A League of Our Own (Premiere Review)
Posted by Mr. Feeny on October 30, 2009
CJ, Christopher. There is now a television show based loosely on our lives.
No, not twentysomethings watching television and blogging about it. That might be a little dull.
The “lives” I’m talking about are our fantasy sports personas. For the benefit of our readers, the three of us are very active in fantasy baseball and football (and the guys in fantasy basketball). It takes up a large amount of our time, both on and offline. Honestly, I’d say 90% of what I talk to CJ or Moltisanti about is either TV or fantasy sports. We get really into it. And, by the way, we’re all former champions.
So you can imagine how excited I was about FX’s new sitcom, The League, Thursday nights at 9:30 following It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. At first, I was hesitant. The previews were entertaining, but is this a show that could really sustain itself? Are most fantasy gamers looking for even more time to waste consumed in their hobby? Are there enough storylines to fill a season? I was skeptical.
But now, I don’t care. I was sold the moment the show opened with establishing shots of the greatest city in the world. As I’ve mentioned, I am an immediate sucker for any program set in Chicago. A Walter Payton pennant hanging on a guy’s wall? Awesome. A timely reference to Jay Cutler, with a character predicting “I would never use my 7th round pick on him. New city, new offense. I guarantee he’ll throw four picks in his first game [ha! he did! Obviously, they knew that, but still, funny and current.]”
In truth, though, the show’s setting isn’t enough on its own to win me over. There are some Chicago-set shows I actually don’t care for, like Married…with Children or Roseanne. What’s got me excited is how much I can relate to this program.
There are five or six members of the league that we get to follow. So far, those characters haven’t been developed enough to know what makes them different, except one. The pothead who doesn’t really care about fantasy sports but plays anyway, and actually won the league once by sheer accident. That one character actually covers two in our real league. The two seemingly main characters are best buddies, who have deep conversations about life spliced into their fantasy discussions. That’s me and Moltisanti. One of those characters has a wife who actually knows a lot about football and tries to take over her husband’s team. That’s CJ.
The show also seems to be adding a nice sub-layer to the plot. Showing how important fantasy sports can be to people, beyond the competition itself. One lonely character clearly is in the league just to hold onto his friendships. Another is able to see the problems in his marriage through her objection to the league. None of these actors are well known or even very recognizable. But that helps them seem even more like your everyday everyman.
Anyone dedicated to fantasy sports will be able to find the same relateable elements laced throughout the premiere, and likely every episode. The cockiness of winning, the agony of defeat, the obsession over stats and certain players, the difficult task of alotting time for a team. For instance, there’s a scene where the “managers” are selecting draft picks. Instead of a random draw, they each take a kid in the potato-sack race; first finisher is the first pick, etc. I completely understand that urge to apply fantasy sports to everything. I created Fantasy Olympics, after all.
There are parts of this show I cringe at. Like its predecessor, Sunny/Philadelphia, The League is crass, crude, offensive and a little inane. Expect lots of jokes about sex, drugs, and drunkenness. These are not qualities I usually look for in my TV match. But Sunny/Philadelphia does it with such ease and a bit of irony/social critique that you can’t help but laugh. I feel like The League is throwing those jokes in there just because they’re trying to keep that audience. I could do without.
And this show really can’t appeal to you if you’re not into fantasy sports. It’s clearly written by nerds like us, dropping subtle jokes here and there, basing arguments off of debates only fantasy players would have. But if you do play fantasy sports, you’ll be nodding in agreement like a bobblehead. Even little things. Like one of the managers drafting retired Keyshawn Johnson. As someone who drafted Mike Mussina in last year’s baseball league, I can relate.
I just hope the characters become as fun and interesting as the subject matter.