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The League: “Man Land”

Jason Mantzoukas, Stephen Rannazzisi, Corbin Bernsen, Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll
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Let’s start with the good stuff in “Man Land.” Everyone is back, including our three favorite R’s: Ruxin, Russell, and Rafi. Corbin Bernsen has a good time guest starring as Jenny’s father Bruce. They’re entering the halfway point of the football season so things are starting to focus more on the league and the stakes (truth be told, I forgot they were playing for Ted’s lake house this season). “Man Land” experiments a bit with pairings: Most of the league (and Rafi) hang out with Bruce; Jenny, Andre, and Russell spend most of the episode together. Also, the guys are taken out of their comfort zones—the bar, various living rooms—and thrown into the great outdoors, expanding the world and freeing up the series to explore different scenes and characters.


“Man Land” doesn’t fully take advantage of this situation, though, which is a shame because there are a few funny scenes here and there but the overall result is a bit disappointing. The catalyst for the camping trip is the antagonistic relationship between Kevin and his father-in-law, a gruff, outdoorsy, man’s man who emasculates Kevin every chance he gets by calling him “ninny” or making fun of his lack of household skills or just referring to him by a girl’s name. Eager to prove himself, Kevin agrees to go on a camping trip—with Pete, Taco, and Ruxin in tow. Unsurprisingly, none of the guys are very good at roughing it except for Rafi, who randomly pops up because he’s been tracking Kevin, whose gross behavior makes him a shoe-in for living in the woods—he literally eats shit. Though, to be fair, Ruxin does exhibit an impressive knack for tying knots when he ties Pete up which, finally, because Pete deserves stuff like this from time to time.

One of the running bits throughout the episode is Pete changing his team name to “The Shitheads” complete with a photo of Kevin, from last week’s episode, holding an “ice pack” full of his wife’s feces to his face. Kevin is strongly against this, so much so that he refuses to say the name. For a while, I thought this was their not-so-subtle but OK attempt at an elongated metaphor for the ongoing controversy with the Washington Redskins. But then “Man Land” goes super overt with the Redskins gag, having a bunch of white guys engage in a series of misunderstanding with a group of American Indians at a bar, starting with Pete exclaiming “There’s no difference between a Redskin and a Shithead” and escalating as Taco tells them their fantasy trophy is an Indian woman that they can do anything to. Oof.

The whole scene goes just about how you’d expect it go, meaning that it’s basically an awful lot of grasping at laughs but never quite reaching them, just repeatedly jumping and failing, embarrassed while we all look on. The problem with this scene is similar to the problem with Jenny’s faking cancer storyline a few weeks ago. You could easily make the claim that The League is aiming to mine uncomfortable laughs from an offensive situation—many of you made the comparison to Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show that actually succeeds with this—but it’s not skilled enough to do so. There is no nuance or commentary behind the jokes and I wouldn’t even say the scene is offensive because it’s just so generic and shoddily written that you just want it to be over, to jump to any other plot in the episode. It’s not cringeworthy because of the context, it’s cringeworthy because the show doesn’t realize how unfunny it is.

Nothing else in the episode stood out, either. Of course there is a scene involving a bear—it’s a sitcom episode in the woods!—and Kevin sillily saves the day and wins the respect of his father-in-law. The guys run into the bar patrons later on and have to drop all of their Redskins players in exchange for a ride to civilization. It’s a good plot development in that it allows Andre to then pick up better players and increase his chances of winning (Teflandre!) because man, would I love for him to get that lake house. But, you know, The League could have found a much better and funnier way to end at the same conclusion.


Over in the b-story, Andre and Russell are fed up with the bar’s approach to wine (and are generally just being a pair of super obnoxious douchebags; they’re both so humorously grating that I actually love them together) so they decide to go into business and open up a wine bar together. They hire Jenny as a realtor to help find a place—look at that! Jenny working twice in one season! I enjoyed the scenes between the three of them and even enjoyed the inner conflict between Andre and Russell, as Russell is so clearly screwing over Andre but Andre’s mostly just concerned about how Russell is being mean to him on the boards. But even this small, somewhat enjoyable distraction wasn’t enough to better the episode.

Stray observations:

  • “I’m gonna go sharpen my saws.”
  • “Gun Safety 101: Guns should never go off unless it’s by accident.”
  • Kudos to The League for not going the easy route with having one of the guys accidentally shoot a friend (or shoot Bruce, which is what I would have put money on). Oh, and I did like that iPad fire gag. So there’s that!
  • The Bo Dallas Cowboys lost to the Orlando Calrissians this week but at least I actually remembered to drop Victor Cruz so I’m taking that as a small victory.
  • But yeah, fantasy football is the white man’s plague.

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