The third episode of Netflix’s adult animated comedy “Hoops” opens with a horse funeral. Zipper, a 20-year-old stallion beloved by his owner, Shannon (voiced by Natasha Leggero), passed away after a full, presumably rich life at his owner’s Kentucky farm, and Shannon is delivering an uplifting eulogy to an uncharacteristically large gathering of mourners. The only problem is that every time she says something nice about her horse, two bumbling ranch hands do something awful to its remains. First, they drop Zipper’s massive body off the side of their truck. One leg “breaks off,” his teeth are knocked out, and, when she finally sends them away so she can finish the funeral in peace, they run Zipper over, making his eyes bulge out like that alien-looking stress ball.
The joke here isn’t all that fresh. 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. 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.