At long last, it’s the reign of Jenny.
The last season of The League was uneven, to say the least. There were plenty of episodes and moments that I enjoyed but also plenty more that were repetitive and unfunny, causing me to question whether or not I wanted to keep watching the show. Still, the combination of the hilarious finale and Jenny winning the Shiva—perhaps the most satisfying moment, to me, in the entire series thus far—is why I returned for the season premiere, optimistic but hesitant. Fortunately, “Sitting Shiva” didn’t disappoint.
One of my biggest problems with last season was that it was beginning to feel stale (save for that one-off Rafi and Dirty Randy episode) because, after all, it must be hard to maintain so many seasons of a fantasy football comedy. The season premiere quickly solved this problem by both upsetting the status quo within the league and elevating the absurd humor. We’re finally seeing Jenny as the winner and because so much of her and Kevin’s relationship involves this fantasy league, we’re also seeing an extremely emasculated Kevin who now has mocking nightmares, pisses the bed, and has problems getting it up during sex because of his bruised ego. Also different is Andre who has gone from being everyone’s sad sack punching bag to a weird new confident Andre. Everyone’s insults bounces off him—and he gets in plenty of insults of his own—which fucks with the established hierarchy of the group.
Then there’s Ted. Oh, lovely Ted we hardly knew ye. The always welcome Adam Brody, who had some of my favorite moments of last season, returns briefly in preparation for the draft but is swiftly killed off. It’s not the AIDS that does him in but an unexpected car crash. His last words? “Kevin is the new Andre,” possibly forever cementing Kevin’s new status.
This is all leading up to the centerpiece of the episode: The gang goes to a funeral. Because this is The League and because this is a group of pretty fucked up friends, they take this as an opportunity to hold the draft. In their own demented way, it’s actually sort of sweet the way that they include Ted for one last draft even if they include him by setting up the fantasy board in front of his casket and getting smashed around his dead body and Weekend at Berniesing him by passing him the bong and beer. OK, fine, so it isn’t that sweet but it’s definitely funny. The draft goes down as usual—everyone is very serious and competitive except for Taco who is pretty clueless—except they’re also drafting for dead Ted and Ruxin is having a hard time because he managed to accidentally commit himself to multiple leagues this year (and doesn’t just quit?).
Much of what follows is a pretty typical episode of The League: things go awry when Taco stashes the draft board in Ted’s casket, some football players that I can’t identify make cameos and are not great actors, everyone in the group pisses off and alienates some outsiders, and Andre embarrasses himself. But while it’s typical, it still feels fresh and funny. I love that Jenny solves Kevin’s sexual problem by complimenting his draft choices—she knows that’s the best way to appeal to his masculinity and she’s willing to do it, even if she’s not actually impressed by his picks, just to get laid (even if that means getting laid in a morgue). Even Andre’s embarrassing moment is different; he humiliates himself but then quickly redeems himself after he saves the Rabbi and is deemed a hero. For a minute, I was ready for Andre to go back to the bottom of the totem pole but based on this premiere, The League might be committed to sticking with these changes in order to keep the narrative feeling new.
The other big change is that the friends are no longer competing for just the Shiva trophy but also an actual prize: Ted’s Laguna beach house that he left for the winner in his will. As if the league wasn’t competitive enough, this adds a more urgent element to the season that ups the stakes and likely ups the asshole factor for each of the characters which generally always results in some screwed up humor.
“Sitting Shiva” isn’t going near the top of my favorite League episodes but it’s a nice way to start off the season after an occasionally dull run last year. I’m still not 100% back on board but if The League keeps up this momentum and continues to find new ways to twist its own old stories, then I could see this season completely winning me back.
- “I understand. I was Jewish for a brief time last year.” Oh Jenny, you’re always my favorite.
- There are a lot of Andre scenes that make me cringe-laugh but considering flash mobs are one of my absolute least favorite things in the world and an event that gives me the most second-hand embarrassment while watching, that funeral scene was nearly impossible to watch.
- Of the three football player cameos this week, Cameron Jordan wins the MVP for best acting.
- “Can you guys not be morons for one day?”
- It looks like we’re getting another Rafi/Dirty Randy episode this season and it might be an origin story. I’m stoked.
- Alright guys, I did pretty bad in fantasy football last year but I’m gunning for the Shiva (which is a WWE Championship Spinner Belt in my league) this time so I’m going to need your help.