‘Hoops’ Review — Netflix’s Animated Comedy is Neither An Air Ball Nor a Slam Dunk

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Hoops Review Netflix

What is the comedic value of profanity? Of course, there’s no concrete answer but the question constantly swirled around my brain as I watched the Netflix animated comedy Hoops. Created by Ben Hoffman, Hoops is a show that is gleefully profane. Minute after minute unleashes a barrage of expletives upon the viewer even if its multitude of F-bombs doesn’t always yield laughs. Hoops is a frustrating series in its inaugural season as it’s so heavily focused on trying to be shocking by being aggressively crass that its storylines and characters suffer. Then a noticeable shift happens in the final four episodes of Hoops that the show suddenly finds its balance between its premise, its characters, and its relentless profanity. However, the fact that Hoops finds its groove in its final four episodes of a ten-episode season isn’t enough to overcome its mediocre start which almost had me abandoning the show before it found its groove.

Ben Hopkins (Jake Johnson) is a high school basketball coach. He doesn’t have much knowledge of the game. His players aren’t on their way to scholarships and professional careers. What Ben Hopkins has is an incredible sense of entitlement and a short fuse. At a moment’s notice, Ben can unleash a temper tantrum overflowing with F-bombs. The best real world analog for Ben Hopkins would be the infamous basketball coach Bobby Knight, though it should be noted that Knight did have some success despite being an all around horrible person. How could such an ill-tempered, profane, and incompetent person be in charge of a youth basketball team? Easy. Ben’s father is Barry Hopkins (Rob Riggle), the town’s beloved basketball hero who has maintained his celebrity by owning a local steakhouse.

At the school where he coaches, Ben is subject to little oversight from the school’s principal Opa (Cleo King), though the combination of a losing record and profane outbursts do get him in a little bit of trouble which he’s able to often wiggle out of thanks to his famous father. His assistant coach Ron (Ron Funches) is one of his best friends, and Ron just so happens to seeing Ben’s ex-wife Shannon (Natasha Leggero). Ben’s arrogance makes it all but impossible for him to have anything resembling a meaningful relationship with the people in his life, and the show suffers early on from this because the jokes are rooted entirely in Ben’s oblivious blustering and not the profound sadness of his incurious being. It’s not until later in the season that these fractured relationships actually become more of the show’s focus and every aspect of the show improves as it finds depth to the characters and builds humorous situations that aren’t solely rooted in its main character’s maniacal outbursts.

The team that Ben oversees isn’t a roster of brimming with athleticism. They’re short. Some are overweight. They’re not skilled players. Despite their basketball shortcomings, they’re good kids who place their youthful trust in the incompetent tutelage of their coach. But Ben soon discovers a potential game changer on campus in the form of Matty (A.D. Miles), a lanky outcast whose size could make a difference on the court. To recruit and keep Matty on the roster Ben places himself in a number of morally abhorrent situations, often dragging his young roster of players into his devious schemes which deliver wildly mixed comedic results.

Hoops is at its weakest when its aiming for shock value, and that is much of the show’s personality for its first six episodes. It’s not that I’m a prude or somehow offended by salty language or scenarios where animated teenagers are in the company of cheap prostitutes. It’s more that the jokes just don’t land consistently, and that’s really all that creator Ben Hoffman and his team of writers have to offer at first. Hoops does turn its season around when the show creates it jokes out of its characters and their unique perspective, allowing the show to utilize its crude humor in effective storylines about teacher strikes and private schools looking to poach players from Ben’s roster. When Hoops eventually finds its footing you’re left to wonder where the smart and funny version of the show was hiding.

The biggest problem with Hoops is its inconsistency. It’s neither terrible nor great, though it comes close to achieving both at separate times. Despite my mixed feelings on the animated comedy I’d happily welcome a second season to see if its creative team can build upon the impressive progress made towards season’s end. I think future seasons of Hoops can blossom into something special, a show that outrageously lampoons the twisted world of youth sports where adults badger children into following their dreams of faded glory. In its first season, Hoops just isn’t completely there yet. It’s just a piece or two away from being a championship contender. An elite squad isn’t built overnight. When it comes to the future of Hoops, guess I’ll just have to trust the process.

Hoops
  • Overall Score
2.5

Summary

A gleefully profane but uneven animated comedy, Hoops often settles for shock humor to little avail early in its inaugural season before finding its footing in later episodes that hints to a potential future as a crass caustic comedy.

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