Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadine’s TCA coverage.
Six episodes. Twenty days. That was the decidedly accelerated time frame of shooting last year on the FX fantasy football comedy The League, admitted co-creator Jeff Schaffer at a panel promoting the show’s second season premiere (it has 13 episodes this time) in September. But his wife and collaborator, Jackie Schaffer, added that when it comes to the numbers, the two are much more attuned to the production schedule than the ratings, “We’d try to figure out the ratings by reading the faces of the people at FX, or their tone of voice when they’d call us on Friday morning. That seemed to work for us.”
It worked well enough to get the series renewed despite the incredulous reactions Jeff Schaffer would get when he told people he produced a series about fantasy league football — and a partially-scripted, semi-improvised one at that. “There are shows about people who bake cakes and shows about people who drive trucks on icy roads,” said Schaffer, who is also a writer-producer on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. “I don’t know anyone who drives a truck in the Yukon, but I know a lot of guys who play fantasy football — me included.” In order to appreciate his show, Schaffer reasons, “you don’t need to know anything about fantasy football or even sports. You just need to have friends you hate.”
Jackie Schaffer said she believes one of the factors that generated an audience for The League and stoked its survival was its popularity on Hulu. “A lot of people say they watch shows like this online. I don’t know all of the particulars about that from a business standpoint, but I think it’s going to continue to be important for how TV shows survive and grow.”