Dr. Reality Show or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Big Break IV

Reality shows are largely drivel, contrived programming developed around unlikeable people lacking in social skills or charisma. I don’t care if you think Boston Rob is the best thing since 50 Cent — he’s still just a yob who would have a difficult time making it on a tough construction site. Given the contrived makeup of the shows, most are not worth wasting time on. That largely goes for the Golf Channel’s Big Break series of programming as well. Few of the participants displayed the necessary skills to take advantage of winning — even if that meant playing on the Canadian Tour.
The only reality of these shows was that you would never hear from the participants again. They’d miss the cut in an LPGA event or a Nationwide Tour outing and that would be it. Back to obscurity.
I wanted to hate Big Break IV as well, but I tuned in because Carnoustie is among my favourite courses. And though I didn’t watch all of the early shows, by the last half dozen, I was setting my PVR to record every Tuesday night at 9.
What was different this time? Well, it wasn’t the ridiculous American vs. Europe hype, which seemed to smell a little bit of American jingoism. No, it was the golf course and the abilities of some of the players.
In my mind, it appeared the European team had the stronger chance of coming out with the winning player. The Americans, largely, had ugly swings with a capital “U,” while the Europeans seemed more at ease with whatever Carnoustie could put up. Similarly, American TJ Valentine, despite having a great sports name, seemed so far out of his element in losing in his match that it was not entirely clear that former Nationwide player and alcoholic (how many times did they bring this up?) Paul Holtby was actually a strong golfer. On the other hand, I figured Thomas Blankvoort would have a good chance of using his finese to make it through to the end. I was wrong.
So it came down to Holtby vs. Woodman, or Paul vs. Guy, as the GC liked to show in its oh so friendly way.
The only downside I found to the early shows was how much of it was done on Carnoustie’s disappointing and dull Burnside course. And the semi-finals should have been 18 holes, even if they were edited to fit into an hour.
Needless to say, it was encouraging to see a full 18 on the big course at Carnoustie, one of the nastiest creations ever devised for golf. Though the rough was low, as it is typically aside from Open Championships, Carnoustie is a full test of golf and would surely put Holtby and Woodman through their paces.
That said, the finale was a bit of a letdown. Guy probably should have taken this, but can a player of his caliber actually hit two straight shanks (or “hozzle rockets,” as they were referred to on the show) and anticipate playing on the European Tour? How many spectators would he kill if he hozzled one in Spain or at the Scottish Open? In reality, he looked nervous and made some poor club selections. It also didn’t help that he couldn’t hole a single putt.
In contrast, Holtby was steady, if unspectacular, right up until the flubbed putt on 17. He still doesn’t impress me that much as a player, but I doubt he’ll embarrass himself out on the European Tour.
So what should the Golf Channel have learned from this exercise? Clearly the golf course is central to making it interesting. If they took the men to somewhere like Pacific Dunes or World Woods or a similar US course, the program might continue to gain momentum. Having the European players involved surely made it less one dimensional as well. Hopefully that is a motif they can continue to use. And I could have done without the in studio “commentary,” that seemed to rob the program of its momentum. Brian Hewitt’s “let’s put a headline on this,” schtick got old really quickly and didn’t add anything to the show but fill time.
Even with all the issues — and no TV show is perfect, well, maybe Veronica Mars is — the Big Break IV proved to be addictive viewing. And if it is a guilty pleasure, well it is one I’m willing to publicly declare.

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Jeff Lancaster

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I have never seen a reality show.

    Paul Holtby is a teaching pro at my local driving range though, so I decided to break down and actually watch that final episode of BBIV in the background while working on the computer. Surprise, I found that the show was very entertaining – my phone even rang towards the end and I decided not to answer it.

    I enjoyed how the players would explain their thinking and club selections – that was great – but the dramatic whispering, and drama music stuff could be toned down a little for my tastes. Overall though, two thumbs up from me Robert!


    PS That putt Paul missed on 17 looked like it had a ton of break on it… I knew Paul would make the putt on 18 because I looked at the clock to check how close it was to 10:00 😉

  • Hitting a hozzle rocket at most European events wouldn’t hurt a fly. Have you ever watched those European tournaments on TGC? Other than the tournies played in the UK they are lucky to get 50 people in the gallery.

  • “Well, it wasn’t the ridiculous American vs. Europe hype, which seemed to smell a little bit of American jingoism.”

    Hey Robert, how about backing-up this assertion with some evidence.

    BTW, this isn’t the first time I’ve read a post of yours and wondered, “What does this guy have against America?”

  • Mr. Duke: I actually count a number of Americans among my good friends. Unlike a number of Canadians, I quite like the U.S. The jingoism in BBIV? It wasn’t hard to pick out — it was in the way the show was scripted and the fact that is was, yet again, America versus the rest of the world. Admittedly I didn’t notice it as much in the last episode, but if there hadn’t been a bit of an American bias to the way the show was set up, why didn’t the Europeans storm away with it, since they had twice as many players after the US team stumbled. Instead, they made the Europeans eliminate themselves so there was a match that is saleable on US television. None of this is surprising — it just was part of the show. So there was a bit of a nationalistic flavour to it — oh well. Maybe it even improved the show. But there is no denying it was there.

  • Jingoistic though? I don’t see it, especially considering that half the cast was foreign and that the entire show was filmed on very non-American courses in Scotland. Would it have been more watchable if the producers spliced in footage of the US withdrawing from Vietnam — you know, to keep us humble?

    None the less, your point about the course being an essential component to show-enjoyability is well taken.

  • OK, Duke, maybe jingoistic was too strong. But I did take away a pro-American sentiment, but that’s not surprising, or even bad considering the show’s audience. Footage of Vietnam? Might have been better than watching Hewitt talk about his “headlines.”

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