You don’t have to like football (or have a fantasy league) to watch The League, and you don’t have to be a pothead to like Workaholics. This is fairly obvious. But the thing that not everyone might realize is that you also don’t have to be a bro to adore both programs.
The last year has seen a great advance in the role of women on TV, especially with HBO shows like Girls and Veep. This is surely something to be celebrated, especially because the female presences in these two never turn either show into something targeted exclusively at women.
The League and Workaholics exist as similar shows but on the opposite end of the gender spectrum. They are unique in that their overwhelming male presences never force themselves onto a bros-only audience. Without the gender equality of most television shows or the female presence of shows like Girls, it’s easy to assume that The League and Workaholics would fall into a vat of sexism and misogyny. Yet amazingly, neither one of the two shows do this.
The League focuses on five pretty terrible grown men who take part in a single fantasy football league while also taking care of relationships, children and fedora collections. Workaholics takes on a younger crowd–three recent college grads working as telemarketers while simultaneously clinging to their college lives (those weed-clouded, beer pong-filled days of glory). Both shows feature all male main characters, and although each show has one strong female presence (a wife and crazy co-worker, respectively) in addition to one or two other females, the male presence is obvious. Yet neither show turns into a bro-only zone because they both remain self-aware in their jokes and characters. Any instance of raunch comes with the knowledge that the character emitting the raunch is terrible, dumb, or terribly dumb. These terrible qualities don’t come out of nowhere; they are bestowed upon the characters by two groups of brilliant writers and actors (both shows are heavy on the improv).
The shows feature other similarities. Each one has an associated ridiculous comedy musical act (Taco and rapping wizards, respectively), and each has created its own language and ever-expanding world full of vinegar strokes, eskimo brothers, future babes, and things that are tight butthole (adjective: something awesome or cool, whereas the reverse is something unpleasant or lame — “loose butthole”). The shows’ unique vocabularies and mythologies create environments that anyone can enter and call home, regardless of genders, hobbies or social circles.
These shows by no means make giant steps past traditional gender roles on television, but they are an entertaining start. The League returns for its fourth season this Thursday on FX. Workaholics‘ third season ended this summer, but you can watch Workaholics Season 1 on Netflix or check out the episodes as they roll out onto Comedy Central’s site.