Documentary Now!

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Documentary Now!
Documentary Now!.jpg
Genre Mockumentary
Created by
Directed by
  • Rhys Thomas
  • Alex Buono
Presented by Helen Mirren
Starring
  • Fred Armisen
  • Bill Hader
Theme music composer Josh Moshier
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 14 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
  • Fred Armisen
  • Bill Hader
  • Seth Meyers
  • Lorne Michaels
  • Rhys Thomas
  • Andrew Singer
Production company(s) Broadway Video
Release
Original network IFC
Picture format 16:9 HDTV
Original release August 20, 2015 (2015-08-20) – present
External links
Website www.ifc.com/shows/documentary-now

Documentary Now! is an American mockumentary television series on IFC, created by Saturday Night Live alumni Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, and director Rhys Thomas, with Armisen and Hader starring in the series and Thomas co-directing. The series spoofs celebrated documentary films by parodying the style of each documentary with a similar, but fictitious, subject. Helen Mirren serves as host for the series, which is executive produced by Armisen, Hader, Meyers, Thomas and SNL creator Lorne Michaels. The episode "DRONEZ: The Hunt for El Chingon" premiered online on August 10, 2015,[1] followed by the regular television premiere on August 20.[2] The series has been renewed through season 3.[3]

Development[edit]

On March 20, 2014, the series was announced under the working title American Documentary.[4] Documentary Now! parodies well-known documentaries—such as The Thin Blue Line and Grey Gardens—but with fictitious subjects.[5] British actress Helen Mirren serves as the host for the series, to add "gravitas" to each documentary. Each of the seven episodes is shot using different styles of documentary filmmaking, and "honors some of the most important stories that didn't actually happen."[6]

The idea for the series was born on Saturday Night Live, where Armisen, Hader and Meyers were former cast members; in 2013, Armisen and Hader portrayed faded British punk rock stars in a segment, Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros: History of Punk, made in the style of This Is Spinal Tap.[7]

Premise[edit]

Within the universe of the show itself, Documentary Now! is a long-running news magazine for documentaries, initially celebrating its 50th season. Mirren appears at the beginning of each episode to introduce the documentary that the audience is about to see.

Hader and Armisen usually each play a lead or a prominent supporting character in each episode's documentary, though neither appears in every episode. Otherwise, the cast is entirely different from one episode to the next. The end credits are also made to appear as though they are the credits for the documentary, and not for the show itself.

Production[edit]

The producers made it a priority to realistically spoof famed documentaries, even going so far as to track down the original 1920s-era camera lenses used to film Nanook of the North (1922).[5] They declined to do another Spinal Tap-type mockumentary and consciously avoided any similarities in editing or style. “Spinal Tap set such a great precedent that we had to watch out for repeating any of those same beats," Armisen said. "It’s one of the greatest movies ever.”[8]

The six-episode order limited the first season of the show, Seth Meyers told Collider.com, stating that they were not able to spoof Michael Moore documentaries, or the phenomenally successful HBO miniseries The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. “The Jinx happened a little too late for us," Meyers said of the miniseries, which aired in February and March 2015. "We almost tried to pull it off. We talked a lot about that kind of documentary, where the filmmaker sets out to make a documentary, and then, very slowly, it becomes clear the documentary is about himself.”[8]

Two of the episodes were shot in Iceland and The Hunt for El Chingon was filmed in Tijuana.[8] To film the second-season episode "Final Transmission", the Documentary Now! crew staged a real-life concert (attracting around 1,000 people) in which Armisen, Hader, and guest star Maya Rudolph performed as the Talking Heads-inspired band the episode centers around.[9]

Reception[edit]

In its year-end roundup, the New York Times named Documentary Now! as one of "The Best TV Shows of 2015".[10] "This series, introduced in August," wrote Times critic Neil Genzlinger, "consists not of actual documentaries but of parodies of actual documentaries. It sure is funny, though." The series has earned a 94% rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes.[11]

Accolades[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Sketch Series Documentary Now! Nominated [12]
Critics' Choice Television Awards Best Actor in a Comedy Series Bill Hader Nominated [13]
2017 Writers Guild of America Awards Comedy/Variety - Sketch Series Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Erik Kenward, John Mulaney, Seth Meyers Nominated [14]
Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety Sketch Series Documentary Now! Nominated [15]

Cast[edit]

Episodes[edit]

Season 1 (2015)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Subject parodied Original air date U.S. viewers
(millions)
1 1 "Sandy Passage" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Seth Meyers Grey Gardens August 20, 2015 (2015-08-20) 0.16[16]
An in-depth look at the daily lives of two aging socialites and their crumbling estate.
2 2 "Kunuk Uncovered" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Seth Meyers Nanook Revisited August 27, 2015 (2015-08-27) 0.25[17]
An investigation into the seminal 1922 documentary "Kunuk The Hunter" that attempts to separate what is real from what is fabrication.
3 3 "DRONEZ: The Hunt for El Chingon" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Duffy Boudreau, Bill Hader & Rob Klein VICE News documentaries[19] September 3, 2015 (2015-09-03) 0.11[20]

The hipster media empire DRONEZ sends a series of its notoriously fearless journalists to track down Mexico's most wanted drug lord.


This episode was originally scheduled to air August 27, but IFC postponed its release due to a scene in which two journalists are killed on-camera, this following the live broadcast of two television station employees' murders in Virginia one day earlier. The episode "Kunuk Uncovered" aired in its place. "Dronez" was previously available online via the Vice website, which supported the episode, but later pulled it per an agreement with IFC.[18]
4 4 "The Eye Doesn't Lie" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Bill Hader & John Mulaney The Thin Blue Line September 10, 2015 (2015-09-10) 0.09[21]
An investigation into the wrongful conviction of a man sentenced to death for a 1976 murder.
5 5 "A Town, a Gangster, a Festival" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Seth Meyers & Fred Armisen Hollywood September 17, 2015 (2015-09-17) 0.16[22]
A documentary crew travels to Árborg, Iceland for the annual festival honoring American gangster Al Capone.
6 6 "Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee, Part 1" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Fred Armisen, Bill Hader & Erik Kenward History of the Eagles September 24, 2015 (2015-09-24) 0.11[23]
A documentary charting the rise and fall of soft rock's seminal band, the Blue Jean Committee.
7 7 "Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee, Part 2" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Fred Armisen, Bill Hader & Erik Kenward History of the Eagles September 24, 2015 (2015-09-24) 0.10[23]
Part two of the documentary of the Blue Jean Committee, the revolutionary Chicago turned California soft rock group.

Season 2 (2016)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Subject parodied Original air date U.S. viewers
(millions)
8 1 "The Bunker" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono John Mulaney The War Room September 14, 2016 (2016-09-14) 0.12[24]
A behind-the-scenes view of Ben Herndon's 1992 run for governor of Ohio, focusing on his core campaign staff.
9 2 "Juan Likes Rice & Chicken" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Seth Meyers Jiro Dreams of Sushi September 21, 2016 (2016-09-21) 0.11[25]
A look at the strict owner of a remote Colombian restaurant famed for its rice and chicken, and the son he has tutored and hopes will take over for him some day.
10 3 "Parker Gail's Location Is Everything" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono John Mulaney & Bill Hader Swimming to Cambodia September 28, 2016 (2016-09-28) 0.11[26]
Parker Gail performs a stream of consciousness monologue about the day he was kicked out of his New York City apartment.
11 4 "Globesman" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Seth Meyers Salesman October 5, 2016 (2016-10-05) 0.13[27]
Four 1950s salesmen go door to door trying to sell globes to uninterested people.
12 5 "Final Transmission" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono Fred Armisen & Erik Kenward Stop Making Sense October 12, 2016 (2016-10-12) 0.120[28]
In 1987, new wave band Test Pattern plays its final concert.
13 6 "Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid, Part 1" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono John Mulaney & Bill Hader The Kid Stays in the Picture October 26, 2016 (2016-10-26) 0.062[29]
A candid docu-memoir of Hollywood Legend Jerry Wallach, and his forty year quest to win an Oscar.
14 7 "Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid, Part 2" Rhys Thomas & Alex Buono John Mulaney & Bill Hader The Kid Stays in the Picture October 26, 2016 (2016-10-26) 0.090[29]
The conclusion of Jerry Wallach's tale, from 'Blondes, Blondes, Blondes and a Millionaire' to 'Robot Bachelor'.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Locker, Melissa (August 7, 2015). "Documentary Now! Takes You Inside the Republican Debates". IFC. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  2. ^ Whitney Friedlander (2015-05-11). "‘Documentary Now’ IFC Dates Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers Show". Variety. Retrieved 2015-06-19. 
  3. ^ Porter, Rick. "TV shows renewed for 2016 and beyond". TVbytheNumbers. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "IFC Unveils New Comedies From Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers & Rob Huebel As Part Of 2015 Slate". Deadline.com. March 20, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Saad, Nardine (July 31, 2015). "Hader, Armisen, Meyers comedy 'Documentary Now!' spoofs their favorite docs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  6. ^ "About". IFC. Archived from the original on July 29, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  7. ^ Snierson, Dan (2015-05-15). "Bill Hader and Fred Armisen channel Grey Gardens in IFC's Documentary Now!". EW.com. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  8. ^ a b c Radish, Christina (August 7, 2015). "13 Things to Know about DOCUMENTARY NOW! Starring Fred Armisen and Bill Hader". Collider.com. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ "“How did I get here?”: Documentary Now!’s little Talking Heads tribute that could". 2016-10-10. Retrieved 2016-12-21. 
  10. ^ James Poniewozik, Mike Hale and Neil Genzlinger, "Best TV Shows of 2015," The New York Times, December 13, 2015.
  11. ^ "Documentary Now! (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  12. ^ "Outstanding Variety Sketch Series - 2016". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 21, 2017. 
  13. ^ Prudom, Laura (September 7, 2016). "Critics’ Choice Awards Reveal Most Exciting New Series Honorees". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 21, 2017. 
  14. ^ Petski, Denise (December 5, 2016). "WGA TV Nominations: ‘The Americans’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Westworld’, ‘This Is Us’ Among Nominees". Deadline. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  15. ^ "Outstanding Variety Sketch Series - 2017". Emmys.com. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved July 21, 2017. 
  16. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals (& Network Update): 8.20.2015". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  17. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (August 28, 2015). "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals (& Network Update): 8.27.2015". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 2015-09-10. 
  18. ^ "IFC’s ‘Documentary Now!’ Delays Episode Due to Virginia Shooting," from Variety, 8/27/2015
  19. ^ "Jack Black as 'Dronez' Founder in IFC's 'Documentary Now!'". VICE News. YouTube. July 30, 2015. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  20. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (September 4, 2015). "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals (& Network Update): 9.3.2015". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 
  21. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals (& Network Update): 9.10.2015". Showbuzz Daily. 2015-09-11. Retrieved 2015-09-23. 
  22. ^ "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals (& Network Update): 9.17.2015". Showbuzz Daily. 2015-09-18. Retrieved 2015-09-23. 
  23. ^ a b Metcalf, Mitch. "SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 100 Thursday Cable Originals ( & Network Update): 9.24.2015". ShowBuzzDaily. Retrieved 18 October 2015. 
  24. ^ "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.14.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-09-15. Retrieved 2016-09-17. 
  25. ^ "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.21.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2016-09-24. 
  26. ^ "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 9.28.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-09-29. Retrieved 2016-09-30. 
  27. ^ "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.5.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2016-10-08. 
  28. ^ "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.12.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-10-13. Retrieved 2016-10-15. 
  29. ^ a b "UPDATED: SHOWBUZZDAILY’s Top 150 Wednesday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 10.26.2016". Showbuzz Daily. 2016-10-27. Retrieved 2016-10-30. 

External links[edit]