According to the rule of Chekhov’s gun, if a pistol is introduced in the first act of a play, it should fire by the final act. According to the rule of FX sitcoms, if the word “period” appears anywhere in the cold opening, the rest of the episode will pretty much have to include a series of eye-roll-worthy jokes about menstruation and dudes “being on the same cycle.” Alas, The League knows this law all too well and followed it tonight to disappointing, bland, and slightly icky results. It’s not that I object to the series’ fixation on pretty explicit bodily humor—that sometimes results in gags both terrific and hilarious. But what The League does to set itself apart from the run-of-the-mill gross-out boy’s club fare is to imbue that kind of humor with something unexpected and mad-cap, with stakes higher than tired sitcom fare. The whole thread about Jenny being on her period felt lifted from a far worse show. Plus, it seemed out of character. Jenny edged into the group by her own rights, and her character is usually way more interesting than the token lady for making vagina jokes with.
In fact, while I have to give props to The League for doing a Sukkot-centered episode—and for aptly illustrating just how easy and hilarious it is when you mispronounce the name of that holiday—“The Sukkah” became so over-the-top so swiftly that it lost that manic, semi-believable comic charm at the core of the series. Ruxin, desperate to get his son into a fancy Jewish school, decides to throw a Sukkot party to impress the school’s principal, Mrs. Klein. (The explanation Ruxin had of the holiday was gold. Taco: “It’s like Jewish Bonnaroo?” Ruxin: “Minus the patchouli and sadness.”) Ruxin, however, has a pothole at the end of his driveway that the city won’t fix because they’re too busy cleaning up racist graffiti.
Solution? Obviously Ruxin then paints a swastika on his driveway to hasten the process, and somehow gets caught on google maps mid-deed. There was a lot of suspension of disbelief for this one—Ruxin didn’t seem to care about the pothole when he was telling the story at the bar, so why do something so desperate? And is a swastika on the driveway somehow less bad than a pothole? Those sorts of weird, logical misfires are fine if the story works to a greater comic apex, but it seemed to just plummet into more absurdity. Ruxin moves the Sukkot party to the McCarthys to avoid potential questions about his maps appearance (“like a suburban Kristallnacht”), and an inevitable shitstorm commences. Andre, understandably weirded out about contracting thrush from his furniture (ok, pretty good) and surely suspicious when he sees Ruxin vomit when made to take back the Shiva ring that was so recently used to disgusting ends in the Sacko porn shoot, holds up an eight-way trade agreement that Pete was master-minding to make up for the auto-drafting failure.
Taco, who understands Sukkot to be his personal music festival, had some fine moments in this one, providing Miss Klein with four enormous marijuana plants for the blessing and preparing the tent with an enormous screen and “10 hours of Judaica-themed trance music” should the party get crazy. Of course, his Sukkot video inevitably gets switched with the Sacko porn, which is shown to the horror of Andre and Mrs. Klein. Oh, and it turns out that Kevin took a page from Kevin’s book and painted a swastika on the picture of Jenny on the bench in order to get the other graffiti about her period removed. Mrs Klein calls them all Nazis and leaves.
Yes, it all came together in the end, but “The Sukkah” still rang false. Unlike, say, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, the premise of The League isn’t that everyone on it is totally despicable and incapable of normal human interaction. Much of the humor comes from the idea that the characters still retain some moral values, and are capable of having children, holding down steady jobs, and maintaining relationships, even while relentlessly making each others' lives, if not miserable, at least pretty difficult. The swastika ploy and the showing porn at a party to humiliate Andre were both moves too far—into near-nihilist territory. It works against the structure that The League has set up the past seasons. Tonight had some funny lines, but the heart was missing.
- Someone should start a book of Taco haikus. I want a variation on "There's nothing racially insensitive about a dragon with a chainsaw penis."
- "It's a modernist pork-pie hat, if you must know."
- "It's shady, and it's upwind of the bush I shit in."