A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Documentary Now! is a mockumentary series that parodies a different famous documentary movie or series in each episode. The levels of sex and violence vary according to which documentary is being mocked. A takeoff on Grey Gardens is rather mild, with only a few curse words and off-color jokes; a spoof of Vice magazine's political news show, Vice, features scenes of reporters snorting lines of cocaine, getting shot in the face point-blank (no blood), and a toddler smoking a cigarette. Expect infrequent cursing; "s--t" and "a--hole" are unbleeped, while "f--k" is not. Also expect occasional shots of women in bikinis. Everything is played for laughs, including blatant racism that makes the ironic point that the racist person is ignorant. Younger viewers or teens who haven't seen the documentaries being spoofed may not get the jokes; adults and documentary fans will find this hilarious.
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What's the story?
Fans of documentary filmmaking, prepare to be roasted: DOCUMENTARY NOW! is a series starring Saturday Night Live alums Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers. Each episode takes on a new documentary, from the tense investigative journalism of political news series Vice to a Grey Gardens takeoff with Hader sporting a pair of sweatpants on his head a la Little Edie Bouvier. Each show is shot in the style of the documentary it's mocking, with Hader, Meyers, and Armisen playing the main characters.
Is it any good?
This is a clever crack-up for adults and documentary fans, but it will leave anyone who hasn't seen a ton of docs largely wondering what the joke is, since the humor is pretty deadpan and dry. Anyone who's watched the amped, hipsteresque reportage of Vice is definitely going to chuckle watching Jack Black as the founder of "Dronez" magazine narrating the action from Brooklyn over coffee and Kobe beef while his reporters poke around Mexico looking for a drug kingpin (eventually they find him by just going up to the biggest house and knocking); meanwhile, a voice-over informs us that Juarez, Mexico, is rife with "kidnap. Murder. A broken system. Mexicans." Later, reporters go to the house of a Mexican man; they warn viewers, "The poverty you’re about to see may be disturbing to your first-world sensibilities" just before showing us a first-generation PlayStation.
It's all very silly and quite hilarious too, but it's especially so if you've seen what's being parodied. Younger viewers and teens may not get the jokes; parents may want to take the opportunity to show their kids the documentaries being mocked (most of which are very good) before they dive into the parodies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Why is this series on IFC instead of a different channel? Are documentaries usually independent films? Do independent film fans watch more documentaries or appreciate them more?
How can you tell that this series is a parody? Would you know without being told? How?
Are the jokes funnier if you've seen the documentaries being mocked? Is that always the case when watching parodies?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love parody
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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