'League' called for roughing the viewer


It's rare that a television show leaves me at a loss for words, but "The League," man, I just don't know what to say. The FX comedy purports to be about "friendship, marriage, parenting and growing up" set against the backdrop of a fantasy football league, but as far as I can tell from the first two episodes, it's essentially an excuse to use anatomical terms normally heard in the locker room on television.

Many shows are crude -- Lord knows this season of Showtime's "Weeds" shoved the boundaries of discretion so hard it left bruises and FX's "Nip/Tuck" and "Rescue Me" are no shrinking violets -- but on each of those shows, the crudeness served the narrative and the characters.

In "The League," created by husband-wife team Jeff Schaffer ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") and Jackie Marcus Schaffer ("Disburbia"), the crudeness seems to be the narrative. And, to a certain extent, the characters as well.

The five friends who form the league are, intentionally or un-, a smudged and cloudy bar-mirror image of the kind of girl-bonding made famous by "Sex and the City." There's Pete (Mark Duplass), the league organizer and reigning champion whose childish chest-pounding is neither explained nor made more sympathetic by the fact that he is violated by his own wife in the first episode. Nick Kroll ("Cavemen") is Ruxin, the over-anxious, over-sexed, insecure Jew of the group (a fact he references often). With equal levels of desperation, he wants to win this year's pool and have sex with his very hot new-mommy wife, which leads, in the first quest, to the verbal and emotional abuse of a child and in the second, way too many graphic descriptions of his unfulfilled sexual desires.

Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) is a guy so deep he watches porn while on the Stairmaster; he too has a winner of a wife. Jenny (Katie Aselton) sees herself as one of the guys, which means (a) that she wants Kevin to listen to her vis-a-vis draft picks and (b) she is not afraid to get drunk and profane in public. See, we didn't need an Equal Rights Amendment after all.

If these are "real guys" then heaven help us all, and if this is a show about friendship, marriage and parenting (parenting!), the social institution of adulthood is doomed.

There's nothing wrong with a show about lovable losers, but they have to be, you know, lovable. Here, the men seem to be products of their writers' contempt; they're such babies that even their profanity doesn't rise from the potty. Yes, their wives are awful, their lives are empty and the only thing that connects them is fantasy, but they don't seem to have an original thought among them and for that they've got no one to blame but themselves. And, of course, the Schaffers.




'The League'

Where: FX

When: 10:30 tonight

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

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