Seven years ago when creative husband and wife duo Jeff and Jackie Schaffer launched production on the first season of FXX’s The League, they were free to shoot entirely on location, undisturbed. With no real budget for a fancy base camp, security or even trailers to work out of, they pieced together six episodes featuring a group of close-knit friends who talked smack to each other while running a fantasy football league.
Roughly 20 episodes of “Eskimo Brothers,” “Yobogoya” and “Vinegar Strokes” later, however, a hardcore fan base (armed with this new vocabulary) was hard on the scene.
“By Season 3 people would just go insane,” Jackie Schaffer reveals. “This summer when we shot with Marshawn Lynch on the beach we just had this gaggle of young fans in Malibu taking pictures and trying to get autographs. That’s such a different thing than when we started.”
Getting the likes of Seahawks running back Lynch might have seemed like a pipedream for the couple back when the series first started. At the time they were thrilled when Chargers tight end Antonio Gates agreed to appear alongside Nick Kroll’s Ruxin during a somewhat intimate spa scene.
“Now it’s been an incoming phone call business, there’s so many people who wanted to be on the show,” Jeff Schaffer says. “NFL stars, MLB stars, hockey stars, country singers … There are more celebrities who want to be on the show than we could ever reasonably write in.”
Settling down to write the final season (premiering on FXX Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 10pm ET/PT) business as usual for the couple and their team of writers, some of whom in the past have included the likes of former guest star Seth Rogen and series stars Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and Kroll. The idea was to create 13 individual installments that felt like mini movies, all while figuring out how to “fill out a day and do it efficiently because we’re on location,” according to Jeff Schaffer.
That said, the couple has been cognizant to throw in even more easter eggs for longtime fans. Pulling from Season 6’s controversial “When Rafi Met Randy” episode, in which a flashback revealed the duo met in a mental institution, the producers are inconspicuously bringing back characters featured from that installment, only now they will be in present day situations.
“We’re bringing those guys back as everyday people in everyday Chicago life. Our characters have no idea,” Jeff Schaffer says. “Neil Casey plays a waiter now; he was one of the inmates in the asylum. We’re bringing all those insane people back as normal people in our characters’ lives.”
Other familiar faces fans can expect in the final season include Will Forte as Chuck, Janina Gavankar as the infamous Shiva, and Leslie Bibb as Meegan, whom fans haven’t seen in five years.
“She’s going to come back in a very big way and play a very big role in this season,” teases Jeff Schaffer, who also reveals they’re in talks to have Jeff Goldblum reprise his role as Ruxin’s father. “We would love to have him back,” he adds. “He and Nick together are hilarious.”
It’s all part of a plan for the series to “go out on top,” while the material is still funny and fans remain into the random gags and inside jokes. But with so many additional fans discovering the series via Netflix or the strong contingent of word-of-mouth viewers, the Schaffers are revisiting their decision to completely end the series with these 13 final episodes. “It may not even be that far down the line that we’re doing something else,” Jackie Schaffer reveals. “It’s really cool that there’s been no slowing of the momentum of people who are learning about the show or falling in love with it. That’s a really nice place to be.”
“There’s a lot of people who don’t want it to go away and there may be ways that it doesn’t,” Jeff Schaffer adds.
As for where the Sacko — the losing trophy features on the series – will end up once the cameras go dark? “The Sacko is yet to be spoken for, but I think there may be a new Sacko this year – somebody else may be giving up their balls this year to make the Sacko,” Jackie Schaffer wraps. “And there are actually a couple of leading contenders.”
Written by Amber Dowling, Hopper Magazine