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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The League: “Taco Standard Time”

Illustration for article titled iThe League/i: “Taco Standard Time”
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The League is in garbage time. You know when the game is so out of hand even the losing team sits their best players? That’s garbage time. When you close a deal in the morning and don’t do any other work? Garbage time. It’s heartbreaking to see a show lose its punch, but this season has not been a winner thus far. As has been noted, this season is full of funny premises run ragged long after there’s any juice left. Tonight’s episode is no exception.

“Taco Standard Time” does bring a hilarious performance from Zach Woods, most known from his role as the ghostly Gabe on The Office, as the suicidal Lane. The 13-page suicide note titled “A Tale Of Insufferable Pain Or If There Is A Light At The End Of The Tunnel I’m Sure It Is From The Fires Of Hell” gets plenty of laughs as does “I gave my Victrola away to a deaf man as a last act of performance art.” In fact, I wish the episode featured Lane far more heavily instead of relying on three stories to carry the load.

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At the top of the episode, Lane arrives, calls Pete, and immediately has some of the best lines. “I’m disrobing my soul and you’re masticating,” he says as Pete chomps down on a turkey wrap. The premise feels so reminiscent of Seinfeld, though, I expected someone to call Pete a phone chewer. Lane’s overall arc, though, is a funny premise, and the bit where neither Pete nor Ruxin has read the suicide note, and they try to talk about it as if they are in first-year English is great. There is meat there and they are able to chew on it for a number of jokes. Woods is a gifted improviser and some of his lines (“Twinks love Bears”) are gold, while others feel only funny on paper (“Men’s only feminist collective”).

Taco, meanwhile, is fed up with Daylight Savings Time. This is a Ziggy joke at best and feels shoehorned into the episode in order to move the plot forward. The clock burning isn’t absurd enough to be funny and neither is Taco setting the clocks back or the watch or really any of it. It all feels very obvious (even if “Taco’clock” is now my favorite time of the day).

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The third storyline is a poorly executed send-up of the Ray Rice scandal, and it’s such a shame. I was excited to see them taking it on so soon, but having Andre’s cat be the attacker felt puerile (I’m positively shocked there were no “pussy” jokes—maybe the pact still holds?) and tells more than it shows. Pete even quips, “Great answer, Goodell,” which ruins the entire parody. Of course it’s a Goodell answer, because that’s what Goodell said and by breaking that fourth wall, the joke goes immediately limp. It is frustrating to watch a situation ready and deserving of satire and commentary fail to come close. Today, however, is National Cat Day, so perhaps it is just a wink and nod to that. Abusive cats? That’s garbage time.

There are laughs in “Taco Standard Time,” sure, but they are just spread out and don’t push the story along at all. The group therapy scene, with the throwing and picking up of the invisible judgements is especially funny, and sadly realistic if you’ve ever been to group. The ticket gambit is a solid MacGuffin and could have propelled the entirety of the episode, but feels tacked on amidst the cat plot.

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The League works best reveling in its absurdity but plays it safe again this episode. As Pilot has noted, this show is expert in coming with premises that seem like they would be funny but don’t work as actual bits. The entire premise of Andre being in an abusive relationship with his cat might seem funny, but when played out, there’s simply nothing there. I think The League needs more to do. I think it needs less garbage time.

Stray observations:

  • If anyone wants to go into business selling fair trade tampons out of a bicycle basket, I’d be willing to hear a pitch.
  • For some reason I laughed really hard at Ruxin’s “You seem like you’re in the middle of a manic break” line.
  • “It was an homage to Silence of the Lambs.”
  • Tonight, Lane, you play the pan pipes in hell!”
  • Good news: The Ted Chaoughshank Redemption has DeMarco Murray. Bad news: I have no one else.
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