Hulu’s ‘Shoresy’: TV Review

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Hulu’s Canadian import Letterkenny is one of my favorite recent shows, an exhibition of linguistic virtuosity that proudly makes no distinction between high and low humor.

With respect to the generally interchangeable Reilly and Jonesy, the hockey scenes have never been my favorite part of Letterkenny and, within those scenes, my favorite character has never been Shoresy, the foul-mouthed hooligan voiced by series creator/star Jared Keeso.

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As a result, I was perplexed when Canada’s Crave ordered a Shoresy-centric spinoff and when the homestretch of the most recent Letterkenny season dedicated entirely too much time to establishing Shoresy’s move to Sudbury to play for a struggling Triple A-level hockey team.

The resulting series premieres this Friday on Hulu, and it turns out that Shoresy is far better than I expected. Sure, it’s coarse and repetitive, but that’s absolutely what the character’s fans will crave and, as the six-episode season progresses, it finds unexpected ways to turn Shoresy into somebody worthy of sustained attention. It isn’t quite Brockmire, the recent pinnacle of spinning off a one-joke character with human nuance, but in its very best moments, you can see how the blueprints for the two comedies might have been similar.

For those who don’t know its hero from Letterkenny, Shoresy (Keeso) has certain reliable traits: He’s a notoriously dirty player. He likes to have sex with rival players’ mothers, or at least to insinuate that he has. He cries during “O Canada.” He has a very elaborate pre-game and in-game toilet ritual. And until his new series, we had never seen Shorey’s face.

We begin in Sudbury, where the Bulldogs are an embarrassment, losing their most recent game 5-0, or getting “pumped five-goose,” in Keeso’s colorful parlance. This is miserable for Shoresy, who makes it clear that as much as he likes to win, he hates losing even more. The team’s owner Nat (Tasya Teles), accompanied by sidekicks Miigwan (Keilani Elizabeth Rose) and Ziigwan (Blair Lamora), is prepared to fold the team, but Shoresy makes a desperate plea. He says that if Nat replaces the reviled current coach Michaels (Ryan McDonell) with his pal Sanguinet (Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat), lets him recruit a quartet of semi-ringers — called “sluts” in Keeso’s colorful parlance — and backs them up with a trio of Native bruisers, the Bulldogs will never lose again. And if they do lose, Shoresy promises the team shut down. Nat, who claims to only care about “bums in seats,” reluctantly agrees.

So Shoresy finds three Native defensemen all named Jim (Jon Mirasty, Brandon Nolan and Jordan Nolan) and brings in Quebecois legend JJ Frankie JJ (Max Bouffard), rapper Dolo (Jonathan-Ismaël Diaby), former lacrosse star Goody (Andrew Antsanen) and martini-loving Ted Hitchcock (Terry Ryan) — whose name, in Keeso’s colorful parlance, sounds a lot like “Ten-Inch Cock” — and attempts to change the Bulldogs’ culture, with only four games to go in the season. And yes, hockey devotees will recognize some of those names.

The premise sounds a lot like Slap Shot, which you can be sure that Keeso, who wrote every episode, and Jacob Tierney, who directed every episode, know.

This puts Keeso in the Paul Newman role, a grizzled veteran clinging to his last opportunity on the ice. As Wayne on Letterkenny, Keeso always put his stolid physicality to good use, but the show never made him seem like the rangiest of actors. The fully visible Shoresy still looks a fair amount like Wayne, albeit with a little more scruff and a prominent, frequently removed front tooth. Add the trademark squeaky Shoresy voice and the resulting differentiation is somehow sufficiently transformative, just one of several things I wouldn’t have predicted going in.

I also probably wouldn’t have guessed that Shoresy could be given a character-explaining backstory that explained his profane eccentricities. But the hilarious fourth episode, featuring a guest turn from Scott Thompson, succeeds there as well, justifying Shoresy’s ample damage in a slightly simplistic, but still totally amusing way. It sets the show up for a closing pair of episodes in which viewers are expected to invest in Shoresy’s motivations on a grounded level and… it actually kinda works. Throw in a budding relationship with a local journalist played by Camille Sullivan and Shoresy manages to largely function as a standalone series by making its main character into a lewder version of Wayne and finding the elements of Letterkenny that were transferrable, all wrapped in a bow of Canadian pride.

Part of the secret of Letterkenny is that although the men seem to be the focal point of the story and the women seem to be objectified in endless slo-mo walk-ups, the men are all trapped in different stages of arrested development and the women are truly in charge.

Here, Shoresy has a parrot who only knows how to say “tit fuck” and his glee about various sex acts and open-water pooping is unrivaled, yet when the prospect of romance emerges, he’s decent if not quite gentlemanly. None of the men on the show can put Shoresy in his place, but Lauren leaves him tongue-tied and Nat, Miigwan and Ziigwan, my three favorite characters, never waver in their control over the Bulldogs as a team and as individuals. Though Shoresy’s love of hockey appears to be based on its violence and endless opportunities for trash talk, Nat, Miigwan and Ziigwan have a deeper love for how the game can bring people together.

Oh and yes, “Miigwan” and “Ziigwan” are names of Ojibwe origin reflecting that, like Letterkenny, Shoresy has a tremendous appreciation for Canada’s First Nations populations, who are made the punchline of far fewer running jokes than, say, the Quebecois.

I don’t think I ever doubted that Keeso and Tierney would find a way to make Shoresy puerile and they absolutely deliver. What’s more impressive is how the series uncovers its own brand of cleverness and wordplay, rarely as smart or charming as the conversations between Wayne, Daryl, Squirrelly Dan and Katy, but varied enough that the new show isn’t exclusively locker room humor. Punchlines about turds and handjobs exist side-by-side with adroit alliterations, silly puns and the occasional welcome callback to Letterkenny, all in half-hour episodes that fly by.

Maybe Shoresy started off as something Keeso wanted to do to recharge his creative batteries between Letterkenny seasons, and I don’t think I’d ever want to let the spinoff replace the original. Still, I’d return to this corner of the Keeso/Tierney world much more eagerly than to the animated Littlekenny. It’s got much more depth than I expected.

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