Alibi V.28 No.26 • June 27-July 3, 2019 

Idiot Box

Swing and a Miss

“Holey Moley” on FOX

Broadcast networks are notorious for giving up and switching their primetime programming to cruise control for the summer. Despite the rapidly changing face of television (expanded by cable and exploded by streaming), the big broadcasters (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW) still look at the summer months as a lousy time for attracting viewership. And so they crank out the reruns, the cheap-to-produce reality shows, the easy-to-make news specials and the low-effort game shows.

ABC, in particular, has devoted a huge swath of its 2019 summer lineup to game shows. Reboots of “Press Your Luck,” “Card Sharks” and “Match Game” fill the midweek gap on Wednesday nights. Now the Alphabet Net has found another fallow hour on the primetime schedule to devote to its newest sports-reality-game-show-whatsit “Holey Moley.” Described as an extreme miniature golf competition, the show basically combines Putt-Putt Mini Golf with the slapstick violence of ABC’s 2008 to 2014 obstacle course challenge “Wipeout.”

Assorted putter-wielding competitors are invited onto a madcap, obstacle-filled course where they must navigate a string of giant water hazards while avoiding various foam rubber obstacles. Contestants are encouraged to wear goofy outfits or costumes. Instead of John Henson and John Anderson, we get color commentators Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore. The two do their best to shoehorn some comedy into the proceedings, with Riggle (a “Daily Show” vet) scoring the occasional well-improvised jab.

Prior to its premiere, there was no actual expectation that “Holey Moley” would be a quality piece of television. But it at least looked goofy enough to make for some mindless, stress-relieving summer viewing. Unfortunately, “Holey Moley” isn’t quite as original as it seems, pulling almost all of its look and feel directly from “Wipeout”—a snarky takeoff on Japanese game shows that had a solid handle its own stupidity. “Holey Moley,” in contrast, tries too hard to be campy and wacky. Camp isn’t, arguably, a thing you can set out to emulate. You have to evolve into it, organically.

Even beyond the “Let’s Make a Deal” costumes and cartoonish obstacles, the show strains for over-the-top absurdity. For some reason, NBA star Stephen Curry serves as an executive producer here. Occasionally, the show will cut away to Curry giving an inspirational (and patently phony) “fireside chat” (complete with smoking jacket). “Ever since I was a child I’ve dreamed of being the golf pro on an extreme miniature golf competition on ABC,” he says in all mock-seriousness. A for effort, but it’s yet more distraction from the show’s sporting action—which gets surprisingly little attention over the course of a full hour. Most of the head-to-head matches are edited down to a few seconds. Some of the holes are entertaining to behold (though they’ll get old as the season wears on). Others are poorly designed as “obstacles,” with difficulty boiling down to pure, arbitrary chance.

After 10 holes of elimination (recreational golf typically has nine holes, guys), it all comes down to the last face-off on fire-spewing “Mount Holey Moley.” And if there’s a tie on strokes? Contestants square off in a perfectly ordinary 6-foot putt. After zip-lines and rolling logs and exploding volcanoes, that’s what you call “anticlimactic.”

If “The Masked Singer” can be a hit, I guess “Holey Moley” can be a ratings winner too. But the forced wackiness and the general disinterest in its central conceit make this just another piece of idea-starved summer filler.

“Holey Moley” airs Thursdays at 7pm on KOAT-7.