“Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story” is the latest chapter in the ongoing, unbelievable saga of big cats and their suspect, and sometimes criminal, owners. Much like Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was an eccentric star — though some would use that term loosely — and private zoo owner in the original “Tiger King.” The new, three-episode miniseries digs deeper into his past and alleges several incidents of sexual abuse and violence against former romantic partners and colleagues. However, this spinoff fails to stir up nearly as much bing-worthy excitement or as many jaw-dropping revelations as the first “Tiger King” (nor its lackluster follow-up released just three weeks ago).
Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, the directors of both previous “Tiger King” series, shot extra footage and sit-down interviews with people in Antle’s orbit that didn’t make it into “Tiger King 2.” Several ex-girlfriends and ex-wives alleged sexual abuse and misconduct by Antle, with some incidents committed when the women were underage and he was in his 20s. They claimed that Antle beat them, threatened to kill them if they left and abused animals as a form of emotional manipulation. Through the interviews and archival footage, “The Doc Antle” story paints a picture of an allegedly violent abuser with a cult-like following and God complex.
The original “Tiger King” delved into equally upsetting and traumatizing territory, but it debuted early in the pandemic, when people were starved for eye-grabbing, binge-worthy entertainment and featured outlandish, real-life subjects. Eighteen months after the original show enthralled audiences and became a viral, word-of-mouth sensation for Netflix, “Tiger King 2” arrived with paltry promotion and nonexistent fanfare. The lackluster lead-up doesn’t bode well for “The Doc Antle Story,” and viewers may scratch their heads at yet another “Tiger King”-branded series coming so soon.
The original show, both a stranger-than-fiction docuseries and a trashy, guilty pleasure for some, boasted some of the most bizarre real-life characters seen on TV. Who can take one look at Joe Exotic, with his blonde mullet, piercings and tattoos, or Carole Baskin, with her “cool cats and kittens” and tiger-print clothes, and not think, “So, what’s their deal?” Not to mention the murder-for-hire plot, failed presidential campaign and cast of colorful zoo keepers.
Despite its serious subject matter, “The Doc Antle Story” can’t match the inherent, attention-grabbing, plot-twisty nature of the first “Tiger King.” And it’s likely that no other show will ever be able to capture of zeitgeist of millions of people being stuck at home, looking for something to watch while a pandemic rages on. It’s nearly impossible for lightning to strike twice, and “The Doc Antle” story will likely breeze past even the most diehard “Tiger King” fans’ radars.
“Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story” is now streaming on Netflix.