For the last three years, television’s most ridiculous summer escape has been ABC’s mini-golf competition series, Holey Moley. Equal parts contestant-crushing obstacle course and straight-up putting challenge, each season features a gauntlet of stupid holes that are elevated by the commentary of Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore.
To know the show is to love its lowbrow fun. But for the fourth season, which premieres May 3rd on ABC, it’s getting a title upgrade to Holey Moley: FORE-EVER!, and the addition of The Muppets co-starring all season long. Yes, Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and so many more are adding their antics to the overall chaos with a whole storyline that is instigated by Riggle’s need to keep the show on the air forever.
Paste TV got on the phone with long-time Holey Moley producer Charles Wachter to get to the bottom of who came up with this dream pairing, and how it will play out this summer.
Paste: Charles, this is a brilliant mash-up. How did this proverbial mixing of television chocolate to peanut butter come to be?
Charles Wachter: The Muppets and Holey Moley do go together like chocolate and peanut butter. On the surface, it wouldn’t make total sense. But once you try it, it delivers. It’s really fun and sweet. The energy of The Muppets and Holey Moley are the same. They’re irreverent. They’re very self aware.
Paste: Did the connection come from a blue-sky concept, or from corporate prompting?
Wachter: We were thinking about an idea for Season 4, and said: what if Rob becomes obsessed with the show going on forever? He’s always super excited about the success of the show because that means he gets more. And like in The Muppets Take Manhattan, this idea of The Muppets saving the show or saving the day was a great kind of marriage. We started talking to The Muppets and the studio. They saw the connection between the energy and the goodhearted family fun of Holey Moley and Muppets. It was an exploratory thing at first. We just actually just kept shooting because it was working, to be honest. We shot a bunch and then we shot more and more. And really created a small scripted story underneath what is an unscripted show.
Paste: In prior seasons, you had some scripted sequences with Stephen Curry and even animated segments. How different was it tailoring your typical scripted sequences to now include the Muppets? Or did The Muppet team write their own material?
Wachter: I really credit The Muppets team with teaching us in a lot of ways how to put a scripted storyline underneath the show. Certainly, there’s a lot of improv between Rob and the Muppets, as well as Stephen. But we actually wrote a scripted storyline that would be told in segments across every episode that told the story of Rob bumping into Kermit at ABC and cajoling him into helping. Kermit is such a nice guy, he goes along with it and gets in a bit above his head. It was Jim Lewis and Bill Barretta at The Muppets who said every time we do a segment, let’s have Joe and Rob talk about it either before or after in the booth so it’s a live story. It’s not just cut to a joke between The Muppets and Rob. But we actually wove the Muppet storyline into the booth and we wrote a ton of material for Joe and Rob in the booth to carry it through the season.
And then we did one other little trick I’m super proud of, and I don’t know if anyone will notice, which is that the “Previously Ons” are just the Muppet stories. Each week, we’re adding to the Muppet story of Rob and the Muppets trying to make Holey Moley air forever. It all culminates in a hilarious finale performance with Miss Piggy.
Paste: Rob seems like a natural performer against The Muppets. How was it observing that collision of talent?
Wachter: Rob was thrilled to be working with The Muppets. When they showed up on set, it was like the biggest celebrity that had ever arrived. And what was amazing is Rob is an improv genius. His ability to take a simple idea and make it funny, I’ve seen it for four years now. And now watching him interact with The Muppet performers, who are all so genius at improv. They’re scripted, but the camera turns off and they stay in character. Whether it was Eric Jacobson with Miss Piggy, or Bill who is Pepe the Prawn King, the interactions were just hilarious because they were just having fun.
Paste: Should we just expect a few Muppet performers or is the whole bench open to appearing?
Wachter: Oh, no, there’s definitely a bunch of unexpected Muppets. At one point, Rob’s convinced that he needs to replace Joe to save the show and then Kermit starts running auditions for a new sidekick for Riggle. We get a whole bunch of new characters trying to do Joe’s job for him. We definitely knew that being playful with which Muppets show up, people would enjoy.
Paste: Would you say the tone of the show changed much to accommodate The Muppets vibe?
Wachter: It’s very firmly in the classic Muppets humor. But one thing that did migrate for us, and looking to Seasons 5 and 6 down the road, hopefully, is the way in which scripted comedy is in a lot more of it this season. I don’t want to call it a variety show, but we’re going to keep pushing that and have larger, more elaborate storylines. I think that in the final, mature phase of the format, which I still think we’re finding, it will be two thirds competition and a third scripted comedy.
Paste: Do you see The Muppets potentially coming back for another season?
Wachter: I certainly think both Holey Moley and The Muppets would love to work together and continue. But what I do think is that the show’s superpower is novelty. I think we were unexpected for a competition show and then that grew. The short answer is I think we’ll keep evolving and that’s what makes it hopefully continue to be fresh and surprising and different and unexpected. And I’m really super pumped about the Season 5 idea. But to that end, I think Stephen will be the linchpin to that season. There is a tie-in to The Muppets. I haven’t pitched it to them yet, so I don’t know yet.
Paste: Last but not least, tease out some new holes to look forward to this season.
Wachter: In Season 3, we redid “Polecano” but in Season 4, “Polecano” is back in all its glory, which is really exciting. And there’s one Distractor hole in particular that we couldn’t breathe because we were laughing so hard when that happened. It was Travis Kelce from the Kansas City Chiefs; the NFL player is in the distractor. Rob is a massive Travis Kelce fan because he’s Kansas City Chiefs super fan. Riggle lost his mind in the booth. Like he tried to rip the desk off he was so fired up.
Holey Moley: FORE-EVER! premieres Tuesday, May 3rd on ABC and streams the next day on Hulu.
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe and the official Story of Marvel Studios released in late 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.
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