‘The League’ Season 4: Everything You Need To Know

The League on FX may be the best sitcom you never heard of, or more likely, that you’ve heard of from your friend who watches way too much TV but can’t find time to fit into your TV rotation.  If that’s true, then maybe it’s time to finally give up on Grey’s Anatomy (seriously, that show is getting ridiculously absurd…. uh, so I hear) and meander down the dial to FX on Thursday nights at 10:30 PM..   If so, you’re in luck! Because Season 4 premieres tonight, and The Wise Guy is here to provide you with a preview.

The premise is simple.  Four buddies—Kevin, Pete, Ruxon, and Taco—as well as Kevin’s shark of wife, Jenny, are so consumed with their fantasy league that they’ll engage in any caper, connivance, or tomfoolery to gain the upper hand.  Created by Jeff and Jackie Marcus-Schaffer, who were both former writers for Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the show usually attempts to emulate the interwoven plotline structure (ending with a final “gotcha”) that Larry David made famous.  But the show’s real strength is the quick-witted, raunchy, chop busting (much of it ad-libbed) amongst the actors.  At its core, The League is all about fantasy—not necessarily football, but for how you wish your dialogue could be with your friends.

Every year, the characters compete for two main honors: To win the “Shiva” trophy for league champion (named after a gangly foreign-exchange student from high school, who coincidentally, has now blossomed into a lovely young woman); and to not “win” the “Sacko” award given to the worst team in the league.  As you might imagine, receiving the “Sacko” carries a certain stigma that ruthless friends may prey upon.

But that’s all just background to set the stage.  What you really need to know to dive into The League is who the main characters are.

Peter “Pete” Eckhart (Mark Duplass): Pete got divorced in the series premiere (because he wouldn’t give up fantasy football, of course), which set himself up as the consummate “eligible bachelor” on the show.  Pete’s a bit of a slacker (e.g., he always wears a hoodie), except when it comes to hoodwinking his gullible friends (particularly Taco and Andre) into making poor fantasy football trades.  Pete is best friends with Kevin, but it’s hardly a relationship of equals.  The only rival to Pete’s connivery is Ruxin, though Pete’s tactics are generally more understated.  All in all, Pete comes across the person you’d most like to be friends with on the show.

Kevin MacArthur (Stephen Rannazzisi): An assistant district attorney, Kevin is the show’s “Ross”—a hapless sap who tries so hard but just can’t get a break.  But unlike Ross, Kevin is actually funny (not Costanza funny, but close).  Kevin has never won the league championship, and his series of near misses have become fodder for all his competitors (including his wife).  I don’t think I’m overstating this when I say Kevin would likely sell his daughter (Elie) if it brought him a league title.  The other funny thing about Kevin is he’s always pumping others for fantasy advice—namely, his expert wife, Jenny, who, when it comes to fantasy football, is twice the man Kevin is.

Jenny MacArthur (Katie Aselton): The brains (and brawn) in the MacArthur household.  As readers of this site well know, it should not be considered a stretch to create a “cool” girl who’s into fantasy football, and that’s exactly what Jenny is.  But more importantly, Jenny can dish–and take–the coarse banter just as well as her male counterparts.  There’s just something so special about a crass insult coming from a beautiful woman.  Kinda brings a tear to my eye.

Rodney Ruxin “Ruxin” (Nick Kroll): My favorite character on the show.  Ruxin is the archetypal smarmy lawyer who “outkicked his coverage” when it came to snagging his voluptuously vapid Latino wife.  Ruxin is completely without scruples, which often gets him into trouble but, then again, just as often gets him out of trouble.  As probably the best ad-libber in the cast, Ruxin drops some of the most randomly coarse dialogue on TV.  But perhaps his greatest performance came last season when the show was graced with Jeff Goldblum, who played Ruxin’s dad.  In those 30 minutes, the “natures vs. nurture” conundrum was solved for me once and for all. (Hint: it’s both)

Dr. Andre Nowzick (Paul Sheer): Ah, the perennial “Sacko” award winner.  Andre plays is the foil for his friend’s ruthless ribbing, with a wardrobe (the man takes metrosexual to a new level), job (plastic surgeon), and features (short, bald, gap toothed) that just begged to be walked all over.  Andre perhaps takes an insult better than any character on TV—you don’t feel the slightest bit of empathy towards him because he’s just so weirdly good-natured.  Andre also appears to know nothing about football, though his exuberance is unmatched.  This year, however, I am predicting Andre’s rise from the ashes because, frankly, the show has nowhere else to go with this character.

Taco MacArthur (Jon Lajoie): A poor man’s Kramer.  As Kevin’s younger brother, Taco is a drifter who gets involved in one kooky caper after another, many of which end in some Tenacious D-esque comedy song.  For example, in previous seasons Taco tried to get into the white truffle business, cultivated 1000 year-old eggs, appeared in a Middle Eastern soap opera, and brewed wine made from urine. Frankly, I get a little tired of the Taco plotlines because there can only be one Kramer; everything else is just a poor imitation.

Adding to the cast are frequent cameos by NFL players. In seasons past we’ve seen Antonio Gates, Terrell Suggs and Matt Forte enter “The League.” Already confirmed for Season Four: RGIII, Jerry Jones, Trent Richardson, and Kristin Cavallari (Jay Cutler is a huge fan of the show.)