"An animated comedy about a loser high school basketball coach stumbling through his personal and professional life while serving as a horrible role model to his equally crude players, Hoops takes on lots of sensitive subjects — domestic violence, sexual abuse, homophobia — in the crassest, most obvious ways possible," says Tim Grierson of the Netflix animated comedy starring Jake Johnson. "But unlike something like Bad News Bears, where the shocks are connected to a genuinely subversive streak, Hoops is just mean and stupid and loud. Or, to speak in a language the show’s characters would understand, it’s the f*cking worst." Grierson adds: "At a time in which a show like Big Mouth uses its bawdiness to pinpoint the messy, awkward insecurities of adolescent life, Hoops just feels lazy and cynical — a litany of off-color jokes meant to be transgressive. But to who? I guess it’s possible impressionable kids may land on Hoops and be excited to hear so much cursing and bad behavior — lots of d*ck jokes, folks — but it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t find this sort of content somewhere else. And lord knows the alternatives will almost certainly be funnier."
The problem is Hoops creator Ben Hoffman decided that crudeness is the point: "Hoops is a show about an immature man and his immature teenage charges that doesn’t aspire to anything more than making immature jokes and then, often, repeating those same immature jokes," says Jen Chaney. "I have no doubt that everyone working on the show had a blast making it. But it’s one of those comedies with a definite 'you had to be there' vibe. Every riff and ad-lib no doubt cracked up everybody in the writers’ room or recording studio. But once the show gets hit with a whiff of outside oxygen, the humor dissipates."
Hoops is an aggressively unfunny airball that lacks comedy fundamentals: "From top to bottom, the writing here is sophomoric," says Brian Tallerico. "And that’s being polite. The writing team’s idea of a joke here is that Hopkins goes to a restaurant that’s modeled off Hooters that’s called…wait for it…Cooters. The scene ends with a hygiene joke. It’s only one of many alleged jokes that hit the floor like a thud, but perhaps the most startling thing is how often Hoops chooses to repeat some of their worst bits. The idea that Hopkins is unexpectedly in love with the Jodie Foster movie Little Man Tate produces a chuckle in the first episode, but it’s a joke that returns all season long to the point that it goes well past humorous into desperate and annoying."
Hoops is a Trump-era cartoon for the lucrative American demographic of culturally myopic eternal frat boys: "If Hoops had the courage of its lack of convictions it would be as overtly racist and homophobic as it is sexist," says Stuart Jeffries. "But it doesn’t. It confirms its racism and homophobia through tokenism. It confirms its sexism differently, by reducing women’s roles to those of pregnant cheerleader or sex worker, or having coach shout 'boobies' now and again. Despite the #MeToo movement, Hoops follows the fine old tradition of The Hangover, now 11 years old, in which women were either sourpuss wives from hell or beautiful Vegas strippers inexplicably captivated by Ed Helms’ charms. Ed Helms! Hoops also deploys the stereotypical twofer – namely a black woman called Opal, the dramatically marginal school principal (kin to TV’s deskbound black police captains). She is something 2020 doesn’t need: a 'sassy' character of color."
Hoops has all the promising makings of the next big animated show: "It’s created by The Late Late Show with James Corden writer Ben Hoffman and led by the excellent, slightly raucous voice performance of Jake Johnson," says Saloni Gajjar. "The Netflix original sports comedy also arrives seemingly at an opportune time. The adult animation genre has gone through a resurgence with series like Archer, BoJack Horseman, Big Mouth, Rick & Morty—and newer entrants Tuca & Bertie and Central Park—which examine deeper, darker themes along with providing more wholesome entertainment. But Hoops mostly fails to combine its biting humor with any noteworthy character or story development."
Hoops coasts on coarseness in the first few episodes: "It sounds puritanical to lament how much of the show relies exclusively on punchlines tied to obscenities, the main character's resistance to political correctness or heavily played double entendres relating to balls (or single entendres about Ben's tiny penis)," says Daniel Fienberg. "And maybe all that is intended to make viewers appreciate the other moves the series occasionally showcases. Hoops has a solid, series-spanning grasp on call-backs, like a bit tied to Little Man Tate that made me chuckle each time. Given Hoffman's profane musical alter ego Wheeler Walker Jr., it isn't surprising that the series' frequent songs, written with Scott Hoffman, are quite good. By the tenth episode there's enough going right here to make one hopeful for future seasons, but it still feels like a disappointment given the pedigree."
Hoops substitutes profanity for jokes: "Contrasting sweet intentions with disturbing reality is a hallmark of shock comedy; so much so, that in 2020 it takes more than showing an upsetting act or cursing up a storm to get laughs," says Ben Travers. "People are less easily startled and quicker to recognize familiar beats, and rarely does creator Ben Hoffman try to subvert expectations during Hoops. Instead, he eagerly leans into repeating the same profane bits again and again, exemplifying the belief that Stewie’s elongated critique of Brian’s nonexistent novel is the pinnacle of modern comedy. Hoops leans on extremely crude but lazy gags throughout its first 10 episodes, without ever appearing to realize that all it’s doing is beating a dead horse."