The League -- TV Review

ESPN promos for "SportsCenter" are particularly clever, but would they be as funny if their take on men and sports was expanded from 30 seconds to, say, a half-hour?

Something like that happens on "The League," FX's newest comedy, an exaggerated look at guys being guys. The new series, a buddy-times-five comedy about friends in Chicago and their fantasy-football league, is an ongoing riff on the passion men have for sports and, occasionally, sex and, well, that's about it.

Creators Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer assert that men are overgrown boys for whom such things as relationships and professions are unwelcome distractions from what's really important: talking sports, playing pranks and thinking about sex (usually in that order). Or, as one of the guys puts it: "There are many things a man can do with his time. (Playing fantasy football) is better than those things."

Yes, though there are men exactly like this, mostly in supporting roles of other comedies, this show practically corners the market on shallow guys.

It can be funny at times, like when a draft pick becomes part of a negotiated plea bargain in a criminal case. And there's no denying the strong chemistry among the little-known cast. At other times, though the one-dimensional humor wears thin and the guys nearly become parodies of themselves.

The premiere centers on Pete (Mark Duplass), the champ from previous seasons, organizing the draft for the start of a new season. Other players are Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), an assistant D.A.; Taco (Jon Lajoie), a spaced-out musician and Kevin's brother; Ruxtin (Nick Kroll), a lawyer who takes crude speech to levels never before dreamed of on basic cable; and Andre (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon and the perennial butt of all jokes.

Although Ruxtin might be the king of genitalia-laced language, there isn't a character in this show lacking a potty mouth. In the opener, Taco performs a detailed song about a sexual encounter ... at the birthday of his 5-year-old niece. In another scene, Pete's wife (guest star Leslie Bibb) achieves orgasm only after she inserts a finger in a place he finds uncomfortable.

In the second episode, Kevin's wife (Katie Aselton), while dining with another couple, boasts of the confidence she has in her private parts. (Please understand, no review would be possible if it contained the actual words spoken in the show.)

In the end, the legacy of "League" will almost certainly have less to do with the overall quality of the series, which is a mixed bag, than with the basic-cable taboos it shatters into itsy-bitsy pieces.

Airdate: 10:30-11 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29 (FX)
Production: Chicken Sticks in association with FX Prods.
Cast: Mark Duplass, Nick Kroll, Jon Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi, Paul Scheer, Katie Aselton, Nadine Velazquez, Leslie Bibb
Executive producers/creators/writers: Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
Producers: Keith Raskin, Kyle Clark
Director: Jeff Schaffer
Director of photography: Patrick A. Stewart
Production designer: Gary Kordan
Editor: Jonathan Corn
Music: Jeff Cardoni
Set decorator: Julie Drach
Casting: Jeanne McCarthy
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