A zoo owner spirals out of control amid a cast of eccentric characters in this true murder-for-hire story from the underworld of big cat breeding.
Format: Limited series, 7 episodes all streaming now.
Cast: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, Carole Baskin, Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle
Directors: Rebecca Chaiklin, Eric Goode
Netflix continues to deliver the weird and wonderful with Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, Madness a seven-episode doco series that lives up to the outlandish title.
The titular Tiger King, in this case, is one Joe Exotic (real name, Joseph Maldonado-Passage) who is a gun-loving, mullet-sporting, gay zoo owner and cat breeder. His zoo, the ‘Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park’, is mostly run by ex-criminals and those who Joe promises a job and place to stay in exchange for work. Here, Joe has a ridiculous amount of lions, tigers and other big animals which he struggles to feed and maintain.
You learn very quickly that Joe isn’t your normal zoo owner. He’s a showman and he streams his own live program every night on the internet; films videos every day for his Facebook following and has a major gripe with one particular person – Carole Baskin, the owner and founder of ‘Big Cat Rescue’, an animal rights movement and animal sanctuary located in Florida.
Baskin isn’t your typical animal rights activist either. Her collection of leopard skin tights is questionable and her tiara atop her head is a sign of her self-proclaimed Mother Teresa persona. She will be the reason that Joe Exotic currently sits in prison however after their rivalry over big cats sends them both into a legal battle that ends with the FBI and a murder-for-hire plot.
The absurdness of everything that happens in Tiger King is part of the fun of watching, but also just unimaginable. How do two people go from online quarrelling over animal rights to attempted murder? Well, that’s the set-up and hook for the show.
What happens along the way and the side characters we meet is just as much a treat. It’s like being introduced to this underworld of the zoo world you had no idea about. The use of baby tigers for celebrity status and drug smuggling under dangerous animals are just the tip of the ice-burg here.
In this world baby tigers are used for more than just a means of money, they’re power-tools, leverage for making friends in politics and an easy ticket to getting a woman. We meet Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle, a polygamist running a huge private facility that looks very much like a cult with him drawing in the woman with a place to stay and baby tigers; and as one character later in the series puts it, “pussy pulls easy pussy.”