Season four of ''The League,'' which premieres tonight on FX, isn't the only thing Jeff and Jackie Schaffer produced together this year.
Jeff, a Howland native, became a father when his wife gave birth to a daughter just as shooting was starting on the half-hour comedy that revolves around a group of friends who compete in a fantasy football league.
Schaffer said his wife wasn't due until the end of July, but she went into labor a few weeks early as they were preparing to recreate the NFL draft for the season opener.
''She's trying to prep this shoot with all the players coming in while in labor,'' Schaffer said.
The baby was born on Monday, and Schaffer showed up on the set Tuesday, and the first person to give him parenting advice was Trent Richardson, the Browns' first round draft pick and the father of two daughters. Richardson, Robert Griffin III and NFL Network host Rich Eisen make guest appearances in the episode airing at 10:30 p.m. today.
Jackie wasn't pregnant when they decided to have Jenny (Kate Aselton) and Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) become expecting parents at the end of season three. But since the idea for the show was hatched by Jackie after seeing her husband's obsession with his multiple fantasy leagues, it shouldn't be a surprise that their experiences as new parents are creeping into this year's storylines.
''A lot of new material is going straight into Kevin and Jenny's story,'' Schaffer said. ''Nothing is off limits. If it's funny, it goes in.''
Like Larry David's ''Curb Your Enthusiasm,'' which Schaffer has worked on for the last five seasons, each episode of ''The League'' is plotted out in detail, but much of the dialogue is improvised by the cast. With the Schaffers writing all of the episodes, Jeff said they are used to not getting any sleep during preproduction, so having a newborn isn't any different. And the baby is on the set with her parents while the show is taping.
''We're raising a white trash baby,'' he said. ''She lives in a trailer (on the set), just like Honey Boo Boo.''
Jenny's and Kevin's baby won't be the only newborn on the show. The show is set in Chicago, and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his wife, former reality star Kristin Cavallari, also are new parents.
''The Cutler baby - or the Cutlet as we call him - figures heavily in an episode this year,'' he said.
''The League'' also shot episodes at the Dallas Cowboys' training camp (Schaffer said Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones turned out to be a ''pretty good actor''), and Schaffer hopes the Cowboys' connection will help the show get a plug during FOX's NFL coverage.
Even without a big network push, the audience for the series continues to grow.
''We never feel like we've been that successful,'' Schaffer said. ''Being a show on basic cable is like being the second wide receiver on an NFL team. You're in the league, you've made it to the big show, but not everyone knows your name. We're the Mohamed Massaquoi of basic cable television.
''Each year we hit a new level of awareness, not only among NFL players but among fans, who are finding it the only way they can, through word of mouth.''
Schaffer said the reason ''The League'' works is because it's not a sports show - ''It's a comedy show about people who love sports.''
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at grayareas@