Archive for Thursday, October 29, 2009

No ‘League’ of gentlemen

October 29, 2009

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An envelope-pushing comedy that gives one a renewed respect for envelopes, “The League” (9:30 p.m., FX) will have many viewers thinking, “I didn’t think they could say/do/show THAT on basic cable.” Much like its companion series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” this new series operates in a universe where the testosterone-fueled male id knows no bounds.

United by a fantasy football league, five male friends in their mid-30s spend most of their time cracking wise in a brazenly cruel and obscene manner best confined to locker rooms and fraternity houses. For better or worse, “The League” explores the ramifications of taking this behavior to the extreme and in the presence of outsiders, such as their wives, children and co-workers. In one scene, Taco (Jon Lajoie), the stoner of the group, warbles an explicitly obscene folk song about baby-making at a children’s birthday party. In another, lawyer Ruxin (Nick Kroll) risks being seen as a child molester when he procures the services of a 15-year-old football expert known as “the oracle.”

As in many sitcoms of this nature, average-looking guys have gorgeous and sexually voracious wives. Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), the president of the League, is married to Jenny (Katie Aselton), who encourages him to watch pornography, knows more about football than he does and speaks loudly about her sexual equipment and appetites in public places.

When not wallowing in the raunchy, “The League” goes for the dark. We see Kevin and Ruxin go to work together only to show us that they are working rivals, a prosecutor and pro-bono defense attorney, arguing a plea bargain in front of a black man handcuffed to a desk. Eventually, his prison sentence comes down to a number of draft choices in their fantasy football league.

For all of its audacity, “The League” and FX face a rather basic question. Why would a male audience of a certain age and inclination watch a comedy about sports and pornography when that same audience could just watch sports and pornography?

Tonight’s other highlights

• The Yankees and Phillies meet in game 2 of the World Series (6:30 p.m., Fox).

• Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina in college football (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

• A series of attacks may have a connection on “FlashForward” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Dunder Mifflin sponsors a haunted house on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A college coach’s murder may be linked to an earlier crime on “CSI” (8 p.m., CBS).

• A rookie reporter doesn’t survive her first big assignment on “E! Investigates: Mystery in Texas” (8 p.m., E!).

• Jack and Liz scour Kenneth’s hometown for new talent on “30 Rock” (8:30 p.m., NBC).

• A ghost emerges as a murder suspect on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Heidi Klum hosts “Project Runway” (9 p.m., Lifetime).

• The gang wrestles to benefit returning troops on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (9 p.m., FX).

Cult choice

A banker (Walter Huston) fights for his customer’s deposits in the 1932 Frank Capra drama “American Madness” (8:30 p.m., TCM), which explores themes later found in Capra’s better known “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

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