Saturday, November 7, 2009

"The League" Review

Since Paulie is out of town this weekend, I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you all in on a pleasant little surprise I’ve found recently. Combining two of my favorite things on the planet, television and fantasy football, the geniuses at the FX network have created a television show about fantasy football.

I heard about the idea for “The League” back in July (because I am a TV nerd and that's what I do during the summer) and thought it was just a concept to be hopefully developed later; so I have to give them credit for getting it together so quickly.

If you haven’t heard about or seen it yet, basically the show follows the lives of five friends who stay connected through fantasy football. They show does a solid job showcasing the different fantasy personalities that you always see in every fantasy league (more on that next week) but it is still trying to develop some well-rounded television characters (an absolute must on any new series).

The highlights from the pilot episode, “The Draft”, included the guys determining the order of their league draft by betting on kids in a sack race at a children’s party and two of the owners (who are also opposing lawyers) negotiating a fantasy-related trade by including a convict’s prison term as part of the deal – with the convict watching the entire process! The over-the-top, way too obsessive dynasty league I've been for the past six years suddenly felt tame in comparison. We've only ever had a threat of physical violence between owners.

The only negatives that I can find so far (beyond the somewhat disturbing sexual scene) are as follows:

(1) fantasy football changes so much during the course of the season that it can be difficult for a show to keep up since it has to adhere to a production schedule that is probably planned months in advance. Some of the fantasy references can feel a little forced – or even generic, and there’s really nothing they can do about that.

(2) Speaking of scheduling issues: FX is running “The League” right after one of their anchor shows, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on Thursday nights at 10:30 p.m. Part of the reason I’ve always struggled to get into “Philadelphia” is that it is on the one TV night where I’m booked to the beginning to end of primetime. After I plow through the NBC comedy lineup, my wife takes over and watches “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” on DVR. I guess I could go watch it on our little TV in the bedroom, but the glory of HD has ruined me forever. I’d rather read a book than have to follow a show on the little TV (I’m a spoiled jerk, I know).

Other than, I could really get into this show. I do have a policy about not falling too hard to fast for a new series because I’m always afraid of it getting cancelled (I finally breathed a sigh of relief when “Community” got a full season pick-up order and I lived in fear the entire three year run of “Arrested Development”.

I have written countless times that men need something in common to maintain friendships. For some guys it’s cars, for others it’s computers. For me and my friends, it’s always been sports and now that I live 2,000 miles away from them, sports (and fantasy sports in particular) are keeping those bonds strong. Maybe it’s just a “right place, right time” kind of thing, but it’s cool to see a TV show tap into that.

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