Premise: An anthology of documentary parodies that go beyond simple satire. The writers infuse these half-hour comedic episodes with characters and narratives that merit standing by themselves, even if the viewer has no previous knowledge of the source material. Documentaries parodied in this season include famous projects such as “Wild Wild Country” and “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present.” Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas created this, while other “Saturday Night Live” alums write and produce. Helen Mirren is also in each episode as a presenter.
Sum up: I want to call this show extremely underrated but perhaps a series based on parodying documentaries is too inherently niche to ever find a massive audience. Still, this show does feature some of the best writing in television, as it somehow balances skewering the source material, creating belly laughs, featuring nuanced characters and typically having moments of great heart and emotion. These are writers and comedians at the top of their games doing a passion project. Even if you’re not interested in the subject matter of this passion, their immense skill still makes “Documentary Now!” worth your time.
Heads up: John Mulaney wrote and stars in the third episode of this season. I love Mulaney’s work and had been extremely excited for this episode but ultimately thought it was a strong contender for worst of the series. Perhaps the high expectations contributed to that feeling, but the ill-conceived narrative premise is the main culprit. In a parody of the recording session for a theatrical cast album, this episode eschews story and just presents parody song after parody song. These songs seem more concerned with satirizing Broadway tropes with subtle nuances rather than being funny on their own. So this episode is basically just half an hour of music that politely jabs at Broadway types while doing nothing else. I had a hard time getting to the end.
Will everyone be talking about this? Critics and comedy nerds definitely will. The two-part parody of “Wild Wild Country” (starring Michael Keaton and Owen Wilson) might also earn popularity given the recent success of the source material.