Joe Vs. Carole Review: Peacock's Take On The 'Tiger King' Saga Is More Of The Same, Too Little Too Late

Peacock original series "Joe vs. Carole," based on the second season of Wondery's "Over My Dead Body" podcast — and not the infamous "Tiger King" documentary — details the wild exploits and eventual criminal conviction of big cat breeder, discount hitman employer, and fraudulent country music star Joe Exotic as his feud with rival big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin escalates to potentially deadly extremes.

The series stars "Saturday Night Live" alum Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin, while actor-director John Cameron Mitchel takes on the role of Joe Exotic. The "Joe vs. Carole" trailer touts that Netflix's popular "Tiger King" docu-series only told "half the story," and that the Peacock original series will give viewers the "untold origin" of the viral sensation that the "Tiger King" saga became. 

After watching the first three episodes, I'm not so sure I believe that, or if there's anyone left who really cares.

Not breaking new ground

Despite the "untold story" claims, the initial episodes of "Joe vs. Carole" are dedicated to the already extensively chronicled exploits of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Some of the scenes are nearly identical to the real-life moments featured in the "Tiger King" docu-series, and there's not a whole lot of new information presented outside of the now-familiar stranger-than-fiction tale of obsession, potential murders, and big cats we already learned back in 2020, when the aforementioned docu-series premiered on Netflix.

The docu-series was so successful that it spawned a dedicated subreddit, dominated the news cycle for months, and even spawned two additional sequels. All of the information anyone could care to find has already been made publicly available, and recently at that. In other words, there wasn't much here I hadn't already seen or read during the "Tiger King" media blitz, which means "Joe vs. Carole" is already off to a poor start as far as bringing anything new to the table. I can't imagine most potential viewers would be interested in seeing reenactments and dramatizations of things they've already seen in detail, straight from the actual, real-life people involved in the story, less than two years later.

We do get a little info about Joe Exotic's first husband, but this too has already been extensively reported on prior to the upcoming premiere of the series. The second season of "Tiger King," creatively named "Tiger King 2," delved into this and other information when it premiered on Netflix in November 2021. Additionally, a simple Google search for "Joe Exotic's first husband" reveals a plethora of news articles and videos that can satisfy your every Joe Exotic-related curiosity.

"Joe vs. Carole" also attempts to portray Carole Baskin with a bit more sympathy than "Tiger King," but potentially redeeming Baskin isn't really a valid justification for the existence of the series, as public perception of Baskin has already shifted away from simply writing her off as "that b***h Carole Baskin who probably killed her husband" to something more along the lines of "that b***h Carole Baskin, who definitely is not as charismatic as the guy who tried to have her killed and maybe had a good reason to possibly kill her creepy second husband."

She's not really seen so much as a pure villain anymore, but rather another fascinating and flawed weirdo in a narrative filled with them. And despite how unlikeable she or may not be, many of us have accepted that she didn't deserve to be relentlessly harassed and potentially assassinated without the aid of a drama series leading us to this conclusion. As is the case with her mulleted rival, it seems as though every mildly interesting detail of Carole's life has also been wrung out and brought to light in an endless barrage of social media sleuthing, official news reporting, and even non-Netflix documentaries. Like Joe, Carole is also a flawed individual who had a rough early life — but, not to be callous, we've heard it all already. We even saw her dance in a bedazzled lion costume on "Dancing with the Stars."

Saved by solid performances?

Even though what I've seen of the limited series has completely failed to provide any of the promised "untold origins," the solid performances of the cast may be enough to rescue the series. McKinnon seems to be channeling her "SNL" Hillary Clinton impression as Carole Baskin, but it's not something I mind, since, for lack of better wording, both Baskin and Clinton radiate the same vaguely off-putting vibe. 

John Cameron Mitchell's take on Joe Exotic is almost indistinguishable from his real-life counterpart both physically and vocally, and it's clear the actor has done his homework on the disgraced gun-toting anti-hero. Kyle MacLachlan also stands out as Carole's supportive current husband, Howard Baskin. Everyone's doing a good job, and they're entertaining to watch even if we've already seen enough of the actual people they're playing.

Simultaneously too early and too late

But I'm just not sure that good acting is enough to make "Joe vs. Carole" worth the watch for the assumed target audience, as I found myself growing irritated with watching what felt like an unnecessary depiction of a still-developing saga that most of us have already moved on from. "Joe vs. Carole" suffers from being too late to bring anything new to the table after the initial "Tiger King" hype has died down, while also being too soon to reignite significant interest in the story. 

We already know what happens, and anything that's going to happen from here on out will become old news faster than anyone can binge-watch the series. Unlike other recent dramas based on sensational true stories, like "Impeachment: American Crime Story" or Hulu's "Pam and Tommy," "Joe vs. Carole" doesn't benefit from a generous passage of time between the actual events and the arrival of a drama series, nor does it benefit from being able to offer a new perspective or information.

Finally, Peacock claims the series is supposed to be a drama, but it comes off as more of a dramatic comedy. I suppose the humor can't be helped, as much of the story and the people who inspired it are absurd in circumstances and behavior. Maybe the remaining episodes will live up to the claims in the trailer, but three episodes seem like more than enough to draw in the viewer with something fresh, and "Joe vs. Carole" fails to do that. I wanted to like it, but given the circumstances, it just comes off as hollow, opportunistic, and ultimately pointless without enough entertainment value to warrant acknowledging its existence by tuning in.

"Joe vs. Carole" will stream on Peacock starting March 3, 2022.