surviving joe exotic

Nearly four months after Tiger King took the Netflix-viewing world by storm, Joe Exotic is still a curiosity for viewers. The exotic animal zookeeper’s big personality and troubling practices have dominated headlines for much of 2020, often overshadowing the actual animals and creatures that the Netflix docuseries initially set out to cover. Now an Animal Planet documentary is seeking to give the spotlight to the animals held at his Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, though even they can’t resist drawing viewers in by mentioning the big cat zookeeper in the title, Surviving Joe Exotic.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Animal Planet is debuting the documentary Surviving Joe Exotic this month, in a special that “aims to put more of a spotlight on these creatures, such as visually impaired tigers Kryxis and Kadira, whose vision was surgically restored at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana after being rescued from Exotic’s zoo.” The documentary will share stories about the animals from the zoo that found new homes, like the lions Chobe and Kariba, who were traumatized by the pain of inbreeding and were relocated to the Wildcat Ridge Sanctuary in Oregon.

But even Animal Planet can’t resist tapping into the Joe Exotic mania, featuring in the documentary one of the last interviews with Exotic, shot in 2018, before he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for murder-for-hire. EW has a clip of the footage, which was originally recorded for Animal Planet’s Wolves and Warriors. Other familiar figures from Tiger King, including Saff Saffery, who lost an arm to one of the tigers, will also appear in the documentary.

The lack of attention on the abused animals was one of my major gripes with Tiger King, whose filmmakers understandably were mesmerized by the larger-than-life personality of Joe Exotic, so I’m glad that another documentary is taking extra steps to give the spotlight to them. While Tiger King was an addicting watch, I feel less comfortable with the impact its had on pop culture, with Joe Exotic becoming a figure at the center of several in-development projects including a Nicolas Cage TV series, and a miniseries starring Kate McKinnon as Carol Baskin, the rival zookeeper who Exotic tried to have killed. ID also announced a limited docuseries focusing on the disappearance of Baskin’s husband.

Gretchen Palek, Shawn Witt, Dave Luce, Karen Kunkel Young, and Keith Hoffman serve as executive producers on Surviving Joe Exotic. Sarah Russell serves as supervising producer.

Surviving Joe Exotic is set to air on Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 10:00 P.M. ET.

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