Tiger Woods will return to golf by playing in next month’s Masters tournament, and if you’re already sick of tabloid tales about Tiger’s tail, all one can say is, “Fore!”
Still, as made-for-TV spectacles go, this first installment of “The Tiger Woods Show” will be like none other — a variety show with something for everyone. In a media-saturated culture fascinated by sex, wealth and scandal, Woods’ telegenic extramarital dalliances combine elements from every major TV genre — an intoxicating blend of sports, news, drama, soap opera and comedy. Plus, it’s an invitation to an ungodly assortment of bad puns and double entendre.
What will “The Tiger Woods Show” look like? Perhaps appropriately, a multimedia, multichannel orgy.
News: Sean McManus oversees both CBS News and CBS Sports, and he recently said that Woods picking up a golf club again will instantly become “the biggest media event other than the Obama inauguration in the past 10 or 15 years,” a statement whose absurdity — comparing the U.S.’ first African-American president to a golfer with an errant putter — is, sadly, only surpassed by its accuracy.
Woods’ performance on the course, however, will only be the tip of the iceberg — yielding dividends to “experts” in various fields due to the challenge of finding fresh ways to keep dissecting and prolonging the story.
Psychologists will be enlisted to explain sex addiction in every morning show. Business analysts will examine the Woods corporate empire and its prospects. Media mavens will discuss the tournament’s efforts to restrict access. As the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay put it, Tiger mania will unleash a torrent of “sober-voiced analysts claiming black-belt wisdom in the conflicting fields of sex rehab and marital arts.”
Sports: Well, yes, golf is a sport — sort of. ESPN carries the Masters’ early rounds and CBS will broadcast the final ones, and while neither network will be able to achieve an advertising windfall (the time has already been sold), the tune-in if Woods comes close to winning his fifth green jacket will benefit adjacent fare and highlight-shows.
Since golf is pretty much a snooze to watch, the game within the game will involve endlessly analyzing whether the extended five-month layoff put any kind of hitch in Woods’ swing. As a bonus, the tournament will be called by CBS’ Jim Nantz, uniting the story’s recurring themes — inasmuch as Nantz traditionally discusses the Augusta course in hushed, reverent tones that suggest he’s about to have an orgasm.
Drama: Woods can simultaneously be cast as the hero — competing like a champion, potentially, despite the media glare, pressure and distractions — and the villain. Will he triumph over adversity? Frankly, if NBC execs received a pitch this compelling, they’d give it a 13-episode commitment on the spot.
Soap opera: The elements here are obvious but irresistible: Can Woods’ marriage be saved? What will his wife Elin do? Will she be in the gallery? And if so, can we fit a camera inside her glasses or up her nose?
Comedy: Latenight hosts will have a field day with Woods being back in action, but many of the biggest laughs will likely be unintended.
Inevitably, news and sports commentators’ lazy use of language — especially golf and general sports terminology like “swing,” “putts,” “perform,” “hole” and “wood” — will provide wonderful fodder for YouTube and eagle-eyed websites, along with more conventional satirists.
Reality TV: If E!, VH1, A&E or Bravo don’t announce a reality show featuring one or more of Woods’ mistresses before Memorial Day, that will qualify as a major upset. And expect Dr. Drew Pinsky to find at least one athlete for his next edition of “Sex Rehab.”
Finally, every aspect of “The Tiger Woods Show” will almost surely share a painful lack of self-awareness. The story will be exploited from every conceivable angle, dragging the participants through the muckiest of sand traps and elevating the stakes to preposterous levels — all while maintaining a chilly “Oh Tiger, how could you?” sense of indignation, as if the media isn’t positively giddy about its front-row seat.
All told, the showcase sounds like a can’t-miss hit. It’s only too bad the networks can’t find a way to bottle it — and that the Masters isn’t being played during a sweeps month.