Hey all you cool cats and cubs. Strap yourself in for a hell of a ride and prepare to binge watch the most off the charts, memed about and crazy seven-part docuseries you will have ever seen. Developed by the executive producer of FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, every episode of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness delivers you mind-boggling new revelations, with the trajectory never even slightly predictable. It’s a roller coaster of a journey that somehow gets more shocking, dark and mind-blowing by the minute. It is hilarious, tragic, absurd and highly entertaining. Prepare to be suckered into genuinely compulsive viewing, watching every episode in one sitting. It is the guiltiest of pleasures.
Tiger King is centred around Joe Exotic and his brutal ongoing feud with Carole Baskin, a woman who runs a zoo which she claims to be a rescue operation called Big Cat Rescue. Carole has made it her life mission to put an end to Joe Exotic’s big cat business, spending millions of dollars and years to do so. He is extraordinarily vocal about wanting her dead and the whole thing kicks off with him in prison for allegedly having orchestrated a murder-for-hire plot against her.
Joe Exotic is a country music singing, eyeliner wearing, heavily armed, meth smoking, polygamous gay redneck with two husbands, who runs for president. He is, as he says in an advertisement for his failed 2016 presidential campaign, “gay… broke as hell… [and has] a judgment against me from some bitch down in Florida.” Yet he is somehow the epitome of charismatic. Love or hate him, you can’t look away.
Exotic isn’t the only huge character. So many of the personalities in the big cat collecting world deserve TV shows of their own. What really solidifies this series and makes it so captivating is the freak show of wild misfits. Heartbreaking back-stories and an unusual openness and candour make very questionable characters somewhat confusing, yet ultimately likeable.
The intriguing Doc Antle, who has a harem of wives working his big cat park alludes to a cult-like lifestyle. The next set of bizarre characters is Joe’s two trigger happy husbands, John Finlay and Travis Maldonado. It seems they are not gay but rather seduced by meth, trucks, tigers, and guns. Then there’s the fascinating case of Carole Baskin and her missing husband, who she may or may not have fed to her tigers.
Former drug lord Mario Tabraue, who is said to have inspired Al Pacino’s Tony Montana in Scarface, is bizarrely the most ordinary character. Then we have the sanest person of the series, Kelci Saffery, interviewed in a trash heap. She is a one-armed worker who lost her limb in a tiger attack and returned to work just days later. That’s barely scratching the surface of the peculiar individuals in this series.
Each episode, whether it’s about Joe Exotic’s love life, political aspirations, war with Carol (and her missing husband), or other characters’ back-stories, contains enough substance and WTF moments to spawn its own entire miniseries. It’s a show that has absolutely everything: tigers, magic, espionage, murder, polygamy, roadside zoos, serious weapons, explosives, a presidential run, and it’s somehow real. Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Tiger King is the weird distraction we didn’t know we needed or wanted during our pandemic isolation. Thank you, Netflix, for dropping this when it was most needed. If people aren’t discussing COVID-19 they are discussing Joe Exotic.