‘Joe Vs. Carole‘ is a miniseries that streamed exclusively to the NBC app uncreatively named Peacock. It is a “dramatized” version of the story of the battle between zookeeper Joe Exotic and environmentalist Carole Baskin created by Etan Frankel.
Big cat entertain and zany zookeeper Joe Exotic (John Cameron Mitchell) earns the ire of environmentalist and crazy cat lady Carole Baskin (Kate McKinnon) who targets him. Their feud soon affects their personal lives, especially Carole’s husband Howard (Kyle MacLachlan) and Joe’s husbands who he keeps happy with a steady supply of illicit drugs. Soon, Joe’s friends start to see how he obsesses over Baskin to the point where his best friend John Reinke (Brian Van Holt) even leaves the zoo. As the feud explodes into the public eye, Joe takes desperate action to save his zoo.
The miniseries tries to encapsulate the intense and zany story being the Netflix documentary Tiger King, which threw the Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin rivalry into pop culture zeitgeist. On that front, the miniseries falls short. The truth is, the documentary series came at a time when America was still under unconstitutional lockdowns essentially becoming lightning in a bottle. The miniseries does not do that and even fails to deliver.
I want to praise the supporting cast. MacLachlan definitely captured the milquetoast “nice guy” personality of Carole’s husband. Shareena Clanton was excellent as Susan, the long-suffering and loyal assistant of Carole. William Fichtner was the standout as Joe’s producer Rick Kirkham. He totally captured the vibe of the guy. Dean Winters is a good actor and acted well, but he did not capture the essence of Jeff Lowe, who had a slimy car salesman vibe. His performance felt more like a different character, but a good one.
While they manage to capture the zany personality that was Joe Exotic, the miniseries waters down his ill-treatment of the animals and even tries to make him seem lovable to the animals. They even ditched some of the crazy things he did like mocking her for killing rabbits to feed to Baskin’s own tigers.
Now, Mitchell does a good job playing Joe. I have no issues with his performance. He captured his behavior and mannerism quite well.
The same with McKinnon as Baskin. She did a good job of capturing the sleazy cat lady vibe the real-life Carole gives off.
Again, where the show fails is it waters down Carole’s erratic behavior, even making her daughter, played by Marlo Kelly, a bigger part in the story to make her sympathetic. While Carole has never been charged with a crime, she is a shady person, but the miniseries did not want to show that and that is a shame.
Seeing the documentary and now this show, it came off as a disappointment. The writing could have captured the insanity of this story, the horrors that the animals faced from Joe and Carole, and the escalation. Instead, we got a water-down version of the tale. Despite the good performances from the cast, it just did not live up to expectations.
Check out the trailer below:
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong foul language, Violence, Thematic and drug elements, Sexual content
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You know who abuses animals just like joe exotic? That b*tch carole baskin