Kate McKinnon stars as Carole Baskin in Joe vs. Carole. (Photo: Peacock)
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Joe vs. Carole
Eight-Episode Limited Series (Docu-Dramedy) | TV-14
What's Joe vs. Carole About?
Kate McKinnon plays Carole Baskin, the take-no-crap rescuer of big cats whose clash with zookeeper Joe Exotic escalated to ridiculous proportions and resulted in a murder-for-hire plot.
McKinnon is one of the five greatest SNL performers of all time. She's brought to life dozens of notable figures, from Hillary Clinton to Liz Cheney, from Joy Behar to Rudy Giuliani to then-attorney general Jeff Sessions. She’s the best spokesperson Verizon has ever had.
John Cameron Mitchell plays Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Allen Schreibvogel. He was Gabe on Shrill and is starring in the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman for Netflix. Mitchell co-wrote and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch in the 1990s and created or produced a number of high-concept projects including Tarnation,Shortbus and Rabbit Hole.
Dean Winters and Aliandra Calabrese play Jeff and Lauren Lowe, the super-shady owners of the Oklahoma zoo where Joe Exotic did his thing. Winters is best known for his roles as Dennis on 30 Rock and as Mayhem in the Allstate commercials. Calabrese is an up-and-comer out of Queensland, Australia.
Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Carole Baskin’s husband Howard, was Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks and the mayor of Portland in Portlandia.
Etan Frankel, who wrote Joe vs. Carole, has written for Shameless and Friday Night Lights. He adapted the series from the Wondery podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King by Robert Moor.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
If there’s anything better than watching Tiger King, it might be watching McKinnon and Mitchell re-enact the events in Tiger King. And let’s face it — two years after Netflix won the pandemic with its jaw-dropping docuseries, isn’t it time someone turned tragedy into comedy? In this docudrama, or rather docu-dramedy, McKinnon embodies a down-to-earth but quirky version of Baskin, totally selling the idea that a woman this committed to saving tigers could find herself involved in a bizarre death match with the likes of Joe Exotic. Mitchell is equally convincing as the maniacal big-cat whisperer with a special animus for Baskin, and there are colorful oddballs at every turn of this eight-part series.
But like her feline counterparts in the Exotic show, McKinnon is the performer that the audience has come to see — and you’d best not take your eyes off of her, not for a second. In years past, SNL rock stars eventually had to move on to movie or sitcom careers, whether they succeeded or not. Fortunately that’s changed, and the show keeps its top talent employed while letting them take other work. (McKinnon missed five episodes of SNL this season filming Joe V. Carole.) That approach seems to be paying off for McKinnon, who in Carole has found her breakthrough role.
Pairs well with
Mrs. America (FX), if you like slightly outsized but relatable portraits of strong women fighting chauvinist pigs.
The Big Gay Sketch Show (Logo), if you want to see a younger, pre-SNL McKinnon finding her voice.