To celebrate the 2015 NFL Draft beginning tomorrow in Chicago, this is a rundown of everyone’s favourite American football based sitcom!
If you don’t know already, The League is an American sitcom and a favourite of all 4 Snooty Ushers. Based around an American Football fantasy football league, this is more a story of a group of friends who do terrible things to each other. Paul Sheer, who plays the hapless Andre and has written some of the best episodes, said in an interview that you don’t need to know anything about American football to enjoy the show, just to “have friends that you hate”. Also, the “semi-improvised” nature (the script is only a brief outline, the actors fill in the details) although occasionally hit-and-miss, gives it great re-watch value. Hit it up on Netflix if you haven’t seen it already.
So, after my third run-through in the last 6 months, here are my Top 5 episodes of The League.
One to avoid: “Rafi and Dirty Randy” (Season 5, Episode 4) – None of the regular characters, the worst type of ill-disciplined improvisation, and for me, the vulgarity pushed too far. Seth Rogen and Jason Mantzoukas wrote and performed most of the episode themselves. I think I’m in the minority HATING this episode as they did another Rafi and Randy centric episode the next season, but I just can’t stand it.
Honourable mentions: “A Krampus Carol” (Season 4 Episode 12) – A very good episode, but the Krampus thing is a bit repetitive for me, because there was an American Dad episode that I saw just before this episode, so that’s why it doesn’t make it.
“The Freeze Out” (Season 4 Episode 3) – A fantastic episode, but as a HUGE Community fan (Top 5 of Community episodes coming soon) I can’t place a paintball episode in the top 5 on principle! Great use of Timothy Olyphant as a distinctly non-Japanese sushi chef too.
5 – “Yobogoya!” (Season 3 Episode 6) – This is The League at it’s very best. Ruxin finally gets a chance to work a big case with his boss Hudabega (Ray Liotta…yes, RAY LIOTTA!) but gets sick, and has to hide it from his boss, going so far as to get an adrenaline shock for his “allergies” rather than admit to having the flu. Taco enters a competition to write a jingle for “Yobogoya!” a fast food place that serves a bucket of beef for $3 (Kevin’s “you can’t buy a bucket of nails for that” sums it up perfectly) that was the guy’s choice of junk food in high school. Andre’s new hobby is urban foraging, and Pete has a run in with a traffic cop. On paper, these all sound like typical sitcom storylines, but in the hands of these performers, it makes a great episode. The fact it is only at number 5 shows how strong the rest of the episodes are. Also, this…
4 – “High School Reunion” (Season 2 Episode 10) – Based around a high school reunion (who’d have thought it?) this episodes involves introducing some of the comedy staples of The League. These include the birth of The Sacko Trophy, as well as bringing “vinegar strokes” to The League universe, Ruxin’s past as the herdsman, and the story behind the first Shiva blast. It’s always fun to learn some more about these characters’ back stories, and the confirmation that they are the worst people at their high school reunion is a refreshing moment of clarity. These aren’t the nicest people, but we like them anyway.
3 – “Thanksgiving” (Season 3 Episode 8) – Two of my favourite episodes come in the space of three in my favourite season (Carmanjello, The Sukkah, St Pete, The Guest Bong, so many great episodes). Guest stars in sitcoms can be a bit uneven, but The League hits it out of the park. When football players can turn up and be surprisingly genuinely funny, it is a credit to the writing and performers for creating an environment for them to flourish. Here, Jeff Goldblum as Ruxin’s father is perfect casting, actually adding another layer to an already established character. The interaction between him and the group is amazing. Similiarly, Sarah Silverman as Andre’s promiscuous sister brings Andre’s uncomfortable awkwardness to the fore (not that it is ever particularly well hidden!) The League has a habit of using it’s big name guest stars well, and this episode is probably the best example. A funny funny episode that also involves Ellie’s class pet, Taco’s interesting thoughts on investments and market forces, and Jeff Goldblum’s vineger strokes.
2 – “The Anniversary Party” (Season 2 Episode 6) – This episode is a bit outside the norm for The League. Jenny doesn’t have much to do apart from be annoyed, and Andre’s boyfriend chameleon thing is funny but not really developed. However, this could be my favourite Taco episode, as we never know whether his wide-eyed, extremely helpful act of planning a lavish Anniversary party for The Ruxins is really a mind game with his opponent Ruxin, or just him being Taco. He is a gentle soul, could he really be that devious? Also Pete’s reaction to his ex-wife’s date again speaks to the fact that these aren’t nice people, although when a show can think up things like the “Bathroom Cubbie” (a portable shelving unit for storing food in when you go to the toilet) you will forgive anything. Kevin also reveals a great way to make emotional speeches, and there’s some fantastic riffing on some of commentator’s code words (“class act”). A top notch episode.
1 – “Mr McGibblets” (Season 1 Episode 4) – To be honest, when making this list, I had no idea how I would get my favourite episodes down to just 5. When I did though, I was surprised at how easy my choice was. “Mr McGibblets” hits everything I love about this show. Every character has a great storyline, and they all come together so well. Outside of the traditional (usually draft based) season premiere it’s very rare to get all 5 members of the league in one story at the same time, and when they do, it’s fantastic. Pete and Andre go on a spa weekend originally booked for Pete and his wife, Ruxin joins them. Hilarity ensues. Taco joins them. Hilarity ensues. Kevin joins them. Hilarity ensues. Taco as Mr McGibblets trying to scare Ellie would be the highlight of most episodes, but when Ruxin meets Antonio Gates (the guy who had caused his defeat that week) in the Jacuzzi, we have a winner. My favourite episode by far.
There are a bunch of episodes that could have made it (no Bobbum Man on my list, and no draft episodes, what am I thinking???), and so many great moments (CB sacking the Cutlet, Shamara McCreedy Sommers-Jefferson, Andre’s lurking by the fridge to trade, “bang bang, what’s the hang?” to name but a few).
You don’t have to be a fan of American football to enjoy this show. Outside of watching The Superbowl I’m not really, so not every reference lands with me, but I still love this show. Check out The League if you haven’t already.