Holey Moley is a lot of things.
It’s a summer competition series that ABC recently rolled out for a second season. It’s an extreme mini-golf challenge that features very large, very elaborate holes that make your local mini-golf course look like the saddest little rinky-dink operation you’ve ever seen. It’s a spectacle to the ridiculous, featuring Wipeout-style physical challenges on every hole and people in costume and just the dumbest collection of ideas and commentary and human bodies flailing through the air that you’ve ever seen. It is also, for my money, the nation’s finest television program.
That’s a bold claim. I’m aware it’s a bold claim, partially because Holey Moley is a bozo carnival of cartoon violence masquerading as a television show, sure, and partially because of the competition. There are so many other good shows out there. Very good shows. Succession is a good show that mixes humor with an in-depth examination of class and status. Better Call Saul is a good show that somehow built off of another good show (Breaking Bad) in such a magical way that it might end up eclipsing the original. Barry is a good show that features Noho Hank, a tatted-up Chechen mobster who is actually the sweetest and goofiest character on the show and my favorite character on television. All of these are terrific television shows that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys high-quality entertainment.
But did any of them dress a man in a suit of armor and light him on fire with fake dragons in the first 10 minutes of their season premiere?
They did not.
There are a few things in play here. I’ll concede that. Some of it is the timing, both general and specific. There’s the summer of it all, the thing where it’s warm and nice out and you might prefer to watch putt-putt maniacs heave themselves off of padded obstacles instead of, say, spending a chunk of a weeknight watching some bleak show about a murdered child and the alcoholic detective tasked with bringing the killer to justice. That’s understandable. Holey Moley is a great show to watch with a light summer-y beer or a cone of soft-serve in your hand.
There’s also the larger thing happening right now, today, in this specific summer, where we are all in the middle of a pandemic and a recession and there are protests against police brutality and systemic racism in every major city in America and it’s all building up to an election season that looks like it’s going to be very ugly and stressful. You can be forgiven if you’re not fully prepared to binge a true-crime series or dive into something that requires more than a half dozen brain cells after a full day of consuming that kind of news. Take a break for an hour. Turn your brain off. Find something stupid and soothing that asks nothing of you but a mild suspension of disbelief.
Something like, say, a show that features a man in a gopher costume — who goes by Dr. Frankengoph — throwing a giant switch and sending electric shocks through the arms and legs of contestants after each missed putt on a specific hole.
There’s something so wildly stupid and cathartic about it, and everyone involved knows it, too. The announcers, comedian Rob Riggle and actual play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, deliver their commentary with their tongues so firmly in their cheeks that they would slice them off if they bit down. (Tessitore especially is super fun as the straight man.) Jon Lovitz showed up in a pirate costume to hit lob wedges over a pool and onto a green. Steve Guttenberg and Greg Louganis judged a diving contest. NBA All-Star Steph Curry appears as a cartoon after appearing in person in the first season. Everything is designed to be goofy and dumb and corny and just a bag of fun.
There’s one hole on course called Pole-cano. It starts with the contestants putting up a huge hill and over a ledge, at which point their ball rattles down through a series of fake rocks, kind of like golf Plinko, before spitting out on the other side of the hole near the green. To get to the green, the contestants have to grab hold of a zip line and attempt to h-…
This is exactly what I’m talking about. This is what Holey Moley is. I feel like I should point out that this guy was perfectly fine afterward, and that he’s a shark researcher who wanted to use the money he was trying to win to devote more research to shark research, the former because it allows you to laugh guilt-free and the latter because of course he is.
I could watch this GIF for hours. I probably have, to be honest. I might do it for another 45 minutes this afternoon. And it’s not even the dumbest or weirdest hole on the course. That honor goes to a hole called Number Two, which starts with the contestants putting their ball down a narrow strip of green with a water hazard on one side and a row of portable toilets on the other side. Then they have to run down that thin strip of green without falling into the water. This is tricky because, surprise, the portable toilets are all occupied by people in monster costumes.
Again, find me another television show where a bro in a backward visor gets launched into a swimming pool by some sort of cape-wearing monster hellbug who is emerging from a portable toilet. Take all the time you need. Rewatch Chernobyl if you think it’s in there. I have time and GIFs to watch. I can wait.
Do you see what I mean now? About how Holey Moley is the ideal television show for this exact moment? About how its commitment to lunatic shenanigans can be exactly the medicine your ravaged brain needs for an hour or so a week? About how freeing it is to watch adrenaline-junkie weirdos fling themselves — or get flung — into pools of water as part of what everyone involved claims is miniature golf competition? I don’t know if it’s just me, but Holey Moley has been a gift from the heavens for me in the last few weeks.
But then again, even in much calmer and simpler times, I do really enjoy watching people get absolutely walloped by huge padded windmills…
… so take some of this with a grain of salt. Or, now that I think about it, don’t. Thinking too hard about things and analyzing them for context and/or incongruities… that flies directly in the face of everything Holey Moley stands for. No, no grains of salt, no thinking, no learning. Just people in costumes performing acts of controlled physical violence against people who are usually not in costumes. And are sometimes on fire. Think of it like meditation with more splashing. Therapy with evil gophers. Whatever it takes right now, you know?
Let Holey Moley heal you.