For those of you who, like me, are unfamiliar with American football, a show about a group of friends who play in an American football fantasy league might be a little off-putting. But worry not, there is no need to know anything about either American football or fantasy football. Aside from acting as a motivating factor to drive some of the storylines and adding a reason for these guys to be together, there isn’t much detail. I suppose if you know about these things then there are probably some inside jokes you will get, but there are plenty of non-football jokes to keep you entertained.
This is very much an ensemble cast, all of whom are excellent. The closest thing the show has to a protagonist is probably Pete (played by Mark Duplass, star of the excellent Safety Not Guaranteed), a divorcee going back into the world of the single, though this has been left alone somewhat. Stephen Rannazzisi plays his best friend Kevin whose brother, Taco (played by Jonathan Lajoie) is also in the league and provides the most ridiculous, surreal humour. There is also Andre (played by Paul Scheer), the highly successful plastic surgeon, with a penchant for trying (and failing) to be fashionable and for ghetto slang and who more often than not, ends up being the butt of the joke. There is also Ruxin (played by Nick Kroll), an attorney for a morally dubious litigation company. All are old friends from school.
As you might have guessed, this is a show predominantly about men. The women are generally relegated to a background role, which is a shame because Kevin’s wife (and fantasy football expert) Jenny (played by the excellent Kate Aselton) is a great addition. But then I suppose that reflects the effect of the league; all is subordinate to it. Wives, families, girlfriends, jobs. Everything takes second place.
The plots are creative and the inclusion of Taco allows them to move into the absurd, but without becoming stupid. The shows are semi-scripted, which means they are partially improved. It therefore comes as little surprise that this is written and directed by Jeff Schafer, who wrote and directed several episodes of the brilliant Curb Your Enthusiasm, which employs a similar semi-improvised format.
The improvised format is an excellent decision as the entire cast are excellent improvisers and are very funny in their own right. It also adds an extra dimension to the bunch of guys hanging out, because the reactions are genuine because no-one knows what is going to be said next. In some scenes you can tell the cast are just about keeping it together and are dying to laugh.
I wasn’t expecting too much from it, but it is an excellent show and I thoroughly recommend it.