Fox // 2011 // 286 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Erich Asperschlager // November 8th, 2012
"What is with that outfit, Andre? You look like a Deadwood character at a Justin Bieber concert."
For years, the divide in quality between network and cable TV shows was obvious. Freed from the limitations of censorship, cable channels turned out well-written, edgy series that put their safe network counterparts to shame. Recently, though, network shows have started to close that gap. Cable might still reign supreme when it comes to drama, but TV's best comedies are more evenly split between networks and extended cable. But there are still some things you can't do on broadcast television -- and those things usually end up on FX's The League.
The League: The Complete Season Three has 13 episodes on two discs:
* "The Lockout"*
* "The Sukkah"*
* "The Au Pair"*
* "Ol' Smoke Crotch"*
* "Bobbum Man"*
* "The Out-of-Towner"*
* "The Light of Genesis"+
* "The Guest Bong"
* "St. Pete"*
* "The Funeral"*
* Extended episodes
+ Uncensored audio
The League is ostensibly about a group of friends in Chicago who compete in a fantasy football league. After three seasons, two things are clear: this show's not really about football, and these guys are barely friends. Okay, maybe those are half-truths. Fantasy football might take a backseat to the episode-specific high jinks, but every season begins with the draft and ends with the championships; and while league members Pete (Mark Duplass, Safety Not Guaranteed), Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi, For Your Consideration) and his wife Jenny (Katie Aselton, The Puffy Chair), Ruxin (Nick Kroll, Comedy Bang! Bang!), Andre (Paul Scheer, Human Giant), and Taco (internet-famous musician Jonathan Lajoie) aren't the sort of friends you'd want in real life, they're only slightly exaggerated versions of friends you probably had in college. Whatever grown up responsibilities these guys have at their jobs as lawyers and doctors -- and entrepreneurs I suppose, in Taco's case -- when it comes to winning the coveted "Shiva" trophy, they're like kids scrabbling on the playground.
Lucky for The League, watching grown-up kids scrabble is a lot of fun. The show's partly improvised structure mixes scheming, wacky ideas, and converging coincidence in a way that will be familiar to anyone who's seen Seinfeld. But the guilty pleasure of The League is watching these petty competitors ridicule and undermine each other at every turn, with devastating verbal and psychological assaults that would destroy normal relationships. So cruel. So emasculating. So funny.
Season Three begins in the aftermath of Ruxin's Shiva win at the end of Season Two. While he's riding high ordering custom championship jewelry and making a star-studded "Shiva Bowl Shuffle" video, "Sacko" loser Andre is eager to move on from an off-season of league-mandated humiliations. And that's just the beginning of a season filled with lies, conspiracies, cults, tainted beef, racial insensitivity, vultured dates, and a scandal that threatens to tear the league apart, forever. Or until next season.
The show's interpersonal relationships might be suspect, but the acting is rock-solid. The League's core cast continues to impress. Stephen Rannazzisi's Kevin and Katie Aselton's Jenny are the closest thing the show has to responsible adults. Since Jenny joined the league last season, they have found a way to balance competition and marriage, leaving plenty of free time to focus on other things, like accidentally buying cocaine, and accidentally cooking their daughter's class guinea pig for Thanksgiving. Mark Duplass's Pete remains free from familial responsibilities, spending his time this season recreationally ravaging Ruxin's Au Pair, planning new ways to irritate Andre, and declaring war on a traffic cop he dubs "Glovesie."
The trio's relative maturity is offset by the group oddballs. Nick Kroll's Ruxin is just as insufferable as a winner as he is a loser, especially once he becomes suspicious that the group screwed him in this year's draft. Paul Scheer plays league punching bag, Andre, a sad-sack plastic surgeon who gets way too excited about urban foraging and '20s-themed cocktail parties. Jonathan Lajoie's Taco, meanwhile, is a wild card for whom reality is more of a suggestion. His Season Three subplots revolve around the rise of "Taco Corp" -- a non-legally binding collection of wacky schemes like "offline" social media and a tie-rental service called "Neckflix."
Season Two introduced Ruxin's lovable pervert brother-in-law, Rafi. He comes back in full creepy force for Season Three, with actor Jason Mantzoukas elevated to near-regular status. He's a great fit, stealing every creepy scene he's in. The season also features guest appearances by Seth Rogen, Will Forte, Brie Larson, Eliza Dushku, Ray Liotta, and the Thanksgiving episode team-up of Sarah Silverman, playing Andre's slutty sister, and Jeff Goldblum as Ruxin's dad.
The League: The Complete Season Three hits DVD with a 1.78:1 transfer that looks great even in standard-def. It's capable of handling everything from prank porno shoots to Andre's costume changes. Audio comes in a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that delivers every jab and insult with clarity.
Bonus features are divided across both discs. In addition to extended versions of most of the episodes, there are about 12 minutes of deleted scenes, a gag reel, a 14-minute collection of alternate improvised takes called "Alt Nation," and "Taco Tones" -- full length videos for the "Shiva Bowl Shuffle," Taco's "Bang Bang What's the Hang?" rap, a "Bobbum Man" jazz trio, Taco's winning "Yobogoya!" jingle, and a Taco/Ruxin a capella techno jam.
The League: The Complete Season Three might be more of the same, but that's fine with me. The FX series is still funny, risque, and worth watching -- even if three seasons in, I know less about fantasy football than I do Pete's preferred sexual positions.
Yobagoya! Not guilty!
Review content copyright © 2012 Erich Asperschlager; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 286 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternate Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site