Once irreverent and witty, FXX’s seventh (and final) season of The League feels like the writers and cast have phoned it in. With redundant plot points and lazy jokes, The League has really dropped the metaphorical ball on which the series is predicated. Pete, Kevin, Ruxin, Jenny, Taco, and Andre return as the six dysfunctional friends all-consumed by a twisted fantasy football league of their own creation.
After the destruction of “The Shiva”, the league’s makeshift trophy and pseudo-deity, the first episode of the final season opens with the group offering suggestions for what might become the next league prize; it will also be Andre’s, the social outcast of the group, reward for winning the last round. We are presented with a bronzed turd, a manipulated photo of Andre kissing himself, a penis-joke in the style of an abstract painting (also a recurring joke), and the ever-popular sodomy reference. Although toilet humour has always been a trope of the show, this particular scene felt very tired and lazy. What used to be at least semi-clever sexual innuendos and double-entendres have now just become childish exclamations of “poop!” and “butt!” and the imagined cackling of writers who have either thrown in the towel or been replaced by a crew of elementary school boys.
And there is more amiss than just bad jokes. Taco, the pot-smoking “clown” of the group, embraces his “Sacko” punishment with gusto and becomes a strange distortion of his character’s former self. The “Sacko” is the antithesis of the “Shiva” and is implemented after he scored the lowest in last season’s league. The sex-addled stoner insists that he enjoys the “hazing” and goes as far as suggesting ridiculous punishments himself. Once mellow, gently goofy, and more “background noise” than anything else, Taco’s loud presence felt out-of-character, unnecessary, and distracting.
Taco is not the only character who has begun to feel like a hyperbole of himself. Andre continues to degenerate as a character, slipping into comedy bits that are so obvious that the only funny part is how they managed to get passed the show’s editing process. Jenny and Kevin, married on the show, have lost any existing chemistry and have become entirely indifferent, with Jenny subverting her husband in football prowess and confidence and Kevin pushing back with pettiness and whining. What once worked so well as a give-and-take in the earlier seasons is now exposing itself as deeply flawed characters with no reason to continue to gravitate around one another.
It feels like the seams of the show, the unspoken mechanics, are falling apart like the burned remnants of last season’s beach house. There is no subtly remaining. Jenny is better at sports than her husband and leaves him and the others in the dust; Kevin and Pete are called out as “fantasy guys” who “think they can run their own team” but who fall apart under pressure (gracelessly exposing the crux of the show); Ruxin full on states that “No one appreciates what [he] brings to the group”, calling attention to the literal meta-detail that the writer’s supply him with the best jokes and characterization (as despised as he may be); and Taco has gone from quirky to irredeemably weird.
The plotline, too, has hit upon many redundancies. Andre is again hiding a secret love affair: In an earlier season it was Shiva (after whom the revered trophy was named) and now is Meegan, Pete’s ex-wife. Taco is back in the children’s show mascot costume that ceased being funny after he first used it to rob his own brother’s house with the help of his unwitting young niece. The “Shiva” trophy gets a new, cruder look, just as the “Sacko” trophy did in an earlier season. Kevin and Jenny have a potty-training mishap with their son, just as they did much earlier with their daughter. It seems the show has run out of ideas, despite the crazy and fun twists and turns of the first three seasons. Cleverness and shock value has been stripped away for lazy poop and dick jokes. The cast now seems tired and uncommitted, as if they are just going through the motions of this final season.
Is there hope for a surprise comeback for a show that drew laughs from football fans and non-fans alike? Or is this last season doomed to ride the bench? As a longtime viewer, I’m willing to give The League another chance, but a disappointing start has me reconsidering my television show roster for the fall season.