running elements, such as Dr. Andre Nowzick’s (Scheer) terrible fashion sense and an engagement last year that causes the biggest downward spiral yet for the constantly-kicked character. Meanwhile, Kevin (Rannazzisi) and Jenny’s (Aselton) latest child has been named by The League after a failed bet, so, naturally, this baby is called Chalupa Batman. But the most successful running gag comes from Ruxin’s (Kroll) brother-in-law, Raffi (The Dictator’s Jason Mantzoukas), a hugely inappropriate scumbag, who often does disgusting things and shows no regard for normal human manners and customs, and sometimes even flirts with his own sister.
In the season’s best episode, Raffi and his friend Dirty Randy (Seth Rogen) dust off their adventure bag and leave Chicago for an exciting, disgusting, madcap adventure in Los Angeles, where they get up to things only Raffi and Dirty Randy would ever do. It’s a crazy, silly, vulgar chapter that is a complete change from The League’s usual fare – a welcome respite from the same-old set-up/punchline/three-plots-converge-to-one style that permeates the season.
Season 5’s other 12 episodes have some laughs, but it begins to really show the edges of what was once a laugh-riot in Season 2, when the characters were fully formed. In a lot of the episodes now, you can see the punchline by minute five and it does damage the enjoyment of the build-up. The characters beating up on poor Andre throughout becomes a bit too heavy as well and just ends up being sad. It’s a shame that Season 5 of The League can’t continue its good run but Season 4 had a lot of the same problems, so unless next year holds a dramatic change, it’s hard to see any longevity in staying in the same place.
However, compared to a lot of shows, The League is still funnier, more furiously so. Season 5 definitely peters out before it’s over – so binge-watching may be a bit of a slog at times – but even if it’s not game-changing and a little too obvious too often, it’s worth catching up just so you can see actors like Paul Scheer and Nick Kroll before they become huge stars.