A little over two months ago, I asked two questions in my review of the season premiere of ABC’s extreme mini-golf competition show Holey Moley: Does Holey Moley benefit from having the Muppets? And do the Muppets benefit from being on Holey Moley? Then, as well as in my (way past) halftime report, I speculated that despite early difficulties, there was a chance that things could be set right with a blockbuster finale worthy of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the characters we know and love. But on Tuesday night, the final ball entered the final hole, the $250,000 was handed to one lucky golfer, and I finally was delivered the answers to my questions. And I can honestly say that while Holey Moley benefited from having the Muppets, the Muppets resoundingly didn’t benefit at all from being on Holey Moley.

How did the Muppets get the shaft? I’ll offer a quick recap to explain: since we last left the show, preparations were well underway to have Miss Piggy star at the big final hole, a mashup of the Tinseltown-themed Holey-wood and the special guest showcase hole The Distractor. And because she’s always at the height of fashion, Piggy spends two episodes in her trailer getting ready. So when they finally get to the finale they’ve been building up for nine-and-a-half episodes, the one thing that could redeem this partnership of creative properties… she gets stuck in her trailer. This leaves course reporter Jeannie Mai to take on the lead role herself, performing a song about how the show shouldn’t be canceled.

And that sort of perfectly encapsulates the whole Muppet experience this show has had this season. Yet again, the Muppets are left on the sidelines, brought out when the show needs some filler, but kept mostly out of sight during the segments based on the whole purpose of the show: the mini-golf. (Kermit comes back to call a hole early in the episode with hosts Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore, but that’s about it.)

I truly thought every bad joke, every awkward sketch, might’ve been worth it as long as the Holey Moley producers finally fulfilled the promise of having the Muppets this season in a moment of glory to wrap up the show. Instead, I can only offer the final line in the notes I’ve taken every week to help craft these reviews: “At least it’s over.” They bring in the Muppets to help save the show, and they don’t even use them to do that. I suppose the only real punchline now would be for ABC to actually cancel the show. Y’know, for continuity’s sake.

So how does having the Muppets help the show? Well, they needed filler bits, and who better to fill time than the Muppets? I suppose it’s better than explaining every course for ten episodes. Plus, the characters can give the show some name recognition. Not everyone may know Holey Moley, but I can bet dollars to doughnuts that they know who Kermit and Miss Piggy are. I can only hope that it helped with the ratings. For all my ranting, the bits, though not as funny as I know the Muppets can be, are harmless, and helped keep my interest. I prefer my summer television to be light and unobtrusive. And for the most part, it managed to be just that. But looking at it from the angle of being a Muppet project, it might just be the worst I’ve seen in a long while.

So how could this catastrophe have been avoided? They could’ve delivered on what they promised. They didn’t guarantee much with the Muppets, but they spent a whole season building up a Muppetational finale that never materialized. All we wanted was an ending that incorporated the characters we adore.

So what do we get? After the winner has been crowned, Rob and Kermit talk about their experience in the parking lot, and Rob expresses a bit of relief, knowing that Piggy has a reputation of being a bit of a diva. So who pops out of the driver’s seat of Rob’s car? Miss Piggy, who decides instead of taking a bow, to take Rob’s car. And that’s our payoff. Grand theft auto.

With that epilogue, it genuinely feels like the producers of the show didn’t really care about having the Muppets in the first place, and that feels rather insulting to the writing team, the performers, and anyone who tuned into this show for the sheer fact that they love the Muppets and wanted to see something new with them.

It’s hard not to feel discouraged, but the only comfort I can offer is this: this is a show with Muppets, but it isn’t really a Muppet show. I know they can do better when given the opportunity and the for-real spotlight. Here’s hoping that Muppets Mayhem on Disney+ figures out how to get back into the groove. For now, Holey Moley stole hours of my time. Maybe Miss Piggy can steal them back for me.

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by Matthew Soberman

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