Friday, April 21, 2017

Now on Netflix: Documentary Now! Season 2 (2016)

Documentary Now! Season 2 (2016) - Created by Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers; Starring Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Helen Mirren.

By Kenny Howell

Documentary Now! is at its best when it is both on the nose as far as imitating its documentary subjects, and hilarious.

There are pieces of both of those things in every episode, but rarely at the same time. Season 1 had a couple of brilliant episodes, and while Season 2 isn't quite as successful, it has its own bright moments as well.

The season kicks off with a spoof of The War Room, the terrific documentary about Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign, with of course Bill Hader in the James Carville role. It's one of the stronger episodes of the season, but it turns to maybe the weakest in the next episode with Juan Likes Rice and Chicken, a parody of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

The team returned to form in the third episode with Parker Gail's Location is Everything, which pokes fun at monologue documentaries, specifically those of Spalding Gray. It is surprising that Armisen didn't take the role, he has done a one-man show character for years that is brilliant, but Hader steps in and gives the best performance of the season, pointing out the absurdity of the form and revealing his character's sad, pathetic life.

The rest of the season spends time with the more "on the nose" fare, including maybe the most on the nose, a spoof of Stop Making Sense called Final Transmission. Again, it is the performance, this time Armisen standing in for David Byrne that carries it as he nails Byrne's style.

The season closes with another solid effort in Mr. Runner Up, about a movie producer played by Hader that chased Oscar gold for years, but never could get the win. It is a send up of The Kid Stays in the Picture, and really plays with film history well.

After a very solid first season, Documentary Now! might have slipped a tad in the second, but that doesn't mean there isn't pieces that make it worth watching. It's still one of the most unique shows on TV, and has two of the best comedic actors alive in it. However, it's a tough concept to draw out for too many seasons because there are only so many well-known documentaries. So far, Hader and Armisen's talent have rescued it when things have slipped, but you wonder when is that well going to run dry.

The first two seasons of Documentary Now! are now on Netflix.

Rating: ***

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