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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Last "Draft" For THE LEAGUE

Article originally published as TV Review: 'The League' - Final Season Premiere on Blogcritics.

FX’s The League begins its seventh and final season with “That Other Draft.” A show about a fantasy football league, it has delighted both those who understand the conceit and those who just want a good comedy about a bunch of buddies that pick on each other mercilessly. After seven years, it’s hard to say that it’s ending before its time, but The League is going out while it’s still good, and will surely leave fans wanting more.

TheLeag
The last season premiere is called “That Other Draft,” and instead of featuring the fantasy football draft, as many first episodes have on this show, it takes place partially at the NFL’s official draft. The show has always been able to get guest stars from the world of the NFL, players, coaches, and anchors, and this installment is no different. Marshawn Lynch is one of only a few recognizable faces to grace this episode.

Well, recognizable if you know anything about sports. I admit, detesting football myself, I don’t find the cameo-heavy episodes as good as those that just focus on the core group. I absolutely love The League, but because so much time is given over to these athletes, this half hour doesn’t rank among my favorites. There are definitely jokes just for football fans, more obviously than in other turns, and while I can’t fault the show’s producers from bringing the real game into the proceedings, as I’m sure most viewers will appreciate it, “That Other Draft” is a let down during those parts for me personally. I’m sure I’m not alone.

That being said, that is only a portion of the episode, with much of the rest of the running time up to the show’s usual standards. Each character has at least a good line or two, and a major plot involves Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) getting his Sacko punishments. Let’s just say he takes it very differently than past losers have. There’s a port-a-potty gag that even I, who doesn’t like toilet humor at all, enjoyed immensely. And, as I feel there must be by now, there’s an appearance by Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas).

The League is, by and large, a comedy, with little time given for dramatic stories, but I feel this last season might be different, if only slightly. In “That Other Draft,” Pete’s ex-wife, Meegan (Leslie Bibb), shows up, and she is clearly going to be around for more than one episode, though I won’t reveal the circumstances. If this were any other season, I wouldn’t read too much into this, as people from the characters’ pasts show up from time to time and are usually only there to provide a laugh. But I can’t help but feel her return might be designed to help showcase Pete’s (Mark Duplass) growth, or possibly even contribute to a happy ending of some sort.
Or, I may be totally overthinking this. We’ll see.

I would like some closure from this final season. Having only watched two episodes so far, it’s much too early to tell if there will be a noticeable amount of emotion this season, and I’m sure whatever there may be, if any, will be kept light. Still, even with comedies, viewers invest in the characters over a long period of time. We want some type of payoff, even if it’s really only an assurance that the players will be all right long after we stop watching them. Will The League deliver on that? I am cautiously optimistic, though even if it doesn’t, I expect another solidly humorous season.

The League, which also stars Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll, Stephen Rannazzisi, and Katie Aselton, returns Wednesday, September 9th at 10 p.m. ET, and will air on FXX this season, not FX.

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