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Joe Vs. Carole Is Getting Roasted By Critics, Here Are Some Of Their Best Zingers

John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic on Joe vs. Carole.
(Image credit: Peacock)

Many of the events of March 2020 are things we’d just rather forget. Schools being closed, sports being cancelled, learning to work from home, hoarding toilet paper. As we all tried to navigate this new life in coronavirus quarantine, millions found one way to come together — through the shared experience of Netflix’s docuseries Tiger King. These big cat enthusiasts were larger than life, and their stories stranger than fiction. It was inevitable that Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin would be characters adapted for future projects, and with Peacock's Joe vs. Carole, that time has come. 

Critics were able to screen the series ahead of its release, and well, it’s tough out there in the wild. Despite starring the unquestionably talented John Cameron Mitchell and Kate McKinnon as the title characters, the critics seem to think this story was one best left back in 2020, and they are not pulling their punches. Let’s take a look at the reviews — roasts are probably a better word for them — and some of the more interesting opinions about Joe vs. Carole

Daniel Fienberg of THR says the cultural phenomenon “which captivated America between March 2020 and March 2020” is likely not worth a two-hour movie, much less an eight-hour series. 

Managing to be late to the party and overstay its welcome all at once, Peacock’s new insufficiently-limited series Joe vs. Carole would have been merely a bloated mediocrity had it somehow come out in 2020, when people were still so stir-crazy as to be pretending to care about the irrepressible hijinks of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin.

Brian Lowry of CNN says Joe vs. Carole arrives anew to our screens after the story has "exhausted its nine lives." (Cat puns, yay!) In fact, this review points out that Carole Baskin’s real-life turn on reality TV proves how past its prime this series is.

The bottom line is that you never really want to try telling a story like this after one of the principals has already hit the ‘Dancing With the Stars’ stage of its life cycle.

Kristen Lopez of IndieWire says if Peacock is hoping for this to be its first breakout series, it “bet on the wrong cat,” pointing out that even Netflix couldn’t find more success with this story when it released Tiger King 2 late last year.

Watching ‘Joe vs. Carole’ now feels passé. At this point we’ve had two series, numerous articles, and a podcast to tell anyone, in whichever format they’d like, about Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Maybe it’s because we live on COVID time, or because the initial rush of ‘Tiger King’ discussion felt so sweeping, but ‘Joe vs. Carole’ is like watching the station after the train has left.

Brian Tallerico of The Playlist says the title Joe vs. Carole implies a fight, but somehow these larger-than-life characters have been made into “deadly boring” versions of themselves.

It’s like they softened Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin into the bland NBC versions of themselves, making them into a collection of dull tics and quirks to fill out an unbelievably bloated run time. Carole Baskin bounces in her car to Maroon 5 in a moment of happiness and there’s no sense that anyone asked why that’s on camera. It’s not funny. It’s not an interesting detail. It’s just something to pad a potential movie script into an 8-episode series. Later in the season, Joe yells, ‘Nobody watches ‘Duck Dynasty’ for the ducks!’ This show is all ducks.

The performance of John Cameron Mitchell gets shout-outs from several of the critics, including Caroline Femke of Variety, who says he comes close to saving the project:

Even if ‘Joe vs. Carole’ doesn’t have much new to say about Joe, Carole, or why the two of them tangled to such catastrophic ends, Mitchell does so much to flesh out his role that you can almost — almost — forget the incredible overexposure that’s otherwise made its origin story so rancid.

Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair also gives John Cameron Mitchell the credit he’s due for playing Joe Exotic, but he and other critics think Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin sometimes seems to be stuck in an over-extended Saturday Night Live sketch.

There seems to be no more substantial why to the project than the simple reasoning, made while Tiger King was at its most popular, that people would eventually want more of it, preferably in scripted form. It’s a story about people with intense passions that has no passion behind it—save for Mitchell’s admirable commitment, anyway.

Rachael Sigee of inews says Peacock failed to recognize the Tiger King obsession for what it was — a moment in time — and says from the CGI tigers to the Halloween-costume versions of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, you just can’t dramatize people already living as caricatures.

If you’ve told a lot of people that you’re going to do something, it can be difficult to subsequently back out. I can only imagine that this fear of collective embarrassment was what propelled Joe vs Carole into life.

Other than a couple of good notes on the performances — namely John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic — most of the critics seem to think the Tiger King era has run its course, and there’s just not a lot of nostalgia for the early days of the COVID pandemic. However, if you think this series is for you, by all means, check it out! Joe vs. Carole is available for streaming with a Peacock Premium subscription, and be sure to also check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what shows are premiering soon.

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.