It had to happen eventually - fantasy football is so huge, one network would create a show around it. That's been done with "The League" on FX, a show that just began its second season.
Fantasy football is supposed to provide an outlet for good-natured competition and camaraderie between friends and colleagues, but that's not always the case. In FX's comedy series, The League, deception, one-upmanship and a win-at-all costs mentality rule the day on the virtual gridiron and then extend into personal relationships, marriages and the workplace.
The League was created by the husband-and-wife team of Jeff Schaffer (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld) and Jackie Marcus Schaffer (Disturbia, Eurotrip) who serve as executive producers and directors.
It's an interesting show, and we have a neat treat for fans who already enjoy the series, or fantasy football players in general. If you visit the Shutdown Corner Facebook page and enter your Yahoo! Fantasy Football team's current lineup and league's current link, you'll be eligible to win the DVD Set of Season 1 of "The League".
I recently talked to Mark DuPlass, who plays Pete Eckhart on the show. He's married in real-life to Katie Aselton, who plays the wife of Kevin McArthur. Born in New Orleans, Mark is a huge Saints fan from way back in the "bags over the heads" days, and he's also got a promising career on the other side of the camera -- he's produced and written several films.
Shutdown Corner: How did you hook up with this show in the first place?
Mark DuPlass: Jackie and Jeff saw a movie that me and my wife Katie and my brother did called "The Puffy Chair." It was an improvised comedy, Katie and I both starred in it, and they just called us into a meeting and said, ‘We're putting this show together, and we're interested in you guys.' We had tacos on the east side of L.A. and got really drunk and the next thing you know, we were shooting a TV show.
SC: The thing that really stood out about this show to me was that the fantasy knowledge is pretty tight -- you mention Larry Johnson(notes) as being a great option in about 2005, and bring up Jay Cutler(notes) in the new system under Mike Martz. Who in that show has that level of analysis/knowledge?
MD: The king of it all is Jeff Shaffer - nobody knows what he knows, and there‘s a reason he's making the show, because all five of the lead guys share some attributes of Jeff's. And his wife Jackie is a massive fantasy football fan. It all starts with them. Steve Rannazzisi is on about five different leagues - he's really good. Then, Nick Nick Kroll and I were huge football fans in the 1980s and 1990s. We hadn't done fantasy before, and they dragged us back into it at the beginning of last season. They gave us our first hit of fantasy crack, and now we're addicted. In fact, when you called, I was working with my lineup, taking some defensive recommendations. I have a team - we have a league with all the people on the show -all the actors and Jackie and Jeff. We have an eight-team league together.
SC: Okay -- roll down your lineup for me.
MD: Well, here's the deal - I was the eighth pick, so I decided to go QB in first round. I'm a massive Saints fan, and Drew Brees(notes) gave me huge numbers last year. So, I went with him again. Not super-psyched about my running back lineup, but the big score I got was Pierre Thomas(notes) in the third round. With Mike Bell(notes) gone, I just feel that he's going to get all the touches and be a points monster ...
SC: Okay, I have to break in here and congratulate you for being on my wavelength on this one; I've been a huge Thomas fan since he came out of college.
MD: I just feel like - he was good last year, but with no Bell and no strong fullback, he is one of my big sleepers. [Note; This interview was done before the Reggie Bush(notes) injury last Monday night, which made Thomas an even stronger play.] I picked up Chad Ochocinco(notes) late, like in the sixth round, and he put up 21 points for me in Week 1. I have Dallas Clark(notes) at tight end, and Phil Dawson(notes) as my kicker, but I drop defenses and kickers depending on the week. My backup running backs are my weakest point. This is where I get into the 2005 realm: I have Clinton Portis(notes), who's alright when he's healthy, and Ricky Williams(notes), who went to Texas the same time I was there. I have Roddy White(notes) at receiver, and we have a flex position, which is Mike Wallace(notes).
SC: Another aspect of the show I like is that the women aren't just eye candy, and they don't recoil in horror at their husbands' deplorable behavior; they give as good as they get. They also know about the game; Katie is the force behind her husband's fantasy team.
MD: It is cool, and I think that's very indicative of Jackie and Jeff. Jackie really knows her stuff. It's fun to have a guy's show where the guys are ripping on each other, but the women are usually innocent or condescending. What's great about Jenny is that she's right in the fight with us.
SC: The ensemble is very strong, but can you describe your character?
MD: My character, Pete Eckhart - when the show started in the first season, he was unflappable. He barely lifts a finger, he always has good luck, and he's the reigning league champion three years in a row. He seems to have all the time he needs in his marriage for fantasy football, but he quickly gets a divorce, and his life gets thrown into turmoil. A lot of what the second season is about is watching a clueless Pete try to hit the dating scene. It's a neat duality of Pete as "God of the virtual gridiron", but he kind of sucks at life a little bit.