It struck me as quizzical as to where my monthly Shaw bill was. I’m ol’ school – l pay bills by writing cheques and buying stamps. But by some sort of a mix up my Shaw bills were emailed to me and that left me with a whopping sum after a few months. I did notice that I had not cancelled the streaming service “Shomi”. So, I did some password recovery and dialed it up.
It took me to season 6 of the The League, the ribald comedy of the group of friends bound together by their obsession of fantasy football. I would say the first 25 episodes are tremendous. The show-runners have Seinfeld roots so it does have that feel to it. But it’s Seinfeld on steroids. Kevin and Jenny are if Jerry and Elaine had married. Taco is a way out there Kramer. Andre is the uber-loser George. Ruxin a pure evil Newman, and Pete…well Pete is a boring character so to hell with Pete. Sadly though by season 6, it has run out of steam. Not that it’s bad – it’s just not superb. It’s a restaurant that has changed menus for the worse. A radio station that has changed its morning zoo crew. Still good, still enjoyable – but it’s irksome because it’s not what it was. I suckled upon my season one dvd. Watched them in succession, being an insatiable binge watcher. But this past season it was almost like a chore. Like a whittling project you had cast aside. Let’s work on it, but with not as much gusto. The additions in season 6 are not for the best. Rob Huebel plays Russell the sex addict. Huebel is almost my other Jenny Slate in that he pops up in tons of shows I watch and I think he’s garbage. The whole character is one-note and the big, pardon the pun, climax where he violates some cheese is more of a yawn than raunchy fun. A show like The League can’t really tone it down as it is a show based on being more offensive than shows that have preceded it. So nothing is off limits and most times they just let the filth speak for itself rather than make it clever. Jenny’s issue with short people as she becomes a “height supremacist” is some good stuff, as is Ruxin and Taco running Taco’s food truck that doesn’t sell tacos. Andre being abused by his cat is an entertaining through line that keeps the season chugging along.
A highlight of the season is a show that doesn’t revolve around the “league” It’s the origin story of how Dirty Randy (played by Seth Rogen) met Rafi (portrayed by Jason Mantzoukas). They pop up in some episodes as disgusting people. Literally eating shit and killing people by whim. But they have two episodes where they are the stars and it’s a nice break from the rest of the show. This origin has Rafi and Randy in a Cuckoo’s Nest spoof before they go off to Los Angeles to kill Kevin Nealon. The episode is just pure mayhem and it gives new targets to go after.
There have been more precautious falls as shows have limped to the end of their runs. People rag on The Simpsons for hanging on too long but there have actually been some quietly enjoyable seasons in the last decade, but true – nothing close its heights. The downfall can be placed when Phil Hartman died and with him went Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, et al. Home Improvement just died in its last three years. Rehashing bits from years past, not paying attention to its own canon. Sometimes Wilson’s face isn’t obstructed that much. Al’s mother is rarely bullied. I actually liked when Archie’s Place morphed from All in the Family so while most would put this in the downfall genre I will not. Family Guy, I haven’t watched since their very unfunny attempt at poking fun of wife beating. My own awfulness was that I was offended at the lack of comedy rather than the content, but that’s just me being dead inside.
At this point rather than it being one of my favourites, I just watch the League due to comfort. I know the characters and have invested time in them. They can still get away with cheap stuff with me. The thing is the actual stories are good. The plots of each episode are as solid as ever. But this is a show where story doesn’t really matter. You better bring the bits. If the bits are meh, then I don’t really care about the biting social commentary that surrounds it.
When a show does go south it does make you appreciate what was. Really bask in the glory of The Simpsons monorail episode or Krusty comeback special. The League has their Krampus episode or the one where Jeff Goldblum plays Ruxin’s dad. While it is a little sad that the show could not maintain its brilliance, it falls into a problem that the football players they fantasize over on the program have to deal with. Spectacular years are slowly beat down to greatness to being above average.
Raphael Saray is a broadcaster and free speech activist based in Northern Manitoba. He will be taking his girlfriend the annual SPCA “Fur Ball” this spring.