Six years ago, the first episode of Letterkenny debuted with series creator and star Jared Keeso telling the audience: “A couple hockey players came up to the produce stand the other day …”
In the 60-plus episodes that followed that introduction, Letterkenny has featured a wide range of Wayne’s neighbors (not all of them hockey players) from the show’s fictional Ontario town, with Keeso occasionally playing both series lead Wayne and “Shoresy,” a foul-mouthed supporting character whose face was always obscured. The penultimate episode of season 10 indicated that the fan-favorite character had departed to Sudbury, Ontario, opening the door for Keeso’s secondary role to get the spotlight in Shoresy, a spinoff series about everyone’s favorite mother-loving, minor league hockey star.
And although it might seem impossible to anyone familiar with the character, it only takes a single six-episode season to transform Shoresy from a recurring joke into a bona fide hockey hero.
Created by Keeso, who also wrote all six episodes of the season in addition to starring in it, Shoresy brings back Letterkenny director Jacob Tierney behind the camera as the show’s titular lead attempts to turn around the fortunes of the struggling Sudbury Bulldogs, a Triple-A hockey team on the verge of bankruptcy. In order to stop team general manager Nat (Tasya Teles) from disbanding the team, Shoresy vows to “never lose again,” and recruits a team of misfit former pros and local brawlers to make good on his promise.
As one might expect, though, it takes more than some added muscle to get the Bulldogs winning again, and Shoresy is forced to deal with a new responsibility that requires more than a knack for nasty insults: Inspiring the team.
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Much like with Letterkenny, it’s amazing what Keeso and Tierney are able to pack into just a few short episodes of Shoresy. Whereas Letterkenny episodes generally feature a series of loosely connected skits, Shoresy offers up a single, season-long narrative that chronicles the characters’ efforts to turn their scrappy team around. It’s a pivot for the Letterkenny creative team that’s pulled off wonderfully, and feels even more impressive considering the series’ cast, which is largely composed of newcomers to acting.
The series features several former NHL and minor league players in its recurring cast, with some making their acting debut in Shoresy, and the show’s creators do a remarkable job of seamlessly fitting them into the action. Although Shoresy isn’t quite as snappy as Letterkenny when it comes to the show’s dialogue, it still maintains an intimidating pace with the scripted back-and-forth between characters, and it’s a testament to the creative team’s skills that the host of rookie actors blends into scenes so smoothly.
Shoresy also deserves plenty of credit for building on what Letterkenny already does well, with representation of both strong female characters and the wide range of cultures present in and around cities like Sudbury.
Regarding the latter, Shoresy features a Bulldogs roster right in line with what you’re likely to see in so many minor league teams, particularly in Canada. The team is a mix of of players from various Indigenous groups, French-Canadians, and characters from various other cultures and corners of Canada. That the diversity on the team isn’t played up by the characters or the story itself, and rather exists as the natural state of things (with the characters even at ease translating between different languages and vernaculars), is a great example of the subtle sensitivity and authenticity at play in Shoresy (and before it, Letterkenny).
Playing Shoresy’s best friend on the Bulldogs, Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat does an admirable job of keeping pace with Keeso in the frequent scenes they share, and the same can be said of Blair Lamora and Keilani Elizabeth Rose, who portray Nat’s snarky assistants. All three actors have limited acting résumés, but don’t appear to have any problem whatsoever holding their own amid the show’s aggressive pacing. Tasya Teles (The 100) is similarly fun to watch as the Bulldogs’ long-suffering general manager, and much like Letterkenny standout Kaniehtiio Horn — who plays Tanis in that series and serves as a consulting producer on Shoresy — Teles’ performance ensures the series never gets bogged down in the typical male posturing and sports tropes.
Still, even with the wide range of actors, experience, and backgrounds represented in the cast, it’s Keeso who truly sells Shoresy as something special.
While we’ve seen more dimensions to his stiff Letterkenny character, Wayne, over the course of 10 seasons, it’s in Shoresy that we really see some range to his performance. We learn a lot about Shoresy in six episodes — from his childhood to what makes him cry — and rather than only seeing him from behind the door of a locker-room toilet, Shoresy gives us a full picture of the man — and what we see is surprisingly relatable.
In fact, it doesn’t take long at all for Shoresy to go from faceless maestro of trash talk to a layered character who gives you plenty of reasons to root for him.
Sadly, the biggest flaw in Shoresy is that the first season of the series ends far too soon. Keeso and Tierney keep things moving at such a brisk, funny pace that it’s easy not to notice how attached you’re getting to Shoresy and his supporting cast. And when the credits roll on the season’s final episode and you’re left wondering when (or worse, if) you’ll see more of the gang, the full measure of how good the series is hits you like a slap shot to the gut.
If we’re lucky, this won’t be the last we’ll see of Shoresy and the Sudbury Bulldogs. Six episodes isn’t nearly long enough to spend with this group of absolute legends, and there’s still plenty of time to run up the score.
The first two episodes of Shoresy premiere May 27 on the Hulu streaming service.