‘Rebels’ With A Cause

Amazon.com introduces an amazing football comedy

Are you ready for some football? Too bad. The season’s over. But a new pilot is airing that mixes football and humor in a way we’ve never seen before. Amazon.com has showcased five pilot episodes of shows for which they are eliciting feedback. One is about the possible end of the world and another is about a symphony. But the best of the bunch is “The Rebels,” a show about a nice Jewish woman named Julie Levine who inherits her husband’s football team and can either sell the team or get a clue as to how to run it.

The show starts with a Jewish funeral, but only seconds in, it’s clear that this show isn’t afraid to push the humor. As Levine, “The Rebels” stars Natalie Zea, most recently the love of Kevin Bacon’s life on “The Following." She didn’t get much of a chance to show off her acting ability on that show. She does here, though, and she’s delightful, even in scenes where she kicks a car and says something really weird about a teddy bear she used to have as a teen. 

The Los Angeles team, The Rebels, stinks. Levine has to decide whether or not she wants to sell it for big money or figure out how to run the team. She calls uniforms costumes and at first seems overwhelmed.

One of the reasons the episode is great is its unpredictability. There’s a cocaine-snorting monkey and a line once spoken by Billy Dee Williams that will make you do a double- or, quite possibly, a triple-take. Key to the team’s potential success is securing their top draft pick, “Hurricane Jesus.” But there’s another quarterback who could be in the mix. Rick Massella (Hayes MacArthur) may be washed up, but he is good at winning the quarterback challenges (where you have to throw the football from various distances and hit different targets).

One of the show’s biggest revelations is the comic timing and gusto of Affion Crockette, who plays an over-the-top wide receiver. Nearly everything he does is great TV.

Zea is very funny as a woman who is seen as too sexy to be in charge of a team. Josh Peck, from the Nickelodeon show “Drake & Josh,” is believable as the general manager who, struggling to get a team of misfits in order and decide whom to cut and whom to keep, is forced to mature and adjust quickly to a difficult situation.

Creators and writers Jeremy Garelick and Jon Weinbach have created a show that is not only hilarious but that should appeal to both sexes. Garelick wrote “The Break-Up” starring Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn, and recently finished his directorial debut, “The Wedding Ringer” with Kevin Hart and Josh Gad. Weinbach, senior vice-president at Mandalay Sports Media, is a former Wall Street Journal sports writer who penned an ESPN “30 for 30” episode about the Oakland Raiders. Newly minted Hall of Famer Michael Strahan and rapper ice Cube are both executive producers.

You don’t have to be a football expert to understand the show (except for a reference to the Wonderlic test, which measures intelligence. But the name of the test is so bizarre, it’s still funny).

This is a time when football is under the microscope for concussion inquiries, off-the field player scandals, the first openly gay player to enter the draft, an alleged murder by a Patriots tight end, and hazing in the Miami Dolphins locker room. It will be interesting to see how these issues are handled. The show might be able to get away with touching on them since it is a comedy (whereas ESPN ran into trouble with “Playmakers” more than a decade ago when it appeared to be overly critical of a product it promoted).           

If Amazon is smart, they’ll order more episodes. I want to see Billy Dee Williams throw a challenge flag (he’s the coach) and say something absurd. I want to see Crockett’s version of Richard Sherman-like trash talking and a strange touchdown dance. And I want to see more comedy from Zea.  

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The Rebels


Natalie Zea

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