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‘Documentary Now!’ is a Witty Tv Show!

Documentary Now! is a niche show. Who has seen My Octopus Teacher and Werner Herzog but loves Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers? We’re many.

Documentary Nowpopularity !’s grows with each new season, as “Season 53” surely will (the fourth season of the show). Starting Wednesday, IFC will screen new episodes weekly, spoofing Herzog, Agnès Varda, and other prominent documentary filmmakers.

The perfect Documentary Now! viewer has prepared. They’ve seen The Beaches of Agnès, still, debate My Octopus Teacher’s Oscar win, and can distinguish documentary styles. They’ll laugh at Cate Blanchett’s magazine cover, recalling The September Issue’s salon. Alexander Skarsgrd portrays Herzog.
Documentary Now! is a mainstream hit due to its accessible laughter.

My Best Fiend and Burden of Dreams viewers may understand “Soldier of Illusion” better. Fans of Reboot or The Comeback will like Skarsgrd’s role overseeing episodes of The Bachelor Nanny, in which a hot young man watches twins. Everyone’s happy.

Cate Blanchett has previously partnered with Documentary Now! and returns this season better than ever with Oscar-potential Tár. If you wanted more confirmation of the actress’ flexibility, compare her portrayal as Lydia Tár to her role as a jovial salon worker who can’t stop crying in “Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport.”

Documentary Now! always delivers. This season’s cast reads like a Succession cast list: We wouldn’t be surprised if Blanchett and Fleabag’s Jamie Demetriou visited the set shortly. John Mulaney, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Lorne Michaels, and Seth Meyers write, direct, and produce; their comedic abilities are never wasted, even in 20-minute episodes.

Bill Hader and Fred Armisen’s early days on Documentary Now are missed. The first season feels like a distant memory, despite Armisen’s occasional appearances. The anthology feels strange without Armisen and Hader. Different but good.

'Documentary Now!' is a Witty Tv Show!

Skarsgard’s dedication to his batshit performance and Braun’s funny side persona make the double-episode launch captivating. The final two episodes are a double whammy. In “My Monkey Grifter,” a down-on-his-luck documentary director falls into a scam:

He finds $200,000 in funding to develop a monkey-sign language movie. Unfortunately, he won’t get the grant money until the doc is finished, so he must pay the zoo first.

He befriends a monkey and learns “sign language.” No ASL. MSL, or “monkey sign language,” consists of phrases like “prestige documentary filmmaker” and “my wife sucks, she doesn’t believe in my filmmaking, I want her killed.” Duolingo, start my seven-week language course.

This season’s finale is a salute to Agnès Varda’s unique filmmaking. “Trouver Frisson” playfully glories in Varda’s joyful, poignant craft, mere years after her passing. Liliane Rovère wears Varda’s trademark haircut and explores ways to give her life significance, especially through goosebumps-inducing activities.

Documentary Now! resumed in 2019 with Season 3. Documentary Now! succeeds by respecting its subjects and viewers when collaging documentaries into 20-minute incongruities.

The first three episodes of Documentary Now! premiere on Oct. 19 on IFC and AMC+.

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