Is “Tiger King” worth the hype?

Written by Mano Baghjajian

“Who the fuck is this guy.”

This is what crossed when I first saw a picture of Joe Exotic on Twitter. His handlebar mustache and blonde mullet made him seem like a relic of a bygone era. Then I saw the giant tigers next to him. I was intrigued.

“Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” dropped on Netflix on March 20. The seven-episode documentary series chronicles the saga of Joe Exotic and his exotic animal park. The series documents Exotic and his ongoing rivalry with big cat conservationist Carole Baskin and the many other insane characters that meddle their way into this story.

The series immediately jumped to the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s most-watched list and is still ranked first at the time of this review. The series has a 92% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with its popularity.

Like any new popular show, I was hesitant to hop onto the Tiger King bandwagon. With the giant backlog of shows I had to watch, I wasn’t planning on watching the acclaimed docu-series any time soon. But as more and more people insisted I watch the show, I insisted and witnessed one of the batshit crazy true stories I’ve ever seen. 

I won’t go into any spoilers, but every few minutes there seemed to be a “Wait, what?” moment. Especially in the earlier episodes, my jaw was on the floor when I learned the details of the Joe Exotic story and his zoo. I can’t tell you how many times I burst out into laughter just as a reaction to my disbelief on the ridiculousness going on. 

The side characters share the spotlight as much as Exotic and Baskin. Characters like Doc Antle especially offer a lot of WTF moments throughout the series. One character was even a possible influence for Scarface. 

My one complaint with this series is that I feel seven episodes was a bit much for this show. Especially in the back half of the show, the episodes dragged on a bit more. A five-episode version of this show would have been ideal. 

The show was pitched as the “Blackfish” for big cats, but I feel like the documentary focused more so on the people than the cats. The story of the people was very interesting, but I would have liked some more information about the various big cats in the show.

I would definitely recommend Tiger King to everyone. It was a story I knew nothing about but became extremely invested in over the course of the series. I still have trouble believing everything I saw in this show. There was so much ridiculousness and idiocy, these people couldn’t really be this dumb right? It is one of the better docuseries available on Netflix right now.

Follow Mano on Twitter at @manob007

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