When I saw I was going to be writing up a show called The League, I figured it would be something about baseball. Maybe a comedy about a bunch of middle-aged men and their vanity softball league. Not really me, but hey, work is work.
I was wrong on both counts. The League is about two hitmen roommates, and it’s downright hilarious. Created by Kevin Regan and Joel Rickenbach and starring Jim Burns and Gordon Holmes as the leads (check out the cast page for more info), The League is going to make you laugh.
“The League” refers to hitmen homies Gary (Burns) and Todd (Holmes) – yes, there are only two of them in The League – each episode consists of them haphazardly pursuing their latest assigned target, whether it’s a clown who’s behind on his gambling debts or a magician who needs to be disappeared. Getting their hit is always somewhat incidental to the rest of the events of the show, however; Todd stumbles across their first mark in the supermarket while taking a break from playing Contra to grab some toilet paper for bathroom-stranded Gary, and the magician hit goes down while they’re trying to pay rent and avoid eviction.
So far, the show has been running for one six-episode season, which ended in September 2008, and has just started on season two. Each episode weighs in at about 13 minutes or so – a pleasant change from the snackable web series two-minute tidbits.
Buzz for the series has been brewing ever since it won BusinessWeek’s Best of the Web poll last fall and more recently when their local CBS affiliate featured the show. We caught up with Delaware natives Jim and Kevin to chat about shooting with no budget, working with DeNiro, and a healthy Chad Vader obsession.
Tubefilter: What’s the creative inspiration for the show?
Jim Burns: Kevin will definitely be helpful in what inspired him to create the show. I believe he found a great deal of motivation in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Kevin Regan: [That] was a huge inspiration. The unapologetic, self-serving characters, the irreverent situations and the lack of any morals. We were also inspired by the success of other web series such as We Need Girlfriends & The Guild.
Tubefilter: What kind of budget are you working with? Have you secured any sponsorship for the show?
JB: We have little to no budget. We scrape together what we can between us. But we do have an amazing community that lends us locations and costumes and props. We currently have no sponsorships.
KR: As Jim pointed out we truly are a NO BUDGET show. We generally work on about $100 an episode…that includes the DV tapes we record on to (which is about $40 of the budget monthly). Some episodes cost a lot more, such as Coulrophobia from season 1. The construction of the break away table the Clown is body slammed through & the cake that is destroyed were more than the budget for any other budget in the first season. The local theater groups have been a huge help with both costuming & helping us find actors.
Tubefilter: What made you choose to produce a web series?
JB: I had worked as an actor for Kevin Regan and Joel Rickenbach (producer, editor, fellow creator) on a couple of short films. It occurred to me that these guys were really talented and that it would neat to have a vehicle where we could produce something more frequently. As an actor myself, I was interested in the challenge of bringing a character to the screen to live and exist through various scenarios. Based on the success of medium recently – I thought, “hey, why don’t we do a web series”.
KR: Joel Rickenbach and I had had an idea to produce a series of shorts about two cops who dealt with weird situations. We shot the first episode and titles it “the Wave.” It features Gordon Holmes (who plays Todd) & Jim Burns (who plays Gary). The Wave was drastically different than The League, and we ultimately scrapped the idea of doing a series as we had no outlet. After a conversation with Jim about him wanting to explore a “series” Joel and I adapted our story of two cops into a story of two hitmen. The web became the perfect outlet for such a show. I had become obsessed with Chad Vader and hoped to find a similar audience.
Tubefilter: How many episodes are you expecting to run?
JB: We had 6 episodes in Season 1 + a special Christmas episode. We’ll probably stick with a similar formula this year.
KR: Because everyone has full time jobs, families and other commitments, we are limited on our production output. We took a page from the original Office series in doing 6 episode seasons, for the first and second seasons.
Tubefilter: Is there an overall arc for the show?
JB: Absolutely. You don’t want me to spoil it for you, do you?
KR: The first two seasons heavily explore a secret ring. The ring will be completely revealed (to be irrelevant) at the end of season 2. Season 3 will feature a lot of changes (no ring, no boss and new enemies).
Tubefilter: If you could get anyone you want, what actor would you most like to work with for an episode of The League?
JB: I think the one we’ve talked about was Robert DeNiro. We think it would be hilarious!
KR: As Jim mentioned below, Robert DeNiro. We have a 6th degrees of separation with him and thought it would be funny to try and get him. I think that was more wishful thinking than anything else. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t see him. If I had ANYONE I could get it would probably be David Hasselhoff. We reference him A LOT, and he seems like he has a great sense of humor. Weird right? DeNiro & Hasselhoff being the wish list.