‘Joe vs Carole’ review: Kate McKinnon stars in a Peacock miniseries that arrives after ‘Tiger King’ has exhausted most of its life

The biggest selling point here, frankly, might be Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin, the object of the hostility that prompted Joe (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s” John Cameron Mitchell, endowed with a role where he is impossible to overact) to try to hire a hitman to kill her, leading to her eventual conviction.

Yet even the somewhat misguided all-around “Saturday Night Live” star can’t do much with this material. Thanks to the overly expansive eight-episode format, the producers have time to indulge in weird flights of fancy on top of filling in the details of Joe and Carole’s stories, those of the supporting players, and the events that have them all. made famous or notorious, take your pick.

“He’s a psychopath wishing me dead,” Carole notes at the start, before one of many flashbacks explaining how things got to this acrimonious stage.

Basically, the entire “Tiger King” saga proves nearly impossible to parody, which might be part of why a high-profile project that was supposed to star Nicolas Cage ultimately fell through. Cage said at the time that the conclusion was that the story had lost its relevance, which seems even truer now than it did then.
The bottom line is that you never really want to try to tell a story like this after one of the directors has already reached the “Dancing with the Stars” stage of their life cycle.

That’s not to say some enlightening moments don’t emerge, like Joe dealing with homophobia in his past, before announcing when he bought the land that became his big cat park, “Nobody’s gonna make me feel small again.”

As for Carole, glimpses of her tumultuous first marriage humanize her a bit, while allowing the character to address her husband’s demise by saying, “I don’t miss him, but I didn’t kill him.” Meanwhile, she continues to provoke the easily annoyed Joe, despite her husband Howard’s (Kyle MacLachlan) advice that engaging with him and his ilk is like “swatting the flies”.

Adapted from a Wondery podcast, “Joe vs. Carole” might actually provide its most memorable flourish in footage viewers won’t see, since the unfinished episodes made available for review feature dogs as stand-ins for big cats, with a note that lions and tigers will be added using computer generated images.

The dogs turn out to be very good boys and girls, patiently creating safe substitutes for the actors to play against. As for “Joe vs. Carole” and the rest of those cool cats and kittens, while a limited series might have seemed like a good idea when the docuseries jumped into the air in March 2022, the timing is less than purring.

“Joe vs. Carole” airs March 3 on Peacock.

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