The League: The Complete Season One (Blu-ray)
Directed by Jeff Schaffer
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 206 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 34.98
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Review Date: September 15, 2010
Fantasy football leagues may be tremendously popular for millions of Americans, but there obviously isn’t really enough substance there to forge a season of situation comedy, so the creators of The League use the fantasy football motif to introduce us to the shenanigans of five high school friends now long out of school (though with their blundering stupidity and boneheaded decision-making you might imagine they’re still in grade school) who taunt, tease, bicker, and torment one another during a season of football. Yes, they have their own little league, and yes, the competition seems to matter to them, but most of the six episodes that make up the first season of this show don’t revolve around football or their squads. Instead, the cast is thrown into various situations where their interactions can produce optimum levels of vulgar, fratboy humor and utter nonsense. Buddy comedies can be fun or foolish, depending on the genuine caring for one another that exists under the surface of their outward boisterous camaraderie, but these five guys seem especially insensitive and cruel to one another. Friends like these most of us can do without. On the other hand, some of the improvisatory comedy can be fitfully amusing and give the show it’s only reason for existing.
We have to accept that these five very diverse guys would actually be friends with one another in any kind of actual real world scenario. Ruxin (Nick Kroll) and Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) are lawyers. Andre (Paul Scheer) is a doctor (plastic surgery a specialty). Taco (Jon Lajoie) is a stoner/songwriter who actually gets a job as a janitor for half of one episode. Pete (Mark Duplass), well, who knows or cares what he does? He separates from his wife after the pilot episode and spends the rest of the season available for dating. Ruxin and Kevin both have problematic marriages of a type: Ruxin’s wife (Nadine Velazquez) has been withholding sex after the birth of their child while Kevin’s wife (Katie Aselton) tends to horn in on the fantasy league play-by-play emasculating Kevin in the process. Andre is the group’s patsy, the moronic innocent who’s always the butt of their jokes.
Since the series is an FX original, raunchiness and vulgarity are the show’s major calling cards. There’s one entire episode devoted to discussion of the two wives’ most provocative physical equipment: Sofia’s enlarged breasts and Jenny’s overly sensitive vagina. (The women themselves initiate the discussion – in a crowded restaurant no less!) After Pete’s marriage dissolves, he’s stuck with an anniversary weekend at a beauty spa he had previously booked for him and his wife, so not wishing to waste money already spent and nonrefundable, he elects to take Andre who’s thrilled to be considered Pete’s numero uno, until the other guys naturally show up and spoil his planned bromantic weekend.
It’s all very broad with lots of profanity (some of the language must be bleeped for broadcast, but it’s all reproduced here) and nudity (we even see some porno loops in the background not digitized). This is not The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but for FX’s primarily male audience, it’s likely a popular if forgettable half hour. The actors certainly play with ease around one another, but like many shows that live or die on the talent of their improvisational actors (Reno 911! is a prime example), the episodes are wildly erratic in quality, and often one good idea in a show can be surrounded by lots of terrible or flat stabs at finding something amusing. None of these episodes measure up to the best that network comedy shows can offer, but its wildness and anything goes attitude will draw it a certain number of fans.
Here are the six episodes which are presented on the single disc in this season one set:
1 – The Draft
2 – The Bounce Test
3 – Sunday at Ruxin’s
4 – Mr. McGibblets
5 – The Usual Bet
6 – The Shiva Bowl
The shows are framed at 1.78:1 and are presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Shot with a low budget, the quality of the images is pleasing without being jaw-dropping. There are occasional soft scenes, but for most, color is adequately if unspectacularly rendered, and detail is acceptable. There are no annoying artifacts to spoil the quality of the encode. Each episode has been divided into 5 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio mix is completely frontcentric with occasional ambient sounds issuing from the left or right. The rear channels, however, remain mostly silent through each of the six episodes. With the show being mostly about the dialogue, speaking voices issue clearly and cleanly from the center channel.
All of the bonus features are presented in 1080p.
The season one blooper reel runs for 8 ¾ minutes.
There are eight deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in one 9 ¾-minute grouping.
“Alt Nation” is a good illustration about how much improvisation actually goes on during the filming of the series. The leading actors all try out various line readings and insults for 6 ¾ minutes of montage footage.
“Three Penis Wine Infomercial” features the characters of Taco and Ruxin extolling the virtues of Taco’s infamous Three Penis Wine in an extended improvised infomercial running 3 ¼ minutes.
“Vaginal Hubris extended scene” again features the character of Taco performing his music video of “Vaginal Hubris” featured only in part in one of the episodes. It runs for 1 ¾ minutes.
“Birthday Song” is another of Taco’s songs given a more complete rendition in this 2-minute clip.
“Legalize Kevin’s Pubic Smoke” appears to be a cut song sung by Taco extolling the virtues of Kevin’s pubic hair rolled into a joint. It runs for 1 ½ minutes.
“Mr. McGibblets Fun House and Dojo” is a 7 ¾-minute set of improvisations featuring Jon Lajoie’s Taco dressed up in his Mr. McGibblets costume hosting a satiric kiddie-style show.
“Andre: Dress with Style, Win with Style” has actor Paul Scheer’s Andre showing off his terrible taste in clothes with the rest of the cast improvising insults over his lousy taste. It runs for 5 ¾ minutes.
The complete pilot for FX's comic animated show Archer is presented. It runs 21 ½ minutes (and is funnier than anything in The League).
There are trailers for FX’s slate of drama series and Fox’s array of drama series.
3/5 (not an average)
FX’s audience that has kept raunch fests like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on the air for years will likely do likewise for The League. Fans of the show will likely enjoy seeing the episodes again with good video and audio reproduction, and the bonus features should also please fans of the show. Others will likely take a pass on this one.