As Holey Moley returns for season four, the ABC extreme mini golf competition is at the top of its game, and so are its players.
The actual golfing has never been stronger, and Holey Moley is still the reigning champion of balancing silliness and sport in reality TV.
The same cannot be said for The Muppets, who’ve been wedged into this season, which is being called Holey Moley Fore-Ever (ABC, Tuesdays at 8, and Hulu).
Holey Moley wasn’t the first reality TV competition that had people attempt stunts that turn their bodies into physical comedy as they bounce off things, but it is the best. Other shows have attempted to duplicate its success, but have fallen flat, from Frogger (disappointing) to Wipeout (a waste of a format and talent).
Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore have the best chemistry of any commentating duo, and Riggle can still make Tessitore do a spit take.
After three seasons of laughing at people bouncing off things and falling into water, it’d be understandable if they’d run out of material.
But the beauty of Holey Moley’s format is that there are still surprises, in golf and in goofiness.
Not with The Muppets, though. They are nowhere to be found on the course or even as part of the commentary, at least not in the first episode, the only one ABC provided for review, and that’s a relief considering how little they add elsewhere.
Muppets on Holey Moley season 4: ugh
I suspect The Muppets’ presence on Holey Moley was a literal afterthought: the season was filmed, and some Disney/ABC IP was folded in to fill time.
The Muppets have been creatively adrift and making me sad for years now. Disney+ streams the original Muppet Show, which still mostly holds up, and illustrates everything that’s missing from modern Muppets. The 2020 show Muppets Now came closest to that spirit.
Their presence here is not as nonsensical as Kermit’s Masked Singer appearance, but it’s still sad. The season’s running gag is something about Rob Riggle trying to save Holey Moley, but the concept itself just doesn’t make any sense.
That could be forgiven if the jokes were funny, but in the first episode, there are four Muppet bits, and only one of them works, kind of. The rest are just filler.
Even though Riggle is good at playing off of others, he struggles to make his interactions with Kermit, Fozzy the Bear, Pepe the King Prawn, Swedish Chef, and/or Animal seem funny. (Three Muppet performers are credited: Bill Barretta, Eric Jacobson, and Matt Vogel, plus “Supporting Muppet Performer” Julianne Buescher.)
Holey Moley knows what it is on the greens and in the booth, but the interstitials—which have never been the strongest point—are just getting weaker.
Meanwhile, in the premiere, sideline reporter Jeannie Mai has been, well, sidelined, appearing once to introduce a hole in the premiere, and resident pro Stephen Curry is apparently residing elsewhere.
While Stephen is involved behind-the-scenes, such as reviewing hole designs, his physical presence has diminished over time. In season four, he’s not appearing via screens to congratulate the winners, nor animated like in season two. He only introduces a hole in a clip that I suspect was recycled from season three.
At least Holey Moley still has the ability to be self-aware. “Where’s Steph?” the episode-one winner asks during the jacket ceremony at the end of the episode.
Course Marshall Joe says, “Eh.”
The May 10 episode’s description says “Pepé the King Prawn pulls off a kidnapping of resident golf pro Stephen Curry,” so perhaps both Stephen and The Muppets might have more to do in the near future.
Holey Moley season 4’s new holes
Season four was filmed back-to-back with season three in the spring of 2021, and thus the course has not materially changed.
There are new holes, both re-themed and new.
Holeywood is by far the best makeover so far: It’s the season-three hole Holey Matrimony, but the wedding theme has been mercifully dumped. Players now run down the moving conveyor belt and jump onto a lily pad themed to look like a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The pad they land on determines their starting point on the green, which is actually red carpet, and a striking design.
Polcano, which was rethemed as Ho Ho Hole in season three, is back as itself, with a dramatic new paint scheme. The best new hole last season, Cornhole, is back to pop people off the course; alas, last season’s worst new hole, Donut Hole, is also back.
The signature hole, Dutch Courage En Fuego, has not received a makeover, which is only disappointing because last season’s makeover, the addition of fire, burned all that fuel pointlessly, adding nothing to the hole or the experience of watching it.
Two new holes, Full Mooney and The Trap-Tee-Zee, each add a physical stunt between tee and hole. Full Mooney is log rolling combined with Wipeout’s big red ball, while Trap-Tee-Zee adds an actual trapeze, and a Rob Riggle-themed dummy that they must grab on to.
There are other new holes coming, including Big Foot Wedge (a giant bigfoot foot).
Based on the holes in episode one, Holey Moley has really locked into a format that allows its contestants to bounce off of padded obstacles but still play legitimately extreme putt-putt.
The holes challenge the players’ skills, and result in some stunning results: near holes-in-one, seemingly impossible putts, come-from-behind victories.
Even if it can’t quite figure out how to fill time in between holes, I hope Holey Moley Fore-Ever will forever be committed to the mix of competition and comedy on the course.