The League is like pizza: even when it’s not that great, it’s still pretty good.*
For three seasons, this sitcom has been one of the most dependable Thursday night dates on television, delivering consistent laughs with an ensemble cast that is basically the Monsters of Improv Comedy (including heavy-hitters like Paul Scheer, Nick Kroll and Jason Mantzoukas, alongside tasty guest stars like Rob Huebel and Will Forte).
The season four premiere was decent pizza - not particularly mind-blowing, but who’s complaining? It’s still pizza! Shut up and enjoy it’s simple deliciousness, will you?
"Training Camp" followed the same track as many of the The League’s previous season premieres: a trip out of town, a billion celebrity cameos, a crazy competition to get the first draft pick.
But you’re not here for character development or a plot full of cliff-hangers; you’re here to see a bunch of hilarious comedians act horribly to each other, right? And that, my pizza-eating chums, is exactly what you got in this episode.
To apply some sports-style stat analysis to the episode, Taco definitely came out on top this time around. On a show that's all about who got the last best quip in, our stoner Forrest Gump was in excellent form, particularly when he gets down to business at Dallas Cowboys training camp with real-life owner Jerry Jones. His monologue about what he'd like to post on the Dallas Cowboys website certainly made its way onto my list of all-time favorite The League quotes.
It was nice to see so much of the action focus on Taco, who is usually a bit more of a bong-toting afterthought on this show, especially his jaunty nude sojourn across the training camp field, as well as his performance of a "naming song" for Kevin and Jenny's new baby. This sewed up his MVP nomination (though Jenny's semi-public, um, "bump-and-run" made her a close second).
Throughout the series' run, most of the openers have been too overloaded with sports celebrity cameos to carry off the zippy repartee that makes this show a delight for even non-sports fans, and this one was no exception.
The slightly wonky delivery by various football icons slowed the show down whenever they appeared (shockingly, Felix Jones is probably not going to be headlining shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater any time soon). But even though it won't be the highlight of the season, it got the job done.
The cast is more of a well-oiled machine than ever, the jokes are still sharp and if you are a football fan, I'm sure that Tony Romo cameo was more exciting for you than it was for me (I’m more of a curling woman, but to each their own).
On paper, The League sounds very similar to its FX sibling show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: it's the story of a close-knit group of borderline sociopaths with very little attachment to reality, running around obsessively pursuing worthless goals and casually ruining each other's lives.
But the difference lies in the vibe: somehow, The League is able to present Sunny-style unhinged antics (remember last season, when Rafi straight-up tried to murder Ruxin after his stroke? Remember this very episode, when a man traded away naming rights to his first-born son for a champion spot in a fantasy football league?) with a light, warm, happy feel in place of Always Sunny’s unrelenting bleakness.
Is it because we know that (at least some of) the characters have a capacity to love? Is it because they all supposedly have jobs? Is it the lack of kitten mittens? Was this as good as the show's previous season premiere episodes? And where did Jenny and Kevin's other kid go?? If you can solve any of these enduring mysteries, meet me in the comments and let me know!
*Yes, I know that thinking is usually applied to sex rather than TV, but these are the times we live in (or at least, these are the times I live in)