After releasing a teaser earlier this month, Peacock has unveiled the first full trailer for Joe vs. Carole, its scripted take on Netflix’s viral Tiger King docuseries. And in case anyone was worried there wouldn’t be enough bad wigs and leopard-print ensembles to go around, they can rest easy knowing Kate McKinnon’s got that covered.
The show stars John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic, Saturday Night Live vet McKinnon as Carole Baskin, and Twin Peaks alum Kyle MacLachlan as Baskin’s unwaveringly supportive husband, Howard.
McKinnon’s Baskin looks pitch purr-fect, complete with frizzy blonde waves flowing in the wind behind her signature bicycle, and she nails the Big Cat Rescue founder’s kooky, self-serious demeanor. If there were an Emmy for most time spent on screen without blinking, McKinnon would definitely be a frontrunner.
Meanwhile, Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) can be seen strutting around in a red Speedo and bleached mullet. A clip of him mid-pee–with a bullet belt slung around his hips and declaring out loud, “Someone’s gotta kill that bitch”–pretty much captures the essence of the performance. But really, there’s no understated way to play Joe Exotic; the man is essentially a caricature of himself.
The limited series from showrunner Etan Frankel, whose previous credits include Shameless and Friday Night Lights, is adapted from the Wondery podcast Joe Exotic. Based on the trailer, the series shifts the focus from Exotic to Baskin, following along as the flower crown-wearing big cat enthusiast attempts to shut down Exotic’s roadside zoo after learning that he breeds his animals for profit.
As viewers of the Netflix true crime series may recall, Baskin’s social media crusade against Exotic sparked a rivalry that has to be seen to be believed, culminating in Exotic’s imprisonment for a murder-for-hire plot aimed at Baskin. Suspicions arise about Baskin’s own dark past, surrounding the disappearance of her second husband, Don Lewis. If Exotic is to be believed, Baskin killed Lewis and fed him to her precious tigers. In the new trailer, one character summarizes the drama with a major understatement: “I always thought cat people were a little weird.”
Spot-on portrayals aside, the trailer doesn’t seem to make a compelling case that the show is necessary or will add anything new to the Tiger King saga. When development for the series began in March 2020, it was at the height of the Netflix series’ pandemic-driven popularity–a time when we were all bored, stuck at home, and starved for entertainment. Since then, public perception of Joe Exotic’s sensational story has soured, with the recently released second season of Tiger King highlighting the show’s exploitative nature.
Whether Joe vs. Carole will avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor and find relevance two years after the release of Tiger King remains to be seen. The show premieres on Peacock on March 3.