'The League' sits shiva in season 6 premiere
If you need a quick example of The League’s sense of humor, see: main character Kevin pees his pants within the first few minutes of the season 6 premiere. And that’s one of the less humiliating thing to happen throughout the episode.
For the uninformed, The League follows a group of five men and one woman who get together each year to compete in a Fantasy Football league that results in pranks, deception, and overall chaos. Like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the characters don’t seem to have any sort of moral compass and are immune to sympathy. Their friend dies on camera right in front of them? No big, time to crack a joke.
That’s not an exaggeration—when the league gathers together to discuss the upcoming football season, Adam Brody’s Ted video-chats into the conversation and promptly gets hit by a car and dies right after making a joke at Kevin’s (Stephen Rannazzisi) expense. Instead of freaking out, crying, or demonstrating any normal human response to seeing a friend (or anyone, for that matter) die, Nick Kroll’s Ruxin uses this opportunity to continue mocking Kevin. “At least he died doing what he loved,” Ruxin says. “Making fun of you, Kevin.”
The moment is a preview of what the rest of the episode holds, a look at how the league members deal with death. And, predictably, they don’t deal with it too eloquently. The crew lives in a complete world of their own where all they do is trash-talk one another and watch football, completely disregarding anything else going on in the world and remaining constantly self-absorbed. So when they meet Ted’s parents before the funeral and hear them talking about sitting shiva for their deceased son, they assume his parents are referring to Shivakamini Somakandarkram, the namesake of the Shiva—an easy gag, but comical nonetheless.
They soon discover that shiva is actually the Jewish tradition of mourning someone’s death and are excited to partake. For Ted’s family, partaking involves respectfully sitting with the dead. For the league members, partaking involves sneaking in a cooler of beer and drafting their football picks over Ted’s open casket. The scene is funny because of how outrageous it all is, but turns dull when Ted’s family tries to interrupt the session, causing the league to furiously stow away their beers and bongs. We’ve already seen every rebellious teenager on TV race to clean up after a house party, so watching these adults do the same thing isn’t anything new—although it does highlight just how childish they are.
Viewers have always known this about the characters, but this episode makes sure to drill it in our heads that yes, these people are out of their minds. We identify with every outsider on the show, every funeral guest staring in shock at Paul Scheer’s Andre as he breaks into dance mid-service—and that’s the fun part of the show. It’s showing us these outliers of humans who are so clueless about how to operate normally in society and juxtaposing them against regular ol’ people who stay silent during funeral services and don’t stick joints in the mouths of the deceased.
This comes into even sharper focus when, at episode’s end, the group notices Ted’s body isn’t in the casket where it should be. The camera cuts to the coffin being lowered into the ground, and Taco (Jon Lajoie) soon pops out holding the draft poster he hid under Ted when they were drafting during shiva. “No worries, it’s just the draft,” Taco says to Ted’s shrieking mother. “Ted’s still dead.” Horrifying, yes, but he says the matter-of-fact sentence “Ted’s still dead” with such glee that it’s hard not to find Taco at least a bit lovable. The rest of the league is made up of angry, conniving friends who yell at each other a lot but the utter absurdity of the always-chill Taco is a welcome interruption from their chaos every so often.
Although the show rewards football fans with cameos by NFL players, you don’t need to know anything about football to get the bulk of the jokes. In fact, you don’t need to know much of anything to get the bulk of the jokes. And for what The League is trying to be—not a highbrow comedy, but a glimpse into how ridiculous this amoral Fantasy league is—that’s a good thing.