This Ain’t the PGA
Comedy Central’s The Sweet SpotBy Amy L Meadows
The Sweet Spot
Directed by Joel Murray
Starring Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Joel Murray, and John Murray
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Premiering April 2
Golf is notoriously boring to watch; it does not have any of the charms of other televised sports. The announcers speak only slightly above a whisper. There is no head-on competition with another team or player, and the most exciting action is a pudgy player whacking a small ball every fifteen minutes. Bill Murray and his brothers Brian, Joel, and John hope to change common conceptions of golf with their new series, The Sweet Spot.
Bill Murray was first associated with golf via his role in the 1980 hit movie Caddyshack. His gopher-obsessed groundskeeper immediately ensured his place in the annals of comedy history, but Murray has had to work to keep his association with golf alive. A few years ago, the Murray brothers opened a Caddyshack-themed restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida. While the restaurant may have been a stretch, The Sweet Spot takes Bill Murray’s association with golf to the outer limits of plausibility.
One can only imagine the pitch the Murray brothers made to Comedy Central when asking the network to finance their travels and games of golf in exchange for a comedy series. Perhaps they mentioned Comedy Central already bankrolling the only somewhat funny The Man Show. They might have brought up Bill Murray’s loyal fans from years of Saturday Night Live and hit movies. Or perhaps the network just believed that the time was ripe for a hit series about golf, a Happy Gilmore for the small screen.
Whatever the ultimate reason for the existence of the series, the Murrays traveled far and wide to play golf at the most exotic and challenging golf courses they could find, including Twin Palms in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Palm Spring Resort in Cathedral City, California.
Some of the comic antics may have been the result of the deal with Comedy Central, since they do not always mesh well with the tone of the series. The brothers compete for the Braggart’s Cup at each stop on the “tour,” but the other characters and skits are sometimes out of place. Ponce de Leon shows up in St. Augustine and a drunken announcer runs through the course in his skivvies on Lake Geneva.
Also, for a show that claims to be about golf, there is surprisingly little golf in The Sweet Spot. Instead, skits seem to take up much of each episode. In the Wisconsin episode, Ryan Stiles plays Liberace. In another, Tim Meadows plays a personal injury lawyer specializing in golf, vowing, “I will make them pay.”
The Sweet Spot has even taken some lowbrow cues from Comedy Central’s The Man Show. John makes Joel funnel beer to give him “Wisconfidence.” And, inevitably, in each episode, random women somehow make their way onto the course to dance around in bikinis.
Though some antics are contrived, others go well with the stated goal of the series: to watch the brothers compete for bragging rights. In the premiere episode, Joel rolls his eyes at Bill and Brian, saying, “Ike, Tina, let’s hit the ball.” The other brothers peg Bill with the nickname “Captain Hook” for his crooked drives.
Moreover, like a childhood game among siblings, the rules of The Sweet Spot constantly change. At the Slammer and Squire golf course in St. Augustine, Florida, Joel Murray insists that in order to take an extra shot, or Mulligan, a brother must be dressed by the other brothers in costume. John must dress as Robin, Joel as a nun, Bill as Zorro, and Brian as Ben Franklin.
The episode at the Grand Geneva Resort in Wisconsin has many elements that work, including themed holes like the 9th “Full Contact” hole or the 10th “Open Season Hunting” hole. Instead of relying on tangential stories and skits, the show would do well to set up a few funny situations, let the competitive banter develop normally, and focus a little more on the golf.
As the announcer says: “Many come to play, but few ever find the sweet spot.” Indeed, this series ought to spend more time looking for it.