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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The League follows a familiar playbook in its final season

Illustration for article titled The League follows a familiar playbook in its final season
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The League is unapologetically anarchic, a ribald exploration of male-centered friendships. In its seventh and final season, the show maintains that rebellious spirit, which feels surprisingly refreshing even after 70-plus episodes. The League continues to show off the considerable talents of its core cast to hilarious, profane effect. Old characters and jokes come back in force, but don’t feel like pandering. Masterminds Jeff and Jackie Schaffer have created a deep, if insane, world where it feels natural for, say, Pete’s ex-wife, Meegan (Leslie Bibb), to appear after a prolonged absence or for Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) to bust out the McGibblet suit. The deft handling of the show’s nostalgia bodes well for the rest of the season.

Every season of The League has a built-in structure: The draft and playoffs bookend the season, letting auxiliary storylines exist without slowing down any narrative propulsion. The main plot of the season seven’s first two episodes, revealed quickly and campily, is that Andre (Paul Scheer) is in a relationship with Meegan. “Plot” is a loose term here—it’s more like a story beat, because all semblance of narrative is used to serve the comedy. This unabashed devotion to being funny continues to work for The League well after seven seasons.

The decision not to succumb to deeper arcs—or really any emotional territory at all—is perhaps the show’s biggest achievement. Andre sleeping with Pete’s ex-wife is played purely as chaos, another idea ball selected by a manatee, with no emotional strings attached. Mark Duplass and company thrive off the wackiness, a veritable font of gross insults and comebacks. The locker-room humor hits as hard as it ever has in the seventh season: The first couple of episodes alone feature “Drenal penetration,” garlic roll butt shoves, and a description of oysters as “little salty pussies on a shell.” FXX should expect hate mail from the oyster lobby shortly. Unfortunately, football continues to be the weakest portion of this show about fantasy football. Multiple players appear in the first two episodes, but even Marshawn Lynch sending up the worst decision ever feels like a long walk (or a short run?) for little payoff.

The drafts are always a fun bit for The League and this season’s draft is no exception. Since Andre took home the Shiva last year, he gets to run the draft. Andre being Andre, the draft is 1890s themed (shout out to the Gilded Age) and titled The Draft Of Innocence: The Quest For The Dre. Instead of the typical man-cave marathon, Andre gussies things up with a seated dinner and full period dress. This setting and the fact that this year is an auction draft (participants have a certain amount of money and players are “auctioned off”) leads to one of the show’s best extended jokes, courtesy of Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas).

Each character gets a bit of story to play with, Taco’s being the weakest. Thanks to some divine intervention, Taco was saddled with the Sacko last season, which comes with a set of punishments. Unfortunately, another man’s punishment is Taco’s treasure. “I love being hazed!” he shouts, but this bit doesn’t work nearly as well as it could. In the past, Taco was played as a clueless wild card, thrown in to add chaos and misunderstandings into the mix. This role, in the first two episodes, goes instead to Rafi, who has lengthy scenes and choice jokes. In a show of anarchy, Rafi is the raised fist, a cyclone of one-liners and depravity, punctuated by Mantzoukas’ indelible delivery.

After seven seasons, the cast makes a tight team capable of bouncing between insults and absurdist physical humor with ease. The League is pure fun, nothing more, a distillation of the “no hugging, no learning” philosophy Jeff Schaffer picked up during his time on the Seinfeld writing staff. The television landscape will be worse off without its inhumanity.


Reviews by Shelby Fero will run weekly.