When the cast and creators of FX Networks’ “The League” reunited Friday night in Austin at the ATX Television Festival the primary topic — threaded between jokes about fantasy football failures and on-set injuries — was timing and opportunity. Namely, did the show air at the right time, could it survive in today’s TV landscape, and would it thrive, even, if a revival aired on streaming or premium networks, sans the restrictions of basic cable?
Katie Aselton, who played Jenny, referred to the possibility of a revival as the “billion dollar question,” and co-creator Jackie Marcus Schaffer caught some good-natured flack from the cast when she questioned “The League’s” continued relevancy.
“At the time [we made the show], fantasy football was [really] popular,” she said. “But is that still a thing?”
“I don’t know,” Aselton said, sarcastically. “Are friends still a thing?”
“Are people still busting balls?” Jason Mantzoukas said, piling on.
“It was a kinder, gentler time,” co-creator Jeff Schaffer said, tongue firmly in cheek. “But all I’ll say is there is nothing on the planet more fun than working with these people.”
Paul Scheer, who regularly offered earnest answers throughout the night, again stepped in to sum up the audience member’s question for the group.
“Could you reboot the show now and it would have the same impact? I don’t know,” he said. “But I think people would be excited to see this show do something since it’s already established.”
Assembling under the pretense of “The League” premiere’s 10-year anniversary, the cast and creators took part in an hour-long panel discussion moderated by Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson. Of the core cast, only Mark Duplass and Jonathan Lajoie were absent. Joining the co-creators were Stephen Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Scheer, Aselton, and Mantzoukas — who, while never a series regular, became a fan favorite on the series.
“The League” ran for seven seasons on FX and FXX, earning a passionate fan base and strong reviews while chronicling the annual fantasy football competition between six friends. It earned praise for its largely improvised style, and Jeff Schaffer praised FX Networks for allowing them so much creative freedom.
“The network was so good,” he said. “They never came to set. The scripts were outlines, so there were no table reads. […] It was this very intimate, very fun experience, and we got to do basically everything.”
His one point of frustration came with FX’s time constraints. When the series aired on the main network, they were asked to whittle each half-hour program down to the 21-minute, 50-second standard.
“Out of 86 episodes, we turned in two on time,” Jeff Schaffer said, noting they were always negotiating for more time. He urged fans to watch the DVD releases in order to see extra footage that didn’t make the original broadcast airings.
“I’m glad we had certain constraints because they allowed us to get so creative,” he said. “But the time thing…”
If “The League” were to return, it would be under a new era at FX Networks. Produced by FX and distributed by 20th Century Television, both of which are now owned by Disney, the series could aim for a revival at Hulu, which is also Disney-controlled, appears to be the future home of the company’s more adult fare, and already streams the original seven seasons of “The League.” FX Networks chief John Landgraf has gone on record saying he believes FX series “belong on Hulu,” as well.
Still, those decisions are a long way off. For now, “The League” is available to stream on Hulu.