After firmly establishing its dramatic footprint, FX is beginning to make serious inroads in comedy with its preview of the animated spy spoof “Archer” and now “The League,” a crude but consistently funny half-hour that appears to be a bull’s-eye with the channel’s male-skewing audience. Like TBS’ “My Boys,” this show about a group of guys connected by their impassioned fantasy football league mixes sports with other primitive male qualities, blending confusion about the women in their lives with the need for a stat-generating quarterback. For FX, it’s a major step toward a truly diversified offense.
The topnotch ensemble includes Pete (Mark Duplass), who consistently wins the fantasy league crown while suffering through a quarrelsome marriage; Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), whose wife Jenny (Katie Aselton) secretly helps develop his team’s draft strategies; the sexually frustrated Ruxin (Nick Kroll), whose wife (“My Name Is Earl’s” Nadine Velazquez) is withholding sex after having a baby; and Andre (Paul Scheer), a plastic surgeon whom the other guys constantly abuse.
Each of them hold respectable day jobs except for Kevin’s brother, Taco (Jon Lajoie), a committed pothead whose absence of a social filter includes singing a filthy song at a kid’s birthday party. The others, however, are so blinded by their competitive ardor that Kevin, a district attorney, and Ruxin, a defense lawyer, actually negotiate a fantasy player trade as part of a criminal suspect’s plea bargain.
In a very good sign, the second episode is funnier than the first, introducing the term “Eskimo brothers” (don’t ask), “special” sex and a riotous double date where the wives — who more than hold their own — engage in a discussion about post-natal breasts that includes feeling each other up.
Created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (“Disturbia”), “The League” is consistently juvenile and raunchy — all in the service of demonstrating that men never really outgrow their teenage years. Like little boys, rather, these guys constantly trade insults, talk smack to each other and generally behave like asses, while obsessing over the prospect of having to “trade” Peyton Manning.
The single-camera series will premiere after FX’s long-running “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” which possesses a similar sensibility but has proved uneven in its execution. The pressure to be as edgy as FX’s dramas can become its own kind of trap — being smutty is harder than it looks without sacrificing wit — but “The League” comes close to the goal of creating a TV show with “The Hangover”-type appeal.
Sitcoms are already enjoying a mini-resurgence on broadcast TV. With these fantasy football guys and what we’ve seen of “Archer,” FX is indicating that basic cable can hold its own in that league, too.