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Friday, December 23, 2011

The League attends "The Funeral"

     FX's The League completes their fantasy football season and their television season with "The Funeral." The second of two half hours airing last night, "The Funeral" finds Andre (Paul Scheer) struggling to manage stroke victim Ruxin's (Nick Kroll) team, even though Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas) has knives and other ideas. The others asks Pete (Mark Duplass) to throw the Sacko Bowl, lest Ruxin invalidate the season and keep the Shiva, but Pete cannot bring himself to do so. Which throws into jeopardy Kevin's (Stephen Rannazzisi) win of the Shiva. 

     The League is one of the most realistic portrayals of a group of male friends in entertainment. They give each other large amounts of guff, and don't wear their emotions on their sleeves, but they still care. Sure, they all still debate fantasy football and go about their days while Ruxin lies in a hospital bed. But an earlier scene, as they all await news of Ruxin's condition in the waiting room, reveals that they have real concern. It's only after they are assured Ruxin will be fine that they go back to treating him the same way they always have.

     The only weakness is the characters that become chariactures. All of the principal cast members are complex and well defined, even Taco (Jonathan Lajoie), to a certain degree. But Rafi and Ruxin's wife, Sofia (Nadine Velazquez), are not, which hurts the show a little, especially in an episode like "The Funeral" where these supporting players are called upon to give it their all.

     As far as endings go, one might think The League reaches its darkest point at the end of season two when Ruxin laughs fiendishly, having won the title. Yet, it almost seems worse as he declares his continued reign in season three. Perhaps it's the burning pyre, or Pete getting a Sacko brand accidentally burned into his back (this looks like a job for Andre!), but whatever the reason, The League gets into some pretty twisted humor. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

     Happy news does temper the end of the episode as Kevin learns of Jenny's (Katie Aselton) pregnancy. Only after he is assured that he will soon be a father again does he turn his true focus onto the Shiva, swimming into the frigid water after the burning boat. This says something real and serious about Kevin's character. While not new information that Kevin has a joyous, solid relationship, any example of it is welcome. It turns the end of "The Funeral" from depressing into hopeful. And hopefully the baby will provide some pretty funny stuff for Jenny in season four, especially if she gives birth during the football season, which she likely may, early in the season.

     All in all, "The Funeral" is far from the funniest episode of The League, but it sets up a couple of interesting things, and ties up a decent story.

     The League has been renewed and will return for a fourth season on FX.

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