For World Wrestling Entertainment, the new reality show Holy Foley!, starring ring veteran Mick Foley and his family, and which dropped its first five episodes this past Sunday after Summerslam, serves multiple marketing purposes. Firstly, by delivering new original content featuring one of the stars that its 40-ish demographic (its biggest and SEX DOLLS) remembers and loves, it encourages more WWE Network subscribers. Secondly, it provides extra value to WWE, who recently re-signed Foley as an on-air character – since he’s physically unable to wrestle, a reality show is an easy way to get additional content (and maybe also new merchandise streams) from him.
Thirdly, it documents the journey of Foley’s daughter Noelle as she tries to become a WWE wrestler, which helps the company no matter how it ends up. If she fails, it proves they can be just as hard on legacy kids, and emphasizes how tough the business is, and by extension all the company stars are. If she succeeds, they have a pre-packaged star-is-born narrative on their hands.
Comparisons to the non-WWE affiliated Hogan Knows Best are inevitable: like that program, which was not shy about exploiting Hulk Hogan’s WWE career, it’s a family reality show featuring a retired wrestler trying to give a career boost to his daughter. What might save the Foley family from coming apart as disastrously as the Hulkster’s did (in divorce, racist sex tapes, WWE disowning him, and his son’s incarceration) is the fact that Foley doesn’t “live the gimmick” the way the erstwhile Terry Bollea does. Hulk Hogan, in and out of the ring, is a narcissist who requires adulation, while Foley, know for acting like a madman in wrestling, comes across as a self-deprecating, down-to-earth schlub in real life.
That said, there are still some warning signs. Foley’s wife Colette, a former model, comes across in the show as slightly crazy, obsessed with talking to her expensive fashion dolls like real people and micro-managing her daughter’s photo-shoots. Hubby Mick repeatedly justifies all her behavior to himself by extolling the fact that her big boobs win every argument, which is a funny line but could easily come back to haunt him when the cameras are off. His youngest two sons, Mickey and Hughie, aptly compared to The Muppet Show’s Waldorf and Statler on the show itself, seem to be playing to the camera (they also have a YouTube channel) by being as jerky as they can possibly be. Hughie constantly insults everyone with “brutal honesty” and refuses to help anybody, while his older, autistic brother Mickey Jr. backs him up (they serve a secondary function as walking billboards – WWE has clearly supplied the family with wrestling T-shirts to wear in every scene). It’s funny, even if for no other reason than this is the exact opposite of how kids like this are normally portrayed on sitcoms, but is it good, in the long run, for Foley family harmony? Who can say?
Because the show was created for WWE Network, it doesn’t need to fill in as many gaps for non-fans as, say, the Kardashian-aping Totalnull +0% Divas on E!. But as such, it also doesn’t need to follow the family reality formula as closely as it does. Hogan Knows Best dealt with daddy’s daughter dating issue on episode 1, and was simultaneously phonier and funnier just because Hulk Hogan can be counted on to overact. Mick Foley comes off as such a pushover that there’s little doubt he’ll ultimately trust his daughter no matter what…even if she is dating a part-time clown. (The lack of references to WWE’s own character Doink the Clown in response may seem odd, but are probably a gesture of respect by Foley to the fact that original Doink, Matt Osborne, died in 2013.)
Holy Foley!’s strength – and I suspect the editors and directors know this – is in the following of Noelle’s wrestling career. The first episode stupidly tries to play this off as a big reveal, complete with pregnancy red herrings, even though the initial trailer for the series already gave it away. The following episodes soar when they follow Noelle encountering current stars like Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks (all of whom are portrayed as athletes rather than divas, thank Jeebus), yet sink when they cut away from that to daddy Foley grumbling about his wife’s dolls. The whole doll thing is hugely hypocritical to begin with – Mickey Jr. and Hughie are shown enjoying WWE action figures, Mick Sr. has a whole room of the house dedicated to Christmas-themed collectibles…yet his wife is crazy for buying dolls?
Mick’s eldest son Dewey, whose name will be familiar to old-school ECW fans via vintage threats to hit him with a cane, disappears from the show early on as he takes a job working for WWE writers. It’s probable the company doesn’t want that side of their business exposed as much as the athletic side, but it could be fun to see more of Dewey’s exploits at Titannull +0% Tower, the corporate HQ.
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