When Tiger King dropped on Netflix two years ago this month when the world was getting its first taste of the Covid-19 pandemic, the documentary series seemed to captivate the country and the world with his crazy insights into the world of exotic animals in cages. Everyone was kinda in agreement that Joe Exotic, or Joe Maldonado, and his rival Carole Baskin weren’t the best two people on this planet.
At one point, Nicolas Cage was tapped to play Joe in another production, but that has changed since Cage is getting rave reviews. After spending a decade of so making schlock for money, he finally is getting a resurgence of good reviews with Pig and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. So, why mess up a good thing.
That doesn’t mean that another production company wasn’t ready to tell the story. But what’s the point? Tiger King was so detailed. Joe vs. Carole, the limited series on Peacock, is more like an adaptation of that series, even though it’s based on the podcast by Robert Moor, Eric Benson and Matthew Shaer. The eight-episode series is about six and a half hours of what you already know and have known for the past two years.
Kate McKinnon, who is also listed as an executive producer, plays Carole where as John Cameron Mitchell is Joe. I was surprised to see the mind behind movies like Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Itch. But it’s nice to see him in the role. And surprisingly, he’s the same age as Joe.
Unfortunately, neither actor really brings much to their roles that the real Joe and Carole displayed for real. Since McKinnon is a producer, the series portrays her in a more favorable light and that’s the problem. Carole thought she was doing the right thing, but her business practices of having people work for nothing are sketchy, especially now that you have people like Kim Kardashian telling people they need to go back to work for meager wages.
In all fairness, Carole and her husband, Howard (Kyle MacLahlan in probably the best role in the series) were targeted repeatedly by Joe who did awful things and threatened her life several times while law enforcement didn’t do anything. And if it hadn’t been for an unrelated case involving James Garretson, law enforcement wouldn’t have known about the murder-for-hire case.
But both Joe and Carole are portrayed here as people who had their demons but both of them felt they were doing the right thing and everyone else was wrong. I will admit the Netflix series portrayed Carole a little biased and focused too much on the missing case against Don Lewis, audiences would make crazy assumptions. This series is more Carole’s story than it’s Joe’s.
If anything else, it’s a nice retelling with some familiar faces. William Fichtner plays filmmaker Rick Kirkham who was hired to make a documentary about Joe that Joe double-crosses. And Dean Winters, most known as his role as Mayhem in the Allstate commercials, plays Jeff Lowe, the shady man who goes into business with Joe, then gets double-crossed by him as well. They’re both perfectly cast in their roles but a few good supporting roles can’t keep a long series like this afloat.
The problem is both Mitchell and McKinnon seem more like they’re doing parodies of their characters rather than adding the depth in them they need to carry all eight episodes. The series all suffers being released a few months after the second “season” of Tiger King which didn’t have the best reception.
Things have changed in the past two years. People aren’t as enthused or interested in the case now as they were. Maybe one day, this case will rear its ugly head again and people will have more interested. But as of right now, it’s just overkill.
What do you think? Please comment.