Netflix UK TV review: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Joe Exotic’s banging music videos9
The presidential campaign8
Katherine McLaughlin | On 29, Mar 2020
Joe Exotic, aka. the self-monikered “Tiger King”, could be the man who, through a greedy and maniacal revenge scheme, brings the world of illegal big cat rearing and private exhibition toppling down in the USA. The current law states that anyone can keep exotic animals as pets – so be warned the cruelty, neglect and captivity conditions documented here may be upsetting to some viewers.
The mulleted, Oklahoma roadside zoo owner gives Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode’s seven-part real crime series its title, but he’s not the only larger-than-life character involved in a business full of crooks and ego-driven narcissists. His ongoing rivalry with animal rights activist and big cat sanctuary owner Carol Baskin (who is allergic to cats) provides the hook for the show, after his imprisonment for her attempted murder, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg, with juicy, jaw-dropping revelations providing irresistible cliff-hangers at the end of each episode.
Essentially a series of character portraits of the big guns in the business, with Joe at the centre, the series introduces each brazen and idiosyncratic player with relish. Baskin, dressed in animal print clothes and flower crowns, gives off the vibe that she’s a hippy at heart, but there’s more tragic and troubling notes to her story. The industry also seems to attract polyamorists and misogynists. Over the years, Joe has managed to bag at least two husbands at the same time, and the owner of another zoo, the soul patch-sporting ‘Doc’ Bhagavan Antle, has a hareem of naive, ambitious women on tap. His story brings to mind another Netflix documentary, Wild Wild Country.
It’s a documentary that doesn’t let anyone off lightly, as it investigates past behaviour and actions. Archive footage filmed by Joe for his online channel is presented in between talking heads interviews with all involved including smaller players, who have intentionally or accidentally become embroiled in a scandal that reaches up to the FBI. Everyone seems to have forgotten about their love of big cats, in favour of carrying out hilariously petty battles. At one point, Joe, having somehow gotten hold of Carol’s diary, reads it out live on air.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and each unbelievable turn of this binge-worthy show proves it, with a bunch of extreme characters doing questionable and illegal things that you could never make up. Imagine Joe Dirt with a little bit of Scarface, but directed by John Waters – and multiply that by 100 – and you’re on the right tracks.
The Tiger King and I, and after-show special is now available as Episode 8 of the series. Find out more here.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.