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The ‘Tiger King’ industrial complex is everything that’s wrong with Hollywood in 2020

With the announcement of a sequel series—coming soon-ish to Netflix—it’s time to admit that enough is enough already. But why would Hollywood ever admit that?

The ‘Tiger King’ industrial complex is everything that’s wrong with Hollywood in 2020
[Photo: courtesy of Netflix; Ratanjot Singh/Unsplash; Jens Kreuter/Unsplash]

After catching lightning in a bottle, you’re not supposed to stand around in the exact same spot with the exact same bottle and just hope it happens again.

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Unfortunately, that seems to be the prevailing mindset of the entertainment industry in recent years, and in the aftermath of Tiger King‘s roaring success, studios are sticking to the script.

Directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin found themselves in the right place at the right time over five years ago, when conservationist Goode visited an animal dealer in South Florida and caught a glimpse of a newly purchased snow leopard in the back of a van. He traced the big cat’s origins back to the now-infamous Joe Exotic and found all the elements of a twisty tale waiting to be told.

Cut to March 2020, and the highly quotable Netflix docuseries Tiger King chewed up 34 million views in just its first 10 days, handily becoming the most talked-about show of the quarantine.

With such a huge hit on their hands, Goode and Chaiklin could have probably pushed through just about any follow-up project. On Monday, however, the pair announced their next show for Netflix is going to be . . . more Tiger King, this time focused on the infamous mauling of retired Las Vegas act Siegfried & Roy’s Roy Horn during a 2003 performance.

At least they’re pursuing a new angle, even if it is the same subject matter and the same title. The same can’t be said for all the dollar sign-eyed scavengers currently picking the remaining meat off of Tiger King’s carcass. Indeed, the gold rush to mine more content out of this series embodies just about everything that’s wrong with Hollywood.

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First, Netflix crashed out a bonus episode, The Tiger King and I, less than three weeks after the series took off. Joel McHale hosted, only God knows why, interviewing some of the show’s many Southern-fried side characters.

Then came the Fox special TMZ Investigates—Tiger King: What Really Went Down.

After that, Investigation Discovery announced its new show, Investigating the Strange World of Joe Exotic, and followed it up with The Truth Behind Joe Exotic: The Rick Kirkham Story, set to air in June.

In the meantime, Nicolas Cage just got cast to play Joe Exotic in a scripted series for CBS Television, competing against the forthcoming Tiger King miniseries starring Kate McKinnon, which itself is based on Wondery’s podcast.

There is now enough tiger content in existence and on its way to keep Joe Exotic busy during the remainder of his 22-year prison sentence.

(Uh, spoiler alert for how Tiger King ends.)

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But by the time it all comes out, who in the world besides the egomaniac it all revolves around will still want to watch it?

This is what show business is all about: Finding things people like and running them deep into the ground. Did you like Frank the Pug in Men in Black? Guess what, he’s in almost every scene in Men in Black 2, this time accompanied by the song, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Fascinated by the Theranos saga as detailed in John Carreyrou’s best-selling book and Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary? Here are several forthcoming projects about it, including one also weirdly starring Kate McKinnon. You like Rick and Morty? How about an order for 70 more episodes? Were you shocked that The Lego Movie was actually good? Well, try The Lego Ninjago Movie, The Lego Batman Movie, The Lego Movie 2, Lego Masters (the competitive Lego TV series), and the upcoming Lego Batman Movie 2.

Whoever said you can’t have too much of a good thing never had to countenance multiple simultaneous live-action Star Wars TV shows. (They’ll probably both be great! But still!)

It’s not just a matter of diluting a brand with overabundance either. The rise of the Tiger King industrial complex ignores the pronounced backlash the show left in its wake. As many people watched the series, a significant amount of them did not feel great about it afterward.

The show starts out by tossing tabloid chum left and right. So many characters are larger than life and feel as though they’ve walked out of their own memorable documentaries to play a supporting role in one about a heavily armed polygamist magician who makes profoundly tacky country music videos. By the seventh and final episode, though, what seemed irresistibly quirky at first has just become sad. Joe Exotic is not only a walking meme-generator, he’s a convicted animal killer who also plotted to murder a woman. Learning everything that the Netflix series has to offer about him is a great way to cure the desire to learn anything more.

At least the Kate McKinnon series promises the opportunity to show more of Carole Baskin’s side of the story. The Netflix series gave oxygen to Joe Exotic’s baseless rumors that Baskin murdered her first husband and fed him to her tigers—and since, yes, that idea sounds a little bit funny in a vacuum, fans of the show have turned it into canon. Why do we need the bound-to-be-batshit Nicolas Cage version of the story, too, to correct the correction?

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Probably for the same reason that Hollywood needed another sequel to the original Ghostbusters after the Lady Ghostbusters movie underperformed: to reset the record straight—in the key of more, more, more.

It’s a little insulting, this idea that because millions devoured Tiger King, it means they’ll have a ravenous appetite to see the same story told again and again.

Maybe they will! Sometimes ratings really can be a focus group unto themselves. Of course, it’s just as likely, if not more so, that the phenomenon of the show was just a weird moment in time when millions of stir-crazy quarantined souls found some solace in watching hot garbage together.

If that’s the case, by the time all these follow-up projects come out in a year or two, the creators are going to be left standing around with their empty Acme brand lightning-catcher bottles in hand, wondering what the hell happened.

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