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TV Review: ‘The League’ – ‘Baby Geoffrey Jesus’ and ‘The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah’

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FXX’s The League ended season five with a two-part episode this week. In the first, “Baby Geoffrey Jesus,” Ruxin (Nick Kroll) is upset when his young son, Geoffrey, is chosen to play the part of Jesus in his Catholic school play, insisting that Geoffrey practice Judaism like his father sort of does. This battle continues in “The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah” as Ruxin tries to bring the holiday into his home and vanquish Christmas.

There are other subplots happening in these two episodes, as The League is about an ensemble cast, but Ruxin is certainly a fan favorite, in that viewers love to hate him, so it’s kind of fun to let him be front and center in the final hour of the year. He earns many a laugh, as usual.

Ruxin isn’t exactly a faithfully practicing Jew, but he does tend to think differently of himself than others do, and gets very upset when people question those characteristics he claims to have. He uses Judaism to get his way more than actually honoring the faith. This is obvious when his rabbi calls him out on his ill behavior towards his friends, and also when he manipulates his brother-in-law, Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas), into converting.

L3Ruxin’s intention is not to help Rafi bed Ruxin’s sister (Lizzy Caplan, Masters of Sex), which he unintentionally does, but rather, to have Rafi influence Ruxin’s son, Geoffrey (Adam Karchmer), since Geoffrey looks up to Rafi. Ruxin has to go through Rafi because he stands no chance in talking Geoffrey’s mother, Sofia (Nadine Velazquez) into anything, and she wants their child to be Christian.

Ruxin and Sofia have a very strange relationship, and for the longest time I wondered what she gets out of the deal. She’s hot, so that’s Ruxin’s reason for wanting to be with her, but Ruxin, while making a comfortable living, isn’t rich, he’s pretty much a total jerk, and she actually seems to care about him. Maybe she likes getting her way, though, and knows she can with Ruxin, who is vulnerable to the power of her charms.

As usual, Ruxin’s plot fails, though he does get a happy moment when he is able to pass off the Sacko Ruxin trophy to Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi). The League must toss Ruxin some victories periodically, and his inappropriate dance backed up by a gospel choir in a church is one of his more memorable gloats. It’s moments like these, horribly offensive, and yet terribly funny, that make The League so enjoyable to watch.

While Kevin loses the fantasy football league, thanks to his wife, Jenny’s (Katie Aselton), advice, Jenny wins it all after listening to Kevin. Honestly, who wins and loses isn’t super important, and five years in, it’s hard to keep much weight on that outcome, which is probably why the story point is dropped late in the hour and not the center of the full two episodes. I have to hand it to The League, though; having Kevin and Jenny take home the trophies the way they do is clever and fresh, making this season finale have impact.

Kevin and Jenny do have some martial strife in “Baby Geoffrey Jesus” when Jenny asks her ex-boyfriend, Ben (Ryan Hansen, Party Down), for help with her lineup. Kevin takes this worse than he would learning Jenny has cheated in him, and temporarily crashes with Pete (Mark Duplass) while he pouts. I find it very funny that Kevin lets such a betrayal affect him so deeply, but I also am not surprised, based on the characters, and am glad this is resolved in “The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah,” thus leaving the couple intact once more. They seem so good together, overall.

L2In the last subplot that really counts, Andre (Paul Scheer) stupidly partners with his rival (Parks and Recreation‘s Aziz Ansari) without reading the contract, which results in Andre being sent overseas. At least, that’s what would have happened if Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) and Rafi didn’t accidentally crush the guy’s hand, saving Andre’s job and home. So he has a happy ending, too.

I actually am disappointed by the quick save here. The League walks a delicate balance between allowing their characters to grow but not losing the amazing cast dynamic. In doing so, it is usually conservative in big changes. Yes, only a year ago Andre was facing major upheaval, which took several episodes to work out. But I still would have liked to have seen this go further. After all, there is always a many-months-long break in the action, so Andre could easily just be returning home when the next season begins. And it wouldn’t ruin the show like a Kevin / Jenny divorce would.

Along those lines, it would also be really cool if we had a spring run some time, with installments that weren’t beholden to fantasy football. Much of the regular season has nothing to do with the game, and I’d like some more of that.Maybe six episodes would be appropriate? Though this seems unlikely to happen.

Other than the one minor complaint, both “Baby Geoffrey Jesus” and “The 8 Defensive Points of Hanukkah” are great episodes. The show remains as hilarious as ever, not having lost anything with age, and still finding new ways to go with its story. Andre running a long con on Kevin is fantastic, and so are just about all the other small moments within.  I look forward to whatever they cook up next.

The League has already been renewed will return to FXX for a sixth go-round next fall.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com
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