TV Party Tonight! #55

TV Party Tonight! #55

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Documentary Now!
Season One and Two

The mere existence of a show like Documentary Now! is baffling. Because, let’s break it down. It’s spoofing documentaries by recreating them and adding a new twist. In order for this to work, the show must 1) understand the subject matter (the film it is spoofing) 2) develop an intriguing enough twist to reinvent the documentary 3) have actors who are versatile enough yet bring their own sensibilities to the roles and 4) be able to mimic the look of the film perfectly. This is no small order, and it is nothing short of a miracle that Documentary Now! is able to do all of this so well.

This show is definitely not for everyone: it’s just too weirdly specific. But, for those who put in the effort, they will find themselves aptly rewarded. I’m the kind of person that has to understand the source in order to appreciate the commentary (and Documentary Now! is certainly a commentary), so I made sure to watch the real documentaries for each of these episodes. Sure, this allowed me to “get” what they were going for, but it also exposed me to stories I would have otherwise never bothered with, and I’m better off for it. Every single documentary spoofed in the series is worth visiting, especially Grey Gardens, Nanook of the North, and a Thin Blue Line, which have managed to either propel the art-form or simply embed themselves into our culture.

Also, these spoofs help add to our understanding of the films by underlining exactly what’s “off” about them. It’s subtle sometimes (like the fact that Spaulding Grey is probably making up his stories and that Jiro is probably just grooming his son to take over for him) or just blatantly obvious (that Randall Adams is an asshole everyone loves to hate and that Robert Evans is just a straight-up asshole). Bill Hader and Fred Armisen have undeniable chemistry and range as they bring these characters to life in a way that is mystifying.

It’s nice that Mill Creek has brought this show to high def (which will be appreciated for episodes like Juan Likes Chicken and Rice and the Eye Doesn’t Lie), but would it have hurt them to include any bonus features at all? With so much to unpack, it’s a shame this collection is bare bones.

Documentary Now! obviously isn’t for everyone, but can certainly be appreciated by everyone. It’s absurd, hilarious, subtle, and the kind of comedy you don’t see much of these days. It’s a joke that’s maybe taken too far, but what a great joke it is.


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