9.4

The League Review: “The Great Night of Shiva”

Episode 7.13

Comedy Reviews The League
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<i>The League</i> Review: &#8220;The Great Night of Shiva&#8221;

The League ended pretty much as it began: with a shit-talking video uploaded to a fantasy football message board that closed with a hearty “Suck it!” This clip, however, was 18 years into the future with the gang revealing in the most inappropriate fashion that Andre’s son was actually the result of a one-time rekindling of the sexual flames between Pete and Meegan. He may be the most financially successful of all the members of this particular friend group, but even in the future, Dr. Nowzick will always be the punching bag. Some things will never change.

That was the feeling throughout this final episode of the show. Unlike most any other sitcom that has lasted longer than, say, two seasons, no one in The League really learned any lessons or grew as people. All they really wanted to do was dominate their friends in fantasy football and spend the next eight months lording that over them. If that meant storming an actual religious ceremony honoring the god Shiva and letting out one huge “Shiva blast,” or talking tons of smack to each other in the recovery room after Kevin lost his balls in a freak accident…so be it. Everyone’s riding the same path no matter what little things have shifted in their personal and professional lives.

Not much of a moral, but this was never a moralistic show. As I wrote about the series earlier this week, in any other world, all six of these people would be in constant legal trouble, and Rafi would be locked up in solitary confinement. Instead, they carry on with almost no consequences and no compunction about what damage they’ve done. And Rafi gets to carry on humping watermelons and saying the most disturbing things imaginable.

The League’s creators Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer at least did something to acknowledge this show’s place in the lineage of amoral sitcoms by bringing along Larry David for a cameo. The man behind two of the least saintly shows to air on TV was introduced as future Ruxin, helping the younger version decide whether to reveal to Andre that his wife was pregnant with Pete’s baby. It was a nice little nod to the Schaffer’s work on Curb Your Enthusiasm and it was great to see how much fun David and Nick Kroll were having in their scenes together.

There was also something nice about the fact that the show didn’t truck out a bunch of NFL players or other football bigwigs to pad things out. Instead they weaved in a few other characters from the past like Shiva and The Oracle. It kept the focus on the main six and their various peccadilloes and rivers of shit talk. They even managed to get a few healthy jabs in at the season’s sponsor, DraftKings, by portraying the best players of that fantasy football league to be either complete assholes or antisocial freaks. Might as well bite the hand that feeds on the way out the door.

I’m still not sure what the legacy of this show is going to be. Everyone who I spoke to for the article seems content with what they gave to it, and what they got in return. The actors got a higher profile TV gig that kicked open a few doors with casting agents and ad agencies (though I don’t think we’ll be seeing Steve Rannazzisi as a pitchman anytime soon). And the Schaffers got to prove that there is a potential future in improvised sitcoms. But otherwise, I think this will be viewed as a small curiosity on the iMDB pages of the cast members, particularly with Katie Aselton and Mark Duplass as they’ve already been moving on to more prestigious film and TV projects. Who can fault them though for wanting to stick with a show that allowed them to goof around with their buddies for a few weeks every year? And if they provided some laughs and a little diversion from the drudgery of the world for the rest of us…even better.

Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste, and the author of Empire: The Unauthorized Untold Story, available in bookstores now. You can find more of his writing “here”:http://robert-ham.squarespace.com. Twitter.