THE SHOW "The League"
WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 10:30 on FX
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Five guys in Chicago who run their own fantasy football league, and their begrudging, beguiling wives. There's Kevin - Smithtown's own Stephen Rannazzisi - who is "league" commish, and his wife, Jenny (Katie Aselton); Taco (Lajoie), Kev's older bro, a space cadet and horndog; Andre (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon who knows nothing about football; Ruxin (Nick Kroll), who's so desperate to win he'll bribe a 9-year-old who actually does know something to give him guidance on his picks; and, finally, Pete (Mark Duplass), the current champ.
They hang out, drink beer, talk about sex - the usual guy stuff - but also have a craven need to establish their smarts and masculinity through their fantasy league. The joke, if there is one, is that some of the guys really don't know all that much about the game, while Jenny is the real brains.
BOTTOM LINE What an amazing and mysterious culinary art - this art of making TV shows - can be. For ingredients, you get five talented actors, like indie stars Aselton and Duplass (2005's "The Puffy Chair"). You find genuinely funny actors like Kroll ("Cavemen") and Scheer ("Human Giant"). You hire a comic superstar of cyberspace (Lajoie) and a famous TV writer ("Seinfeld's" Jeff Schaffer) who adds the last magic touches. Finally, you hit the blender button . . . high speed . . . and . . . voila! A mess. Or a largely unfunny mess, with a few (way too few) bright spots.
Even with endless talk about genitalia and the things people can do to them, "The League" is surprisingly dull and slack - without snap or payoff. This show's supposed to be the bawdier companion to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." It's bawdier all right, but not even remotely in the same comedy league.