There’s no question which series has produced the most buzz, the most memes, and the most controversy during quarantine. It’s of course “Tiger King,” which scored six Primetime Emmy Award nominations Tuesday.
“Tiger King” was recognized for directing for a documentary/nonfiction program; picture editing for a nonfiction program; music composition for a documentary series or special (original dramatic score); documentary or nonfiction series; sound editing for a nonfiction or reality program (single or multi-camera); and sound mixing for a nonfiction or reality program (single or multi-camera).
Whether or not all the chatter around the show would turn into awards success for Netflix was less of a certainty, especially given how the show polarized audiences and critics alike. However, despite the controversy, the series about eccentric zoo owner Joe Exotic and his plot to murder his rival Carole Baskin has is now back at the top of the cultural conversation once more, thanks to its Emmy-contender status.
Since it launched in March, “Tiger King” has drummed up significant backlash from an animal welfare point of view, because of the newfound stardom it has afforded its deranged protagonist, and because of the way in which it framed Baskin as the villain of the piece.
In her column on why “Tiger King” “doesn’t deserve our attention,” Variety critic Caroline Framke described the show as ” seven hours of salacious rumor-mongering and shameless gawking at misfortune.”
“The way in which ‘Tiger King’ goes on autopilot, indulging stereotypes and flattening complex events into titillating bites, turns everything it touches into a joke,” Framke wrote. “This would be bad enough were it a scripted show, but ‘Tiger King’ is about real people, real tragedies, real abuse and harm done in the name of fame and fortune. Telling these stories responsibly might have been more a bummer, but it would have, at the very least, been more humane.”
And yet in many ways, its nominations should come as no surprise. Emmy voters, like everyone else, surely struggled to escape “Tiger King” given the barrage of media coverage it has received from virtually all angles, including constant reports on just how big this big cat series was.
In April, Netflix released some traditionally closely-kept viewership data on the show, claiming it had been sampled by 64 million households worldwide in the first month of its availability.
Then there was all the news about various Joe Exotic scripted projects, which commanded their fair share of clicks.
In early May, Variety exclusively reported that Nicolas Cage is lining up to play Exotic in an eight-episode series from Imagine Television Studios and CBS Television Studios. Even before the Netflix series premiered, “SNL” star Kate McKinnon lined up to play Baskin in another scripted project from Universal Content Productions.
The recency factor likely also played strongly in show’s favor. “Tiger King” only premiered in late March, and was always going to be be buzzing around voters’ minds come nomination time.
There’s no doubt that nominating “Tiger King” spices up unscripted categories category that typically doesn’t attract as much attention as its scripted counterparts. in the documentary or unscripted series category it will now go up against ESPN’s Michael Jordan series “The Last Dance”; PBS’ “American Masters”; Hulu’s “Hillary”; and HBO’s “McMillion$.”