Ted Lasso, the titular plucky, howdy-do, energy ball coach of Apple's Emmy-winning TV series, has a placard above the locker room door that reads "Believe." It's an impossible-to-miss reminder of Lasso's ethos, a folksy, relentlessly positive vibe that he massages into his players, forever altering the team and their lives and sending viewers to bed with the warm fuzzies. If Shoresy, the titular lead character in Hulu's hockey-centric comedy, had a placard, it would probably read "Go F--- Yourself." But Shoresy doesn't need a sign. He's more than happy to remind his team over and over again to their faces.
Shoresy is a spin-off of the cult Canadian comedy Letterkenny and gives the spotlight to one of Letterkenny's most popular characters, the oft-heard but never really seen — his face is always obscured — menace-on-the-ice Shoresy, played by creator and star Jared Keeso. The personification of Satan himself in Letterkenny, in Shoresy, not only is his dip-filled mug front and center, but he's given effective depth as a hockey lifer who isn't so much into winning as he is really against losing. Yes, he's still a verbal avalanche of "your mom" jokes and profanities in the same vein of Letterkenny's famously frenetic dialogue, but with all six episodes centered solely on Shoresy and the hockey team, this show is more focused and full of character development than Letterkenny ever was.
The premise is simple: He's putting together a team of washed-up vets to save his squad, the Sudsbury Bulldogs, from folding from a semi-pro hockey league (the NoSho) somewhere in the Great North. It's a traditional underdog sports story, but with the irascible Shoresy up front as the de facto player-coach, it's the anti-Ted Lasso, a nice slap of reality and a wake-up call from Apple's feel-good sugary fairy tale.
Yet for all their wildly divergent paths to success — Lasso thinks a squad that believes in itself will manifest victory while Shoresy will let anyone know when they've blown it — they're each all about team spirit and the love of sport, even if Shoresy's is slathered with a layer of violence, insults, and near-indecipherable Canadian lingo (I had to Google what a Giant Tiger is). Team victories are celebrated by the hulking blue-collar jocks happily eating Drumsticks ice cream together, players who have their differences in the locker room have each other's backs in brawls both on and off the ice, and when the inevitable happens in the final episode, it's a beautiful ode to how a team can rally a community and create an indelible moment that will last forever. Seriously, you might shed a tear.
Shoresy himself is given an appropriate amount of sensitivity to keep him from being totally one-note, as his crush on and persistent adoration of a local reporter is downright sweet, and we get a truly surprising look into his family backstory that's both shocking and endearing. And with Keeso — one of the hardest working men in Canada — providing the charisma, Shoresy quickly becomes more than what you know of him from Letterkenny. Other characters — particularly Tasya Teles' Nat, the Bulldogs' owner who is on the verge of folding the team — also get their due, even if they're mostly bouncing off of whatever is on Shoresy's mind.
What really stand out in Shoresy are its musical montages, set to a mix of dubstep, rap, and grimy breakbeats — a lengthy hockey sequence humming to the Chemical Brothers is visual poetry — which provide a nice breather from the rapid-fire dialogue and are meticulously created for maximum emotion. Seriously, the end of Episode 2 gets me fired up to hip check someone into next week.
It's that emotion, coupled with Shoresy's "We'll never lose again" determination, that pushes Shoresy past being just another spin-off. It's a perfect addendum for Letterkenny fans but also the ideal one-off that will serve as an entryway for future Letterkenny fans.
Premieres: Friday, May 27 on Hulu (all 6 episodes)
Who's in it: Jared Keeso, Tasya Teles, Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat
Who's behind it: Jared Keeso (creator/writer)
For fans of: Letterkenny, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, mom jokes
How many episodes we watched: 6 out of 6