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.