Documentary Now!: 52nd season
June 29, 2019 10:07 AM - Season 3 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Documentary Now! continues to highlight the best in contemporary documentary. This season includes Batsh*t Valley (Wild Wild Country and The Source Family), Original Cast Album: Co-Op (Original Cast Album: Company), Waiting for the Artist (Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present), Searching for Mr. Larson: A Love Letter from the Far Side, (Dear Mr. Watterson), Long Gone, (Let's Get Lost) and Any Given Saturday Afternoon (A League of Ordinary Gentlemen.)
posted by eotvos (5 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In the previous two seasons, I'd seen nearly all of the referents. In this case, I not only haven't seen any of the originals documentaries, but I hadn't even heard about them. But, I knew a fair bit about many of the actual subjects. (Well, professional bowling only thanks to The Dollop, which did a pretty good job at providing context for most of the documentary.) I initially assumed the theater piece was a reference to RENT culture and that the Far Side thing was targeted at the cringe-worthy Richard Simmons podcast. But, it seems there's an even more famous thing in the same genre that they're making fun of. There's no shortage of similar cringe-worthy media.

I initially assumed they'd given up on parodying specific documentaries and were just making archetypal documentaries about famous things. I'm surprised to learn these were more specific. For what it's worth, these all work even if you don't know the originals.

I was initially introduced to this series by my spouse, with no commentary. I was instantly a fan. I don't really watch video comedy and I haven't seen SNL since the late '90s, except when drunk people in bars insist that I watch episodes on their phones. Aside from Helen Mirren, I'd never seen any of these actors before. I was surprised to discover that this is a hobby project of already-famous people, instead of a new and experimental thing. But, they sure do get every detail right. There's not an art piece on the wall or a line of dialogue that isn't pitch-perfect. Clearly everyone from the Art Department to the actors are truly excited about this. They masterfully recreate the thing they are parodying and then turn the knob up exactly 1.5 ticks. It's precise in a way almost no comedy is. In a world of parodies that are either so over-the-top that they're irritating, or so subtle that it's not clear that parody is involved, these people get it exactly right.
posted by eotvos at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2019

I just started watching this series and can't comment on s3 yet.

I'm amazed by the production quality of all these. A new, detailed production for just 23 minutes, over and over. It looks like a great deal of work for a show that is viewed by some 100k people, according to wikipedia. I hope the show has a long life of people discovering it because it's truly unique.
posted by sylvanshine at 4:45 PM on July 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

The thing is, Wild Wild Country really was that weird.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:40 PM on August 5, 2019

I'm enjoying the series, even if I don't know most of the originals. I trust that the producers' humor aims to lay truth bare, just as the originals did. I'm halfway through series 3. So I'm enjoying this show as a whole, and have already obtained (but not seen) a couple of the originals.

I wonder if they're gonna try any Wiseman or something. Soviet era docs. There's just SO MUCH MATERIAL. The Vice episode a couple of seasons ago had me howling.
posted by not_on_display at 8:46 PM on August 5, 2019

Having finished s3 and seeing a recent comment here ... did anyone else find s3 more outright parodic than the other two seasons?

I'll say that I've not seen a single docu that underlies these, with the exception of watching WWC because it was easily available and lined up with the s3 watching. (I enjoyed WWC plenty as well.) But s3 seemed less subtle.

I think it would be neat to compare our rankings of these ~18 shows over three seasons, but I doubt we have the traffic. My favorites were probably (in no particular order for sure), "The Eye Doesn't Lie" s1, "Juan Likes Rice & Chicken" s2, "Globesman" s2, and basically the last three of s3: "Searching for Mr. Larson", "Long Gone", "Any Given Saturday Afternoon" (bowling). My single favorite may have been "Globesman" and I don't even know why.

At the bottom of my list are "Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid" s2: the subject just doesn't interest me and/or it's too close to my perception of Hollywood to make an impact as parody; "A Town, a Gangster, a Festival" s2: I don't know the source material and because it felt exactly like a real documentary about $amusing_cultural_thing it didn't work for me. There may be an Al Capone festival for all I know, it was so realistic I felt confused.

A hidden gem with amazing writing/production. (I love seeing the details of even the 2D visual material that is pitch perfect for each era.)
posted by sylvanshine at 6:03 PM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

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