Do you remember when The League was good? I’m talking, like, seasons two through four, especially. There was a lot of good stuff there, once upon a time.

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I bring up the golden past of the show for two reasons. First, this is my last week subbing, and probably the last time I’ll get to write about the show for a while. Second, “The Last Temptation Of Andre” is just full of stuff that calls back to when the show felt fresher and more vital, which is mostly to the detriment of this season, but also serves as a reminder of why we (or I) watched The League in the first place.

Take what winds up being the A-plot of the episode, even though it’s not the title—Kevin and Ruxin’s legal beef. This hearkens back to a scene in the very first episode of the show, in which Kevin and Ruxin make a deal about sentencing in exchange for draft picks. Remember when Kevin vaguely tried to be professional about his job? Or when anyone cared about that stuff? There’s some stuff with the judge (and the repetition of the word “collusion,” which everyone must find hilarious to keep saying it so often) that no one involved seems to really care about other than to let Nick Kroll yell in court, which is fine, I guess.

Andre’s story, such as there is one, is also classic League, where someone takes advantage of a comically good-natured person or group of people for an extremely minor social advantage or convenience. In this case, Andre joins a Korean church in order to get free parking which, if we’re being honest, seems like a pretty good reason to go to a church every couple of weeks. (Especially in Chicago, where getting a parking permit is a total nightmare.) And there’s an old-school (such as an episode of TV from 2009 can be considered “old school”) riff with Andre not understanding the double meaning of his rant—in this case his “tailpipe” and “undercarriage.”

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Of the three plots or whatever, the third is the least tied to the history of the show, but also the worst. Kevin thinks he has had seep sex with Jenny… which, ew, no that is a bad thing that people should not do. But then Jenny wasn’t actually asleep, which sort of redeems it, but then just isn’t funny because it becomes part of a “Kevin and Jenny’s marriage is in trouble” plot (Kevin literally says he needs to “spice things up”), which is hacky. Remember when Kevin and Jenny’s marriage was awesome, instead of sad? And, of course, there‘s Bill Cosby being used as a synonym for rape, which is… not great. (“At least he has the dignity to serve them a drink,” Andre says, in a joke that not is not only bad because it trivializes rape, but also because it is lame and unfunny.)

Then there’s the runner of Golden Tate just sort of showing up for some reason, which is also classic League. Hey look, it’s a football player! He’s not a great actor, but it’ll be funny to have him show up, right? (Usually, yes.) This also has the thing of an old League plot, where Taco would be an evil genius underneath his idiotic exterior, mostly to mess with Ruxin. (Remember “The Anniversary Party” from season two? That one is a classic.) But it doesn’t blow up Ruxin’s spot enough to really be worth it (the courtroom scene feels like a perfunctory dovetailing rather than something organic and enjoyable), and doesn’t come close to the heights of Ruxin’s initial encounter with Antonio Gates.

Here’s the thing: None of this stuff, on its own, is necessarily bad. Riffing on older plots and happier times is pretty standard for the final seasons of TV shows, and often it works quite well (the last seasons of 30 Rock and Parks And Rec are delightful for this very reason). But here, the pacing is bizarre and sluggish, and there’s barely even an attempt to give any of the plots something like an arc or momentum that would cohere into something resembling an episode of television. We don’t need yet another MyFace joke, or for Lane to show up for no reason (even though it’s nice to see Zach Woods), or for yet another final scene of people yelling at Andre. It’s too bad, too, because the first few episodes of this season were pretty fun! The League has always been shaggy, but this episode just sheds way too much.

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Stray observations:

  • Okay, the “Andy Defamation League” is kinda funny. I don’t have anything against Andy Dalton, but if you’re going to make a joke about the ADL, it’s not a bad way to go about it.
  • “I hate when you fantasy people tell me how to do my job.”
  • Taco is fully erect while he sleeps, because of course he is.
  • “I’m shaving ironic mustaches to donate to children who lost their eyebrows.” This is maybe the best Lane joke ever. Except for maybe “Korean Jesus just gets me, in a way that Macedonian Jesus never did.”
  • Ruxin is right… “Roe v. Wade Phillips” is a lame team name.
  • Shelby will be back with you next week!

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