F/X makes a lot of (supposedly) good shows that I just don’t watch: Rescue Me, Sons of Anarchy, The Shield, Terriers, Nip/Tuck and The League. There’s just not enough time to catch up on all of them, but that’s where Netflix comes in to let me scratch at least one of those off of the list.
As mentioned in my Sports Night FYC, I am not a sports guy. I don’t follow sports, I don’t watch sports and I know very little about sports players and references Yet for some reason, I dig sports TV shows. Sure, The League isn’t strictly a sports show. It’s not about actual athletes, it’s about sports fans. Either way, it turns out that show that my DVR used to record a minute or two of every week after It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is actually pretty damned hilarious.
Who Made It: The League was conceived by husband and wife team Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer, who between them have produced Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, EuroTrip and Disturbia.
Who’s In It: Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Greenberg), Nick Kroll (Dinner for Schmucks), Jonathan Lajoie, Stephen Rannazzisi (Big Day), Paul Scheer (Human Giant, Piranha 3D), Katie Aselton (The Puffy Chair, The Freebie).
What’s It About: A bunch of assholes and their fantasy football league. And when I say assholes, I mean that in an endearing way. This is a show about a group of terrible people who do terrible, embarrassing things to each other all in the name of winning a pointless competition amongst themselves. Basically, think of it like Curb Your Enthusiasm where every character is some variant of Larry David and all they care about is football.
Why You Should Watch It: Are you a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm? It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? Just mash ‘em together and you’ve got The League. That may sound like a complaint - that the show is just that simple, but it’s not. Of course that’s not to say that a show about five friends’ misadventures with a fantasy football league is deep and complex - far from it - but it sticks to a tried and true formula of bitter, miserable people being bitter and miserable to each other and yet still being friends.
Everyone secretly thinks that their group of friends is as funny as the group on The League, that’s just the way it goes. But no one in real life gets up to sitcom-styled misunderstandings and mayhem, it just doesn’t happen. And that’s why shows like The League and Curb are so great. They’re the kind of sitcom world we wish we could live in. Not a bunch of friends getting together at a coffee shop every day, but a bunch of friends who escape their mundane lives by entering this bizarre fantasy world where they have no morals and are perfectly happy to throw their friends and family under the bus if it means comedy gold.
And in the case of The League, it’s gold indeed. It’s also remarkably vulgar for a basic cable television show. Not necessarily in language - even F/X has its limits - but in its topics and situations. There’s nothing off limits on this show. Everyone is at the mercy of what these brilliantly decadent jerks will do to each other.
It's graduation day for Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) but the celebration comes to an abrupt end when his girlfriend Fiona (Kristin Kreuk) dumps him by blatantly announcing she has been unfaithful to him--over and over again. At a graduation party that night Fiona makes her point by jumping on stage during rockers Lustra's performance of "Scotty Doesn't Know " which goes something like this: "Scotty doesn't know that Fiona and me do it in my van every Sunday..." Dumbfounded Scotty gets drunk and goes home to confide in his Berlin-based computer pen pal Mieke (Jessica Boerhs) who suggests coming to America for a "rendezvous." Scott rudely rebuffs him (and that's putting it mildly) not aware that Mieke is not a guy but actually a really hot high school girl. He tries to make amends but Mieke won't read his e-mails so his pal Cooper (Jacob Pitts) convinces him to go to Berlin and meet her face-to-face. Short on cash they take a cheap courier flight to London where they meet up with twin pals Jenny (Michelle Trachtenberg) and Jamie (Travis Wester) before hopscotching to Amsterdam Bratislava Rome Vatican City and finally Berlin. Of course the chase is always better than the kill and Eurotrip is no different: Whether Scotty gets Mieke is beside the point; the amusement is all in the journey there. Who knew for example that you could spend the night in a five star hotel and partake in a night of clubbing in Eastern Europe on $1.87 U.S.-and still have 27 cents left over when it's all over?
Newcomer Mechlowicz is perfectly cast as the lead here playing a character that is simple-minded daring sympathetic and charming. But it's Mechlowicz's personal spin--his bewildered expressions--that really nails the role for him whether he is witnessing the twins accidentally making out on the dance floor in a drunken stupor or waking up to find a strange passenger cozying up to him on a train. As his buddy Cooper Pitts (K-19: The Widowmaker) plays the wisecracker of the bunch and although he doesn't go over the top with the crassness there is a little too much David Spade influence in his delivery (and the similar haircuts don't help the matter either). Like the rest of the cast Wester is careful not to typecast his character Jamie a meticulous planner who can't travel without Frommer's by loosening him up slightly. Jamie for example knows when it's time do drop the book and experiment even if it means nude sunbathing. Trachtenberg (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer) also infuses her twin character Jenny with the perfect blend of sexuality and innocence. The result is a cast of mishmash characters that are just so darn likeable. Look for a surprise cameo from Matt Damon as well as small but hilarious performances from Vinnie Jones as Mad Maynard a Manchester United soccer hooligan; Lucy Lawless as S&M mistress Madame Vandersexxx; and Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen credited as "the creepy Italian guy."
Jeff Schaffer makes his directorial debut here from a screenplay co-written with his longtime partners scribes Alec Berg and David Mandel. And ads touting it as a comedy "from producers of Road Trip and Old School " may be exactly what Eurotrip a comedy starring relative unknowns needs to draw the coveted teen crowd. After all Ivan Reitman the producer responsible for catapulting low budget comedies into box-office gold territory has secured quite a following--and fans won't be let down with this latest offering. Unlike its predecessors Eurotrip isn't afraid to be crass and while the characters are sweet the storyline is anything but. In this Euro-centric tale writing trio Schaffer Berg and Mandel proudly embrace every stereotype imaginable but do so at the expense of the inexperienced foursome which makes the material funny rather than offensive. Nude beaches the young Americans discover aren't necessarily packed with hot gorgeous women and Amsterdam's sex industry isn't exactly the stuff young male fantasies are made of. With one hilarious gag after another as well as funky map graphics with dotted lines that transport viewers from city to city the film maintains its fast-moving pace throughout. Surprisingly the film was shot entirely on location in the Czech Republic with Prague doubling as London Paris Berlin Amsterdam Rome Vatican City Bratislava--and even Hudson Ohio with landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower the Coliseum and Big Ben added using CGI. Accompanied by an awesome soundtrack featuring Lutsra's "Scotty Doesn't Know " Chapeaumelon's "My Generation" and The Salads "Get Loose " this film succeeds on all levels.