The loose, casual nature of The League is a bit paradoxical for the show, It means both that there’s not a ton of new stuff going on in every episode so that the one or two original things really need to land for an episode to work and that the general tone of the show is consistent enough that it’s hard for it to ever be truly bad. That’s why The League has always been a supreme comfort show for me—it’s so formulaic and relaxed that its best is usually a few really solid laughs and its worst a couple of small chuckles. I was hoping for something more inspired, but tonight’s overstuffed episode, “The Automatic Faucet,” is a good example of how The League is still pretty enjoyable even at its worst.
Pretty much every plot tonight is classic League, starting with Kevin’s struggles with the automatic faucet in his office bathroom. I’m not the biggest fan of Stupid Kevin, but Stephen Rannazzisi plays bewildered puppy dog well enough, and this is the version of the character everyone involved with the show seems to like, so I guess we all just have to go with it. Kevin takes Andre’s place as the oblivious person caught in a web of sexual innuendo as his friends question his methods for using his hands to get the “sink” running (Jenny sighs in acknowledgement when Kevin admits he doesn’t care what the sink wants), which is kind of different from the usual but not quite enough to alleviate the dullness of just watching Kevin not being able to wash his hands.
Kevin’s stupidity extends to putting Taco in his will, which brings us to the best part of “The Automatic Faucet” and more textbook League: Rafi’s back! I’m a little confused on the timeline here (if Rafi will end up going back to California, or if the show will just ignore him being “killed” by Dirty Randy), but for now, it’s just good to have Jason Mantzoukas causing gross, disgusting mayhem. All of tonight’s Rafi humor is welcome precisely because it’s so standard, from his investment in “stocks” as part of his plan to hoard food for the apocalypse to his borderline sociopathy. (“I’m not in seventh grade, I don’t kidnap people anymore.”) But there might be some change for Rafi: Mantzoukas’ genuine shock at no one else understanding his penchant for lighting things on fire evokes the bizarre sympathy Mantzoukas and Seth Rogen somehow found for the character in “Rafi And Dirty Randy.” Great as Rafi-induced chaos is, I hope the show keeps that up that slight compassion for him, which makes the insanity even more powerful.
Tonight’s episode doesn’t have quite the same sympathy for Pete, who goes through the motions of discovering ambition at work.Working Pete is pretty similar to last week’s Sober Taco, taking his dominant character trait (in this case his apathy toward everything but fantasy football) and removing it for an episode. This works fairly well—Pete’s frustration and terrible performance in the league has been built up so slowly that it’s easy to forget how little he cares about anything besides the Shiva. Mostly, though, this plot is an excuse for Pete to get some amusing uses of fantasy football language in a work context, telling his boss not to tinker with the lineups for their group projects and turning the regional sales manager, Shamara McCreedy Sommers-Jefferson, into his Work Shiva.
Shiva herself shows up in the worst storyline tonight, revolving around Andre nearly losing his job because of the league. Jenny—who sadly doesn’t get that much to do tonight—gives Andre a tight deadline for a trade, forcing him to accept the offer during surgery to fix a patient’s “toebesity” (a word that’s not nearly as funny as the show thinks it is). When he’s brought up for a disciplinary hearing, Andre hires Ruxin as his lawyer and puts almost no effort into contesting the charges. Thankfully, Ruxin takes over the hearing to ask Shiva questions about her relationship with Andre and Andre’s Fifty Shades Of Blue Avatar erotic fanfic, demonstrating that no matter what the show does, shitting on Andre will always, always be funny. But other than that, the story never really coheres even with Rafi promising to chloroform Shiva and (presumably) set her on fire. At first, the patient is threatening to sue and Andre is in trouble… and then all of a sudden she isn’t, and he isn’t. Because of Rafi.
In general, “The Automatic Faucet” feels like Pete’s boss’ “fun” trash talk. We want The League to go whole hog outrageous and rip on its characters with copious dicks and Shamara blasts, but instead, we get the show’s equivalent of the worst trash talk ever: “Sorry you lost. Maybe you’ll win next time!” Hopefully, next week’s episode will indeed be a winner, but worst-case scenario, it’ll still be the comedic equivalent of C to the nay-nay.
- Thanks to Pilot, who is off “taking care” of something, for letting me fill in. I’ve been a fan of The League from day one, and it’s nice to get the opportunity to talk about it a bit.
- Pete trading Jeremy to the Peoria office might’ve been my single favorite joke in the episode. “I guess I don’t think about what happens after they get cut.”
- “I’m going to be a bouillionaire.”
- I’d be remiss if I didn’t use my League soapbox this week to point you to this “Shiva Blast” rap song, which is actually pretty good.
- And for some continuity: I am in two fantasy football leagues, currently in second place in one and second to last in the other. Curse you, Doug Martin.