Netflix’s Full Swing is an unappetising TV turn-off that doesn’t know its audience
In the discourse about this mini-genre of programming “humanizing sports megastars with footage of flies on the wall,” it has become standard to say, “Netflix’s new series So-and-so is about so-and-so.” sports what Drive To Survive has done for Formula 1”, that is, to allow the sport to be sold to people outside of its core fan base and thus increase its share of the sports and entertainment pie.
In that spirit, and as a golf agnostic, let me say this: the new Netflix series Full Swing aims to do for golf what Drive To Survive did for Formula 1…roll up your pants and hit the ball out of the pond, fall in the pond, gets stranded, needs to be rescued by a diver, eventually develops Weil’s disease, suffers massive organ failure, and dies horribly while leaning on an uncomfortable chintz stool. in a club, he is yelled at by a double-glazed window salesman about how many miles per gallon he drives in an Audi.
By the end of the first episode, this viewer would at least be happy to send all professional golfers and their followers to Saudi Arabia, never to be heard from again. Per Harry Redknapp with a reluctant outbound transfer: I’ll take you to the airport myself.
The newcomer focuses on archenemies Jordan Spite and Justin Thomas. They are dressed alike: polo shirts tucked into trousers and logoed golf hats for work; for travel and leisure, they can turn the golf hat backwards and maybe pair it with a crew-neck t-shirt and long shorts. In fact, almost everyone on the show dresses like this, and almost everyone says the same thing in the same tone. Nearly everyone comes in as—and presumably of the mental age of—a 12-year-old homeschooled child.
And a short story. My God. Traveling in their private jet on a 40-minute trip to the golf course, Spit says he will give Thomas a thousand dollars if Thomas can guess a card chosen at random from the deck. Wrong! Jonah! Oh no, bro! I regret to inform you that Speth and Thomas are big and dedicated pranksters, because, of course, they are. This time at the golf club, one of them asked the valet to move the other’s car to another parking space. Sleep, you are an absolute classic.
Their colleagues make an equally terrible telly. Colleen Morikawa says golf should be played every week. Dustin Johnson says that every part of your game must be good in order to be useful. Joel Damen says there are ups and downs and that golf can be a rollercoaster ride. These persuasions are delivered in a dull monotone, most reminiscent of talking not about how to hit golf balls, but about the confession of a frightened detective that there may be half a dozen others in that other cell. By the end of the first episode, I absolutely hated everyone.
In fact, it’s so irritatingly similar to all those energetic, effete, effete young men in billboard sportswear that by the time the third episode focuses on Ian Poulter, you’re actually glad to see him. Seriously. True, much of his personality is tied to his trousers. And yes, the whole Saudi Arabia thing: disgusting. And yes, he’s the type to answer a female interviewer’s question, “Do you like to play in the Ryder Cup?” c: “Does the bear shit in the forest?” But still. The material with his decision regarding LIV is both watchable and interesting.
Rory McIlroy appears more in later episodes and comes across as a great person. And the eight-part series could hardly be better timed, given the huge upheavals in the sport over the past couple of years: they’re meticulously covered.
But for whom is the question. Lettering appears throughout the screen explaining what “par” means and that there are 18 holes in the round. Amanda Renner of CBS explains that “unlike other sports, you’re trying to score as few points as possible.” It makes you wonder who the show is aimed at, but whoever it is, I don’t think it’s likely to win new hearts and minds.
Full Swing, from Wednesday, Netflix