TV Episode Review: The League "The Bobbum Man"
For fans of the show, I’d be willing to bet tonight played just fine as another night of laugh-aloud moments compressed so close together as to make DVR the only way to get the complete experience of the episode. For critics (see how important our site is to conversations about television?), though, I’d be willing to bet tonight’s episode is a troublesome and potentially divisive one. Most early reviews of the show’s first season marveled at its ability to be “frat boy comedy” which somehow elevated itself above being simply a collection of sexist one-liners and other bodily references. It’s because of that special niche (shared by the show that precedes it, among a handful of others) of audience-spanning comedy that the show is subject to particularly mixed reactions from its viewership from episode to episode. Tonight, those critics who have embraced the show fo a higher, more hipster friendly (the show is praised as being clever, ironic, and the rare comedy that allows its cast to ad-lib at an incredible success rate) brand of low-brow comedy probably felt a bit disappointed by the show embracing its crass roots.
The premise itself almost openly embraces the frat mentality: The guys reminisce about their practice in college of trying to creep one another out on the phone with various unsavory character voices, the king of them all being Pete’s “Bobbum Man”, a heavily-accented weirdo who apparently drives around with unsavory “equipmunk” in the back of his van with the express purpose of trying to rape Kevin. If reading even that neutral summary still makes you laugh a bit, then you’re about where I was with this episode. It’s not as clever or observant of male culture as other episodes have been, and it certainly exceeds the boundaries of believable human behavior as grown men run in fear of a boogeyman on the streets (although once it turns out to be Raffi, I would have started running), but there’s something about it that just works despite all of that.
That “something,” really, is mostly the comedic talents brought together on this show. Even Taco manages a few laughs out of an almost startlingly unfunny and unoriginal concept with his “My Face” offline reality site, which entails sticking all of your life onto one of those standup poster boards you used for class projects in middle school. Raffi single-handedly breathes life into the final moments of the episode with his excessive violence at Andre’s expense—even after he’s told it’s Andre (one of the episode’s funniest moments), which otherwise would have felt far-fetched and silly as well. It’s rather amazing how whole-heartedly these guys throw themselves into their respective roles and sell some of the weaker moments on the show—when Kevin spots Bobbum Man (Raffi—equally scary) outside his window, his high-pitched, panicky explanation to Jenny is so excessive as to be absurd (which is exactly what it needs to be to distract from the fragile premise).
Speaking of absurdities, this episode returned to the boundless premise that Ruxin seems able to summon supernatural powers (possibly channeled to him by Satan, based on last season’s finale) on occasion. This week, it takes a spiritual looking back tattoo (we’re a classy site, so don’t correct me in the comments section and call it a “tramp stamp”) to spark his latent abilities which reveal to him “lineup nirvana” for his fantasy team. It’s a silly premise, but to complain about it seems counterproductive considering it gives us a couple pretty great scenes wherein he and Andre snark at each other under their breath at Andre’s yoga class. It’s one more example of how well this show does when it shuffles the deck a bit with the pairings of the guys. This season in particular seems to be devoted to the motif of Andre taking each of the guys, in turn, to find their inner peace at one relaxing destination or another. It’s been played cleverly so far, in that both Kevin and Ruxin have actually gotten something really positive out of the experience despite their insatiable desire to ridicule Andre for his celebration of all things pampering.
I found it interesting that this episode tossed out the final moments of last week’s episode, which seemed to establish Ruxin’s spare bedroom as Raffi’s new home. I have no problem with it; the show doesn’t really demand continuity of minor details in order to carry momentum from one week to the next (do we even know who’s tops in the fantasy standings from week to week?), but it is a helpful reminder that this show manipulates minor realities as it sees fit in order to enhance internal episode storylines. Thus, tonight, is Raffi’s living space at Ruxin’s forgotten in favor of a creepy, concrete floored, storage room stacked with chairs and with a “toilet kitchen” situated underneath a drippy wall spigot. It feels at once filthy and dangerous—just like Raffi. It looks like the show is committed to using him more often this season in small doses. That’s a good sign, especially when they find perfectly fitting uses for him—tonight he fully embraces Taco’s ridiculous poster board/sticky note messaging site and embodies the physical approximation of Pete’s grotesquely creepy Bobbum Man voice even (especially) without the black hood.
Whatever else this show may be capable of when it gets ambitious (Let’s keep it in perspective though—it can be a pretty smart comedy, but it’s not lighting the world on fire satirically or as cutting parody of the masculine world), it rumbles along just fine when it contents itself with simply ridiculous storylines that put the burden of comedy on the shoulders of one of the most talented comedy ensembles on television. Name me another show that gets this much mileage out of the performances of such a large central cast of comedic actors themselves (as opposed to just clever writing). I’m tempted to say that even the talents on Community don’t deserve as much credit for the funniest elements of their show as these guys do. After that, what’s left? The Office has an enormous cast, but none of them is ad-libbing much, and much of the minor-character dialogue amounts to new jokes sprung from the same thin characterization (Kelly’s shallow pop-culture obsessions, Ryan’s hipster-douchebag condescension, etc). They’re good at it, but not in the same way. The League brings something else entirely to the table in the way entire scenes feel and sound more like sketch comedy (not coincidentally, the background of much of the cast) than scripted, stiff sitcom dialogue. It’s not always “better”, but it’s something different that allows episodes like this one to crackle a little bit despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot going on underneath. Hopefully next week keeps the run going—this show is looking like a “best of the year” nominee right now.
Overall Rating: 8.8/10
Great Lines, Interesting Moments, Whatnot, and Occasionally What-Have-You:
“If Kevin were on my bench, he’d be a six foot billionaire who could sexually please his wife.”
Taco’s rage at online social networking was sort of shock-funny. He’s always so pothead-mellow it’s weird to see him worked up about anything.
“I’m gonna tweet your face, Andre.”
“I don’t care if it’s my penis, I don’t need to see a million pictures of it.”
“Watch, I’ll post a comment: I didn’t bring any money to pay for my meal today.”
“I’m not planning on giving four people hand and footjobs today.”
“He’s both pregnant and menstruating.”
“Indian style is for kids at summer camp who got diddled by the Croatian wind surfing instructor named Goran.”
“He creepy up in bobbum van. Filled with equipment to make great grief for creeping at your underneath.” I couldn’t get this all word-for-word (I’m not sure all of it WAS words) even after three listens.
Kevin is “Mundane Ejaculation Man.”
Andre’s “Crawdad Man” is almost as great as Bobbum.
“Why are you masturbating as Crawdad Man?”
Kevin’s sexiversary storyline isn’t all that funny, but I liked the wrap up that Taco took a photo of that wonderful moment.
“You guys should form a My Face group of people who don’t want to have their houses broken into at four in the morning.”
“Equipmunk sharp. Equipmunk dirty. Equipmunk make Kevin’s bobbum hurty.
“She doesn’t remember the first time you put your little finger length potato in her?”
“She doesn’t remember the first time your tired little boy slumped into her bean bag chair?”
“Ha ha, I’m gonna stab you…offline…with a real knife.”
Taco security questions: panty color, dildo or vibrator, top 10 lesbian experiences.
“There are no letters in that box, it’s a spider with a penis for legs.”
“Let him put it wherever.”
“Who’s ruining my equipmunk?”
“Bobbum! Right there!...It said fee fi fo fum I’m going to mess with your equipmunk.”
“Oooh, now I’ve got to play with my own equipmunk.”
“Lurking outside my window with your lurkely eyes.”
“I told him specifically I’m not going to blast any pigeons…I don’t do that anymore.”
“Hi five! you should watch that hand. I’m taking the seagull—arr arr!”
“He’s got a bag of equipmunk! I don’t want to go out like this!”
“This is how this is gonna go down. We’re gonna need to get a rug, a bone saw and condoms.”
“He’s not dead.”
“Okay, then we don’t need the condoms.”
“I’m gonna be Apollo, you should be Scott, you can be Kevin.”