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Spec Writing Roadmap for The League



By Guy Jackson and Michael Ferris


"THE LEAGUE" is a sitcom set in Chicago, revolving around a Fantasy Football league, and the many ways the league's players' lives erupt in constant grotesque tumult. ('Grotesque' in the theatrical sense.)

Emotionally, the Fantasy Football through-line is less a concrete concern and more of a metaphor for the friends' marriages, bachelorhood, careers, sex, politics, etc.

In other words, "THE LEAGUE" wisely has little to do with Fantasy Football and only really uses the Fantasy Football as a crucible to spin off its plots.

This conceit is most evident in the tongue-in-cheek approach every character has to the league. For example, in one episode the order of the draft pick was decided by a kids' sack race. As another example, the character of Taco plays the game, but doesn't care a bit and in one episode was nearly thrown out of the league for not caring.

Arguably, there are occasions where the league members become obsessed with the game, and fall into compulsiveness, even to the point of one character suffering a stroke over a draft pick cheat in the third series.

But keep in mind that there's always a heightened element to all the Fantasy Football stuff. Any of these characters, at the very end of the day, cares more about each other than anything else. As with any good story, the emotional hooks are the most important things. This conceit is most evident in the undying friendship between leads Pete and Kevin, and Kevin and his wife Jenny's loving marriage.

Footballer players and commentators sometimes put in cameo appearances from time to time, i.e. Matt Forte, Josh Cribbs, Terry Bradshaw.

The Fantasy Football game involves a never-ending series of hazings, rituals, and games within games, a principle that will be explicated throughout the following.

The trophy up for grabs for each season's league winner is dubbed The Shiva, after a schoolgirl crush the male characters shared.

In the second season the character of Andre redubbed the trophy The Dre, but in the third season the trophy went back to being The Shiva, and was ultimately burned in effigy when the third season was declared moot over the mentioned draft pick cheating incident.  

A single-cam sitcom, "THE LEAGUE" is also oft-improvised during filming, but don't worry, you will still need to write your spec in its entirety.

In "THE LEAGUE"'s first season, Andre was the league winner, taking the trophy from three-year champion Pete. In the second season the character of Ruxin won. The third season was won by eternal loser Kevin, but then declared moot by Ruxin because, as mentioned, the initial draft pick was cheated on.   




Pete is the enigmatic 'leader' of The League, a three-time champion as of the first episode, who also separated from his wife, Meegan, as of the first episode. Although he gathers his friends up with some bluster, and lorded over his champion status when he had it, he's very much a foil for everyone else's characterizations.

In writing for Pete, it's advisable to put him at the center of your script, and yet let the other characters steer the story and plot. Pete is something of a cypher, the straightforward rudder of the show, the anchor. He doesn't change much. He's eternally a swinging bachelor, and grounded so that he doesn't do the wild variations of character, and tortures of the damned, undergone by Andre, Ruxin, and Kevin.

The English term 'wind-up merchant' is perfect for Pete, meaning Pete forever loves to wind people up until they explode, he loves to set metaphorical fires, to goad his friends toward disaster, to pull pranks, and he laughs hardest at peoples' most dire moments. Mostly his targets are Andre and Ruxin, but occasionally he'll go after Kevin or Jenny when he feels the two are too much in cahoots. Taco is too much of a cypher his own self and can't be gotten a rise out of, so Pete mostly leaves him alone.

Examples of this wind-up merchant action: when seeing Andre making time with a girl, Pete often cockblocks him. Pete was responsible for the filming of a porno at Andre's house. Pete invented the last place trophy, called The Sacko, because he didn't feel there was enough humiliation for the league loser. In an ultimate example of wind-up mercantilism, when Pete's ex-wife Meegan showed up to a party with a 60-year-old boyfriend, Pete proceeded to get the boyfriend drunk, dancing, and devouring steak until the boyfriend had a heart attack. Which Pete found hysterical. When old friend Chuck (WILL FORTE) came to visit and declared himself a non-drinker, Pete egged him on, eventually winning out and getting Chuck hammered when Andre gave everyone a lot of cocaine via a mixology accident.

In the show's third season, Pete goaded everyone else to cheat on the draft pick against Ruxin, so Ruxin wouldn't get first pick, and this lie eventually mooted the entire season, causing Kevin's win (he'd never won hitherto) to be forfeit.

Often Pete will be put upon, and sometimes he even loses out, but losing never seems to bother him, and so there's no satisfaction in a triumph over Pete. He even shrugged off his divorce.

But if Pete is metaphorically wounded, watch out; he'll often rise to the occasion and triumph in the end through sheer luck and quick thinking. Example being the episode where Pete was going to get fired by his boss, for whom he was meant to make draft picks for (in the boss' own league) and failed to do so. (Note that Pete didn't seem to much care he was about to get fired, because he hates his job and spends his time there playing Fantasy Football.) In the same episode, however, Pete became trapped in an elevator with an icy secretary and an old man. Pete climbed up into the shaft, found a pole, manfully forced open the elevator doors and saved the day. The secretary turned from icy to swoony over Pete, and the old man turned out to be a board member in Pete's company, later upbraiding Pete's boss, saving Pete's job, and Pete even snuck in getting a raise and a vacation.

Representative Dialogue:

"In one moment he was afraid, gay, homophobic, and racist, the whole quadfecta."


Ruxin is the oddball member of The League, always the one given to odd excursions and perversions. In the pilot episode, he was introduced courting a 9-year-old said to be The Oracle of Fantasy Football, and his relationship with the kid was comically misconstrued as pedophilia. From that inauspicious beginning, his character has regularly fallen into similar traps of weirdness and awkwardness.

When writing for Ruxin, find some squeamish position to put him in and then let the story watch him wriggle and squirm. Ruxin sometimes does and sometimes doesn't realize his own ugliness, so great comic value can be got from him being blind to himself.

Ruxin also has a wide streak of villainy in him, due in no small part to being a cold-hearted lawyer who defends corporate villains. In one episode he defended BP. In fact, he's got such a wide streak of evil in him that when he won The League in the second season, his win caused a total eclipse of the sun.

Note that Ruxin is not Andre in terms of being tortured by circumstance. Ruxin has too much hubris, so when the world whales on him he's still looking for a way to strike back. Whereas when the world goes after Andre, his reaction is to roll over and play dead, or whine and feel sorry.

Though there's a general OCD throughout the show, with everyone being a little obsessive compulsive about germs and suchlike, Ruxin has a true OCD, and can't , for example, touch anything in a public restroom. In a shining OCD moment, Ruxin took his young son into a public bathroom, and after the boy ate an ice cube out of the toilet, Ruxin freaked out and held the child above his head while urinating, then later dubbed the child 'forever unclean'.

Other examples of Ruxin's general weirdness, ugliness, creepiness, unfortunate perversive-ness:

Ruxin once showed up for a spa weekend uninvited, took over Pete's hotel room, and then started a fight with a football player in the jacuzzi. He visited Chinatown, talked extensively and near-racist-ly about how weird the Chinese were, and wound up using the urinal to wash his hands. He reluctantly went to grant a sick child's wish as part of a forced charity duty, and blew off the child and took the opportunity to meet a football player and talk Fantasy Football. He was discovered to have written awful poetry in college. Ruxin wasn't about to plan an anniversary party for his wife until Taco twisted his arm. Ruxin cries during sex. He refused to donate to a charity marathon. He once pretended he had a first wife who died. He doesn't like to give presents. He joined the creepy Light Of Genesis cult because they knew a lot about football. He was once caught wearing a dog collar and being whipped by a judge.

Representative Dialogue:

"You know your life on the net is even sadder than your life on Earth."


Taco is the stoner of the group, and lives in a sort of alternate reality, an alternate reality solidified in the second episode when Taco explained an 'Eskimo' economy, wherein people who slept with the same girl gave each other freebies, i.e. Taco drank for free at a certain bar because he'd slept with the same girl as the bartender. In the Eskimo economy, it's important to have 'Eskimo buddies'. Taco took a trip around the world relying solely on Eskimo buddies.

Taco doesn't much care about Fantasy Football, or much of anything else to do with the real world. He's a musician of questionable talent and will often break out with a spoof song or interrupt the action with a full-on music video.

Taco is Kevin's brother but the two aren't all that close, never having shared a hug, and seem infinitely puzzled with one another. Taco is also a sweet-hearted guy, though he will occasionally join in insulting Andre. Taco has a tendency to just show up at people's houses and apartments, and doesn't use the front door if possible.

When writing for Taco, it's okay for him to simply pop up in a scene with little or no explanation, and have him invent some surreal, alternate reality about some surreal, alternate something, and then pursue that reality to the bitter end.

At Ruxin's house for a Sunday Fantasy Football lunch Taco spent the whole time with Ruxin's wife Sophia, and that's continued throughout the series, a flirtation that both Taco and Sophia find harmless, but Ruxin doesn't.

Other examples of Taco's alternate reality living: Taco dressed up as Mr. McGibblets, a singing stuffed animal, to scare Kevin's daughter out of playing with the actual toy. Taco once gained a fascination with drinking penis wine in Chinatown made out of dog, deer, and goat penis, in order to regain his libido. He dressed up like a homeless person to take a survey of how often pretty women drove Volkswagens. He brought a sword to a children's playground on the way to a martial arts class. He had an egg party for a dozen eggs that he was planning to keep for a thousand years. He was amazed by Western medicine after visiting a doctor and thought Andre (a plastic surgeon) was a 'healer'. He believes that washing hands isn't about getting rid of germs, and just does so because 'it feels good'. He created the 'pee bib', a napkin stuck in a man's pants to stop overflow and spotted trousers.

Representative Dialogue:

"I thought it was impossible to heal the human body without patchouli oil, but I stand corrected."


Kevin is the fairly straight-laced citizen of the group, though he does have a deal with his wife, Jenny, to watch porn while he works out. His marriage is the loving-est of the show's marriages. For the first season, until she was allowed to join the league, Jenny was the brainchild behind many of Kevin's Fantasy Football picks. Their marriage is that of interdependence, but Kevin is much more the dutiful husband, and oft-accused of being p-whipped.

Kevin and Jenny's marriage is often the sweet, harmless heart of the show, though. In one episode Kevin nobly opted not to cheat on Jenny though he was being aggressively hit on by a gorgeous fitness guru, and Kevin and Jenny's sex life is rambunctious to say the least.

Pete and Kevin are best of friends in the 'levels of friendships' amongst the league, and do things together such as break into Pete's house to retrieve a sex tape Pete made with his ex-wife Meegan.

Like Pete and unlike Ruxin or Andre, Kevin doesn't often suffer the tortures of the damned, but he has never won in the Fantasy Football league, and when he did win his trophy was burned and the season mooted because of a draft pick cheat.

Kevin does suffer, though, but not in the same demeaning manner as Andre, or the same pride-before-a-fall manner as Ruxin. Kevin suffers in a hapless, put upon way. For example, in one episode he accidentally swallowed Jenny's grandmother's earrings and Jenny forced him to throw up during an important office party.

Kevin also was once overweight, described as a "fat Russell Crowe", and he now works out industriously.

There is some question about the aesthetic nature of Kevin's penis. During one early episode he was described as having a 'pretty cock', and then it got nicked with a sword (much to Pete's delight). But in a later episode Kevin's penis was described as being bent 'more than 90 degrees'. So go figure.

Kevin and Jenny have a daughter, Ellie, who always gets her way.

Representative Dialogue:

"I haven't made a decision since the day I got married."


A plastic surgeon, Andre is the mover-and-shaker of the group, proudly, staunchly single and loving it, rolling in money and living a wealth-driven life in his hip bachelor pad. Perhaps due in a teensy, tiny part to jealousy, his friends love to undermine him at every turn, most often pointing out that they've slept with his sister, for example.

Or, looked at another way, Andre is the lonely scapegoat of the group, the butt of everyone's joke, the dartboard, used as a jester and a figure of ridicule. He's most often told he resembles Nosferatu.

Andre once got into another league due on his charisma, a league wherein he was appreciated, but Pete and Kevin forced him to 'break up' with that league because they needed him as their jester.

Andre has also been dubbed a 'chameleon boyfriend', as he adopts the habits and personalities of his girlfriends. He does very well with women, though, even dating the actual Shiva for a few episodes. 

He became League Champion in the end of the second season, then changed the trophy to The Dre, which earned him endless ridicule.

Andre suffers the tortures of the damned, once limping around with turf toe, once growing man boobs due on a soy diet, once getting his apartment used for the filming of a porno. He goes through disastrous phases that are endlessly mocked by his friends: for example he became a mixologist, then accidentally mixed drinks with cocaine. He trained to run marathons but whenever he uttered the word 'marathon' couldn't pronounce it, and was always asked 'what?'. He got into being a court-appointed expert for one of Ruxin's trials, then couldn't stop acting the part and got his court-appointed witness thunder stolen by Pete.

In writing for Andre, just heap abuse on him. Set up a disastrous, gross-out scenario and make him the victim. In the "RAMONA NEOPOLITANO" episode, the one mentioned above where he grew man boobs, Andre wound up in the compromising position of breastfeeding Ruxin's son. That's the sort of thing a spec writer wants to do to the character of Andre.

Representative Dialogue:

"Sometimes I feel like I'm trapped in a game and I don't know the rules."


The no-nonsense, strong-willed wife of Kevin, she knows more than anyone except possibly Pete about football. Like Pete, or maybe because the show is written by men for men, Jenny is more often a cypher, a foil for the others. Like an angelic, ideal woman, she is often elevated as the saving grace of the series.

She only made it into the league when Ruxin's psychotic brother, Rafi, came aboard and then departed after only a few episodes.

Jenny can get down in the gutter, as in the time she was accused of having Vaginal Hubris, taking too much pride in her vagina. She once helped one of Pete's girlfriends toward a more athletic vagina, thereby wounding Pete and winning a football game. She does have some tendencies toward being a wind-up merchant, like Pete, in that sense. But whenever she may or may not have tricked someone, as in the mentioned example, she always plays entirely innocent.

She has the mouth of a trucker and got her daughter, Ellie, into trouble at school for copying her bad language.


"THE LEAGUE" rarely uses recurring characters. Besides the major five characters above, only a handful of characters have ever shown up for more than one episode.


Ruxin's drop-dead gorgeous Latino wife. She often busts Ruxin's balls with hilarious result, withholding sex from him, demanding presents, flying into unyielding rage when she discovers any wrongdoing. Ruxin and Sofia do love each other deeply, another note of sweetness detectable in the well-hidden heart of this series.

Sofia carries on a harmless flirtation with Taco that often winds up Ruxin. She also has a psychotic brother, Rafi. 


Sofia's brother, he was voted into The League in the second season. He's got no social graces, skills, and in any drinking situation will take someone's drink out of someone's hand and drink it. He often exhibits psychotic behavior, pulling knives and guns sporadically. He schemes to make porn films much of the time, and brought in the man (Seth Rogen, in a cameo) who made a porn in Andre's apartment. He's a convicted felon. He's also known as El Pinata.


Pete's ex-wife, Meegan has only been seen once since the first episode, when she brought an aging boyfriend to Ruxin and Sofia's anniversary party. She was an odd duck of a wife, and wanted to ban Pete from Fantasy Football. Hence the divorce.

SHIVA (AKA Shivakamini Somakandarkram) (JANINA GAVANKAR):

The namesake of The League's trophy and a high school crush shared by all the boys in the league. Andre dated her for two episodes. With a kiss she caused Ruxin to recover from his stroke.


The spoiled daughter of Jenny and Kevin, Ellie has only appeared sporadically, to catch her parents having sex in one episode, to burst into tears when her guinea pig was accidentally cooked in the Thanksgiving turkey, to be taken trick-or-treating in the "GHOST MONKEY" episode.

Ellie's classic episode involved Mr. McGibblets, an Elmo-like singing and dancing puppet. Kevin tasked Taco to dress up as a giant Mr. McGibblets and scare Ellie out of her Mr. McGibblets obsession, but that scheme backfired and instead Ellie enjoyed the nighttime visit from the Mr. McGibblets-costumed Taco and helped him rob his brother's house. A costumed, adult-sized Mr. McGibblets pops up from time to time, passingly, showing up in the Halloween episode for example, much to Kevin's chagrin.


JEFF GOLDBLUM appeared as Ruxin's lothario father.

RAY LIOTTA appeared as Ruxin's evil boss.

SETH ROGEN appeared as Rafi's pornographer friend.

SARAH SILVERMAN appeared as Andre's sex-obsessed sister.


Occasionally episodes of "THE LEAGUE" are deceptively spare in terms of plotting, and a couple episodes seem to contain no plot whatsoever. But don't be deceived. Invisible as they may be 99.9% of episodes contain an A, B, and C plot.

The plots are often buried under all the mentioned improvisation and huge swaths of dialogue riffs, wherein the characters can spend many precious screen time minutes simply debating the meaning of phraseology they've made up, or rattling off insults at one another's sexual proclivities or fashion failures or what have you. Don't be shy about dropping the forward motion of your spec's story to allow the characters to discuss the meaning, pronunciation, spelling, and application of a made-up word for a made-up sexual position of utmost perversion. For example.

A commonality among 99.9% of episodes is for the riff to happen in Gibson's, a bar where the guys congregate almost always after the opening titles.

Often ribald, lewd, licentious, a great way to manufacture stories for "THE LEAGUE" is to simply set up mini-"AMERICAN PIE" scenarios. Let's call them mini-"AMERICAN PIE" scenarios for the sake of argument. Remember when the big huge hit feature film "AMERICAN PIE" was cutting edge? With its big, huge Masturbating Into An Apple Pie set piece? Well, "THE LEAGUE" shows up "AMERICAN PIE" in microcosmic fashion almost every episode.

An already mentioned shining example of this mini-"AMERICAN PIE"-ness is the show where Andre was on a soy fast, eating nothing but soy, which is heavy with estrogen (at least according to Pete). Andre began to grow breasts, which coincided with Ruxin's son's problem of still breastfeeding at the age of one. Of course, by the end of the episode, Andre wound up breastfeeding Ruxin's son. Dextrously pull off that sort of gag when writing a spec for "THE LEAGUE" and you're golden.

As with any script for feature or television, the best A, B, C plots in "THE LEAGUE" overlap one another, either literally or with a common theme.

A gold standard example for "THE LEAGUE" was set with the Halloween episode in the second season, wherein all the stories riffed on the subject of Halloween, and each plot connected at some point.

"GHOST MONKEY" was the episode's title, and it began with a visit to a petting zoo, from which Taco stole a monkey, producing it as he and Pete and Andre were driving home. Due on Andre's terrible taste in adult contemporary music (which was a very slight E plot), the monkey went nuts with what was playing on the stereo, and Taco threw it out the window of the car. Taco's guilt consumed him and he became convinced he was being haunted by a ghost monkey.

Meanwhile, in the B plot, Pete's team was playing Ruxin's team in the weekly match-up, and to wind Ruxin up Pete suggested Ruxin pick Pete's team lineup. Thereby Ruxin had a chance to 'defeat himself' and went stark raving mad trying to pick the lineup. At one point the gone-nutso Ruxin confronted Kevin at his garbage cans (they're next door neighbors), and the two of them heard the scuttling of the ghost monkey.

The C plot featured Pete dating an actual Wiccan witch, and taking her trick-or-treating with Kevin and Jenny and their daughter Ellie. The date went awry, and the witch wound up crossing over into the A plot to hold a séance with Taco over the ghost monkey.

The D plot acted as a glue to all the plots, with Kevin and Jenny holding a mobile trick-or-treat party, and Jenny being ordered to dress up as a fat ugly frog by Ellie (instead of Jenny's preference of a sexy outfit). In the climax, Jenny was attacked by the ghost monkey, her costume torn to shreds, resulting in the sexy costume she wanted and some loving sexy-time with Kevin to lend a note of sweetness to the show's end.

You can also 'spin' stories, spinning A stories (generally) in new directions. For example, Ruxin once had a case with a woman in a car accident, and then the story spun when Andre became an expert witness and his many failings as a human being became the A story, how he was a terrible witness, how he resembled a pedophile when wearing glasses, how he didn't know what restaurant to go to, and so on.

Interestingly, "THE LEAGUE" seems unmindful of its commercial breaks, and doesn't often wield miniature cliffhangers before them. Moreso commercial breaks serve to punctuate a particularly good dialogue riff.

Because there's such a wealth of dialogue in most any episode, a spec should clock in at approximately 35 pages.


Following is a skeletal pattern for a spec based on an 'average' of five great episodes.

Pages 1-2: Cold Open/Teaser:

Keep it to one page. With one key gag introducing the A plot.




1.     If not in the Cold Open/Teaser, immediately have the first beat of A story.

2.     Or more often than not start with a 'meeting' scene, the men usually all meeting up at Gibson's.

3.     Introduce B story in the Gibson's dialogue.

4.     Second beat of A story (story can spin in new direction)

5.     First beat of B story

6.     Third beat of A story

7.     Second beat of B story

8.     First beat of C story

10. Dialogue riff can be here, in the first beat of Act 1, or both. The dialogue riff can continue the beats of the plots, or just mention the beats of the plot and then spin into non sequitur.



1.     Fourth beat of A story

2.     Third beat of B story

3.     Fifth beat of A story

4.     Second beat of C story

5.     Dialogue riff.



1.     Wrap up C story

2.     Wrap up B story

3.     Wrap up A story



            Epilogue of A story.  

Note that (of course) the A story has more beats than the B story which has more beats than the C story.


The significant final event of the third season was Ruxin having a stroke and then recovering. The event came and went and is probably not going to effect him in the fourth season.

However, Ruxin still holds the Shiva trophy from the second season, when the third season was declared moot after the rest of the league cheated Ruxin out of first draft pick. When Ruxin found this out, he had his stroke.

Kevin and Jenny are still married. Pete is still a divorcee, and a swinging single, along with Andre. Helpfully, "THE LEAGUE" is very much an episodic series, with nothing much beyond the characters in and of themselves 'continuing'. If you watch the first episode you'll get the same feel for the characters as in the last episode. For this author's money, a spec writer should definitely watch the first episode and last episode of each season, as well as "GHOST MONKEY" and "RAMONA NEOPOLITANO" (both second season, episodes 7 and 11 respectively) to get a good feel for the show.


Set in Chicago, the series takes place most anywhere in the town, but often shows up at Kevin and Jenny's house, Ruxin and Sofia's house, Andre's bachelor pad, and Gibson's, the bar where the character's congregate almost every episode. Taco has no fixed address, and his living situation is purposefully vague. Sometimes he seems to be sleeping at Andre's, sometimes Kevin's, once he had a shitty apartment.


A couple teeny tiny details of the series you might want to exploit in a spec:

Eskimo Brothers are made when a girl sleeps with two different guys and then, according to Taco, the guys are lifetime bros.  

Vinegar Strokes are the last moments before an orgasm, defined by the look in the man's eyes.

Ruxin's prominent OCD was mentioned above in his character description, but most every character exhibits a little bit of obsessive compulsive disorder at some point or another. Usually it's to do with germs. In one episode Pete couldn't bear to take his takeout meal into a restroom in case someone had a bowel movement while the food was in there, which of course is what happened and Pete had to throw the food away. Then he set about building a shelving unit to put things in before going into bathrooms, and giving the unit to Ruxin for an anniversary present. Andre then used the shelving unit for his laptop, and freaked out when Ruxin brought the laptop into the restroom.

So look to the obsessive compulsions of the characters for inspiration, or look at the entirety of the series in terms of obsessive compulsions if you so choose, i.e. Kevin's fondness for watching porn when he's exercising, or just his endless exercising. Or Pete and Jenny's tendencies to meddle and/or wind people up. Or Andre's chameleon abilities. And so on. 


Once upon a time "SEINFELD" had a notoriously dismal series finale involving the characters being termed sociopaths. Be especially careful when writing for "THE LEAGUE" that you don't overdo it into Rupert Pupkin territory (see "THE KING OF COMEDY" directed by Martin Scorsese) and kill the joke by being too mean. As much as the boys ridicule Andre, as much as they call Ruxin evil, as much as Kevin is put upon, the show is quite sweet, and no one really wants each other dead.

Best of luck with your spec!