Fox // 2012 // 286 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // September 19th, 2013
Can you not speak of my son's member as if it was fourthmeal?
It's fall and football season is upon us; that also means that our favorite fantasy football league is now back in session. As Season 5 of The League begins on FXX, the new FX offshoot, Season 4 arrives on DVD from Fox. Who will win the Shiva? Who will be cursed with the Sacko? On week one, everybody's undefeated, but over the next thirteen episodes, the members of the league will do whatever it takes to be champion. Nothing is certain, though, which is, as they say, is why they play the games.
Training Camp: Just as Jenny (Katie Aselton, Black Rock) is about to have her baby, Taco (Jon LaJoie) gets a call from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. See, to launch is cowboy singing business, Taco bought up dallascowboys.com. Jones wants to buy it back, so brings the whole gang to Cowboys training camp to talk some business, leaving Jenny alone to her thoughts.
The Hoodie: With the draft done and the baby Chalupa Batman (or Christopher Benjamin, depending on who you ask), there's only one more thing for Jenny and husband Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Blart: Mall Cop) have to decide: whether to have the child circumcised.
The Freeze Out: Pete (Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed) wants to go paintballing with the group, but most of them have prior engagements with family stuff. To get back at him for bragging about his freedom, they steal his phone to keep him from fantasy updates.
The Breastalyzer: Kevin's mom (Julia Duffy, Wings) shows up to help with the baby, she is disgusted at Jenny's drinking while breastfeeding, so forces her to test her milk before each meal.
Judge MacArthur: Kevin decides that, based on his years as League Commissioner, he has the chops to be a judge, but when he goes to a party to schmooze with other judges, the gang shows up to ruin the fun.
The Tailgate: The group has tickets to the Bears game and Andre (Paul Scheer, Piranha 3DD) brings his gigantic new camper to tailgate with, but old enemies show up and make their time miserable.
The Vapora Sport: Pete is in the market for some new athletic shoes and finds the perfect pair. Unfortunately, a guy in a wheelchair wants the shoes more, mostly for the tread, steals them out from under him.
The Anchor Baby: Ruxin (Nick Kroll, Kroll Show), afraid that his wife Sofia (Nadine Velasquez, Flight) will leave him, decides to convince her to have another child so he can keep her around.
Bro-Lo El Cordero: When Kevin goes in for his colonoscopy, Andre accompanies him and, while he's under sedation, convinces him to make a very unfortunate trade.
Our Dinner with Andre: Ruxin discovers that his fantasy football addiction has ruined his fertility, Taco comes to the rescue with his own brand of couples therapy.
12.12.12: Andre invites the gang over for a housewarming dinner, both he and Pete introduce their respective new girlfriends.
A Krampus Carol: Taco is convinced that Krampus, Santa's evil friend, doesn't get enough play for the holidays, so he arrives at the mall in his suit to wreak havoc on the season.
The Curse of Shiva: Things have not gone well for anyone in the group this year, and they believe it's because they've somehow offended Shiva (Janina Gavankar, True Blood), so go out of their way to regain her favor.
You don't need to enjoy or even understand football or fantasy sports to enjoy The League, though at times, it does help. This is especially true in the premiere this season, which is riddled with football guest stars like Trent Richardson, Robert Griffin III, Matt Kalil, and the entire Dallas Cowboys squad. If these names mean nothing to you, you'll probably have a hard time getting into parts of the episode but, luckily, the season returns to its tangentially football-related ways soon after.
This season, there is even less attention to plot than ever, something that has been progressing over its four years. Fans of story-based comedy may find this season, then, too broad and unfocused, but it's that exact lack of focus that gives this season some of the biggest laughs of the entire series. Give this group of top improvisational actors the freedom to move and they make magic together. At a certain point, it stops mattering that the established plot gets totally forgotten. It's too funny, and I don't care.
The core group is as good as ever, and Katie Aselton continues to take a more and more vital role in the series, slowly becoming my favorite character of the cast. The whole group has great chemistry together and the supporting players are all pretty funny, too. They're led, of course, by Jason Mantzoukas who plays Sofia's brother, Rafi, quite possibly the most disgusting character on television. He has more screen time than ever this season and he fully takes advantage of the opportunity. There's inappropriate, and then there's Rafi inappropriate and, this time around, we're treated to a whole lot more of both.
In a show that has always relied on guest stars, season four really heaps on the cameos. Returning is Seth Rogan (Superbad) as porn director Dirty Randy and the occasional appearance of the real life Shiva, we have football players galore (many more than before, to the detriment of the show), Brooklyn Decker (Battleship), Robert Wagner (Hart to Hart) and Lee Meriweather (Barnaby Jones) as Pete's grandparents, and a few porn stars just to round things out.
The absurdity of this season of The League makes it better for me, though it might turn others off. It's the performances, not the story that I'm in it for. As an avid fantasy football player, even I couldn't really care less about who actually wins their stupid league, any more than I want to hear about any league in which I'm not participating. The joy is in the way that the characters savagely tear each other down which, as anybody who has a group of friends should know, is most of the fun, and The League gets that better than most shows out there.
Fox's DVD set for The League: Season 4 is pretty solid, much like the releases for past seasons of the series. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer looks pretty good, though not quite with the clarity or detail of the HD broadcasts, but solid in its own right. Colors are accurate and there's enough clarity to suffice, but it's nothing terribly special. The basic 5.1 surround mix is decent, with clear dialog, but there's little to be said for the rear channels outside of some music and ambient effects. Not much, but it works for what it needs to do.
The extras fall in line with what Fox has previously included in these sets. It exclusively consists of additional footage, but fans of the show will consider it a treat. More than half the episodes feature extended cuts, each running an extra three to five minutes, that all have valuable material but were clearly cut for content reasons. Deleted scenes give more of this, but they're mostly one-off jokes that have no bearing on their respective episodes. A featurette called "Alt Nation" gives alternate takes of the improvisations, many of which are very funny. "Taco Tones," "Rafi's Helpful Holiday Hints," and "Witchy Woman Podcast" are all extensions of the scenes from the episodes, and a gag reel is unusually funny for a gag reel. Fans of The League will appreciate all of it.
I don't know if The League is going uphill or down. At its best, I laughed harder at stuff in season four than any previously, but the writing is definitely less focused with more guest stars than ever before. Often, those are two signs of decline, but I'm not so sure in this case. We'll see how season five shapes up, but regardless, I'm looking forward to seeing how Taco makes his nut once more this year. We'll soon find out.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 286 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Extended Episodes
* Alternate Takes
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel