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Series / Documentary Now!

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"Good evening. I'm Helen Mirren. And you're watching Documentary Now!. For the past 50 years, Documentary Now! has presented audiences with the world's most thought-provoking cinema. This season, to celebrate our golden anniversary, we take a look back at films that helped shape, change and innovate the world of documentary."

IFC Mockumentary Genre Anthology series, which debuted in 2015, created by Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, starring the latter two. Each episode is presented as part of a revered public television series devoted to documentaries, in which Helen Mirren introduces a presentation of a supposed classic documentary. What follows is a parody of a famous documentary or style thereof, done in meticulous fashion.

With Armisen (Forever) and Hader (Barry) busy working on other shows, season 3 (2019) saw a slight change in approach. They scaled back their on-camera appearances, while Special Guests began taking prominent roles in each episode. This carried over to season 4, which debuted on October 19, 2022.

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  • Affectionate Parody: The characters in the episodes are often scathing satires, but the original documentaries themselves are treated reverently by the parodies. Some episodes (Globesman, Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport) are so gentle toward their subjects and sport such dry humor that they sometimes veer closer to reenactment than parody.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Do D.A. Pennebaker (director of Don't Look Back, a clip of which appears in the show open) and R.C. Baumgartner (the director of the Pennebaker parodies The Bunker and Original Cast Album: Co-op) both exist in this world? Or is Baumgartner the director of Don't Look Back in the Documentary Now!-verse?
  • The Comically Serious: The whole point of the show. The documentaries are all done completely deadpan and treated as important touchstones of filmmaking, while depicting ridiculous situations and characters.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The two Maysles Brothers parodies are both credited to the Fein brothers. The Feins are also mentioned in a Variety headline in Mr. Runner Up.
    • In Season Two, the two Jonathan Demme parodies are credited to Harrison Renzi.
    • The two D.A. Pennebaker parodies are credited to R.C. Baumgartner.
  • Evolving Credits: In the second season Salesman is replaced in the opening credits montage with the Up series, possibly because that season has an episode that specifically parodies it.
  • Musical Pastiche: The documentaries based on those of The Eagles and Talking Heads includes several songs written in the bands' styles. The songs from the musical Co-op give similar treatment to Stephen Sondheim's work, though they lean more toward Stylistic Suck.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The opening sequence includes logos featuring the abbreviated title Doc Now!
  • Retraux: The documentaries all look like actual films from the eras they depict, meticulously copying the filmmaking technology, fashions and interior decorations of the originals.
  • Shout-Out: The opening features clips from several groundbreaking documentaries, like Man with a Movie Camera, Don't Look Back, Roger & Me and Man on Wire.
  • Shown Their Work: Not just in replicating the styles of the documentaries being parodied, but in tracking down the actual lenses and camera models that the originals used.
  • You All Look Familiar: Not just Armisen and Hader, but several of the supporting actors pop up more than once. Tim Robinson, after appearing as young Barnabas Scott in Kunuk Uncovered, plays one of the lead roles in Any Given Saturday Afternoon. Cate Blanchett stars as Izabella Barta in Waiting for the Artist and Alice in Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport.

Season 1

     Episode 1: Sandy Passage 
An in-depth look at the daily lives of two aging socialites and their crumbling estate. This mother (Armisen) and daughter (Hader) live in extreme squalor, but the documentarians find more than just dirt and clutter on the property.

A parody of Grey Gardens.

  • Crazy Cat Lady: The place is almost overwhelmed by cats. And raccons. And possums.
  • Floorboard Failure:
    Big Vivvy: What happened?
    Little Vivvy: I fell through the floor again!
    Big Vivvy: It's because you stomped!
    Little Vivvy: I don't stomp!
    Big Vivvy: I'm always telling you! You got floor all over my lima beans!
  • Found Footage: The film was found following the estate sale.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Though they live in absolute squalor, Big Vivvy and Little Vivvy carry themselves like gilded age aristocrats.
  • Mood Whiplash: Turns out that Big Vivvy and Little Vivvy killed Anthony, the delivery boy, and were keeping Barry captive, and that was what the documentarists were really trying to find out after all before their "disappearance".
  • Serial Killer: Big and Little Vivvy turn out to be this. The filmmakers become their next victims by the end.

     Episode 2: Kunuk Uncovered 
This documentary tells the story of the production of Kunuk the Hunter, a film starring an eskimo named Pipilok (Armisen) and directed by Prima Donna Director William H. Sebastian (John Slattery). Features talking head interviews by Sebastian's cameraman Barnabas Scott (Hader) and others, exposing what really happened during filming.

Parodies both Nanook of the North and Nanook Revisited, a 1990 retrospective about Nanook's controversies.

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Seeing himself portrayed on screen as a brave hunter distorts Pipilok's view of reality, and he starts behaving like a spoiled diva. It only gets worse when he takes over as director; he might have been a brilliant filmmaker, but he was also unbearably egotistical and abrasive.
  • Been There, Shaped History: After taking over production, Pipilok pioneers several revolutionary filmmaking concepts like tracking shots, POV shots, audio dialogue, and 360 shots. Even before that, he's shown as having invented the craft services table.
  • Documentary of Lies: Kunuk the Hunter is one In-In-Universe, complete with Manipulative Editing.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Constant. Sebastian calls the native people "funny little monsters" in a letter to his wife, and even Barnabas has disdain for them.
    Barnabas Scott: Ugly women, the Eskimos. My god, they were ugly. (beat) F---ed about three of them.
    • Sebastian is obsessed with getting a "comic" shot of an Eskimo reacting with confusion to a phonograph player, and he's so determined to get it that many of the villagers (who know what a phonograph is and are just humoring him) wind up kicking his ass; only Pipilok manages to be naïve enough to react the way he wants. The documentary later introduces an audio ethnographer, whose job is partially implied to just be introducing native tribesmen to phonographs as well as recording them.
  • Died During Production: In-Universe: Pipilok dies of exposure before completing filming, and his version of Kunuk becomes a lost masterpiece. Sebastian barely manages to make it to the premiere of his own movie before dying two weeks later of "all the gonorrhea".
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Pipilok manages to oust Sebastian and take over his role, only to become a bully to the other actors the same way he was to him.
  • Hollywood Natives: Invoked and deconstructed. Sebastian does not care about the culture or welfare of the native tribe at all (besides using some of the women for his carnal pleasure) and tries to force them into patronizing staged tableaus; the natives, in turn, repeatedly beat him up for it, then leave Sebastian with Pipilok, an incompetent and simple-minded man that is made to look like a "mighty hunter" through the power of cinematic narrative. It later turns out that not only is he smarter than anyone guessed, but he's a born director, far better than Sebastian himself.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Sebastian does not like any of Pipilok's modern-looking footage, calling it "unsettling", and orders Barnabas to burn it, though Scott kept it out of spite and admiration for Pipilok's work.
    Barnabas: There's no accountin' for taste, is there? Here was a film not a tenth as good as the one we coulda showed them, and they ate it up. Audiences. They're f—-ing useless.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Pipilok initially is clearly the most naïve member of his tribe. Exploited by William H. Sebastian.
  • Lost in Character: The depiction of Pipilok on screen really begins to affect his sense of self. In his final days, he would scream things like, "I AM the cold! I am the northern wind! I am Kunuk!" when people asked why he wasn't wearing a shirt.
    Barnabas: After we watched the footage, I asked Pipilok what he thought. He told me, 'there was no Pipilok. There was only... Kunuk.' Woah.
    William H. Sebastian: Pipilok now believes he is the hunter we have made him out to be. He has started referring to himself as "Kunuk", and insists we do the same.
  • The Prima Donna: Parodied with Pipilok.
  • Prima Donna Director: Sebastian, and later, Pipilok.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Kunuk" sounds a lot like "Canuck", a mildly derogatory term for Canadians that they themselves have adopted with pride.
  • Show Within a Show: Kunuk is a mockumentary within a mockumentary within a show within a show.
  • Team Power Walk: Pipilok's footage includes an overcranked power walk in the style of Reservoir Dogs.
  • Time-Shifted Actor: A heavily made-up Bill Hader plays Barnabas Scott in the interview segments, but in the archival material, Scott is played by Tim Robinson.
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe: Initially, Sebastian, with his alcoholism and his abusive Jerkass behavior, is making the shoot hell, especially as Pipilok is too stupid or incompetent to cooperate with what he wants. Then he's replaced by Pipilok, and things get even worse.
  • Verbal Tic: Barnabas Scott is prone to ending his sentences with "I tell ya."

     Episode 3: Dronez: the Hunt for El Chingon 
An investigative piece made by Dronez, the multimedia organization led by Jamison Friend (Jack Black), which takes “hipster journalism” to the extreme. Their intrepid reporters enter the most dangerous places of Ciudad Juárez looking for notorious drug kingpin El Chingón.

A parody of Vice Magazine's documentaries.

  • Achievements in Ignorance: After the first two reporter duos get killed in their search, the final duo actually manage to meet and hang out with El Chingon.
  • Affably Evil: El Chingon, who once he finds out that the third set of Dronez reporters somehow trespassed on his property without being killed, decides to treat them to a good time and sit down for an interview.
  • The Cameo: Ty Dolla $ign, brought in by the second duo in a failed attempt to appear intimidating.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Bryce and Trevor's corpses are melted down in plastic barrels and shipped to the Dronez offices. Jamison considers making them into coffee tables for the reception area.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Mexico is directly south of America, which means that it shares a border with... the United States!"
  • Expy:
    • Jamison Friend, the Dronez founder, of Shane Smith.
    • El Chingon, for elusive Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.
  • Foreign Cuss Word: "El Chingon" means "The Motherfucker" (albeit in the backhanded complimentary sense) in Mexican Spanish.
  • Informed Poverty: Invoked and exaggerated by Kyle and John who, at Manuel Bautista's house, warn about the appaling extreme poverty of his house, like the fact that they have a first generation PlayStation and hallways so small that they can't even extend their whole arms in them.
  • Lethally Stupid: The first two journalist duos. In the name of fearless journalism, they are literally fearless, ignoring all the desperate warnings of the people around him. Then the predictable outcome happens.
  • Plot Armor: Totally averted in a parody of the way documentary shows frequently exploit dangerous situations in which people never actually get killed. Two different sets of investigative reporters travel to a dangerous area in search of an extremely violent drug kingpin and, naturally, they get killed.
  • Posthumous Narration: Exploited In-Universe by Dronez.
    Jamison Friend: So, Kyle and John are dead. Luckily for us, they had already recorded their voiceovers.
  • Schmuck Bait: John and Kyle answer the door of Manuel's house, knowing that cartel hitmen are on the other side but thinking they can be reasoned with, while Trevor and Bryce enter a suspicious police car parked in the back alley of a nightclub to get info on El Chingon. Both reporter teams are INSTANTLY shot in the head.
  • Take That!: The episode is far meaner to its inspiration than the rest of the series, with the Dronez team depicted as clueless, ignorant, shallow and irresponsible hipsters getting themselves killed by their own incompetence for the sake of "extreme" journalism, and to the apathy of their boss.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The first two pairs of journalists actually do get killed after ignoring warnings that they will be if they press forward.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Dronez and its “ballz-to-the-wallz” approach to journalism.
    Helen Mirren: And it should be noted that both “ballz” and “wallz” are spelled with zeds.

     Episode 4: The Eye Doesn't Lie 
An investigation into the wrongful conviction of Don Lentile (Armisen), a man sentenced to death for the 1976 murder of sign spinner John Patrick Winslow.

A parody of The Thin Blue Line.

  • Anachronism Stew: Neither Mama's Family, airdancers, nor Poison existed in the time the murder happened. According to one company, sign spinning wasn't around until they invented it in the 80's as well.
  • Berserk Button: Lentile's constant eating of trail mix during his interrogation riles up the detectives so much that they throw the bag of trail mix against the wall.
  • Buffy Speak: Everybody calls the car wash airdancer a "inflatable car wash blow up thingy".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Don Lentile was framed, charged, and later condemned to the death penalty only because he was pretty annoying. Robbie himself willfully gave Don up as the murderer simply for refusing to play his Poison tape on the car stereo.
  • Frame-Up: Don Lentile was framed by the obviously guilty Robbie Wheadlan.
  • Hated by All: Don is so annoying and pretentious that it seems to instantly inspire contempt in his fellow man, enough to want to see him dead or in jail. When Robbie confesses to the murder on tape, completely exonerating Lentile, the director admits that everyone already knows, and that even he doesn't like Don.
  • A Hero to His Hometown: Robbie is a superficially charming but loathsome scumbag that has been connected to, or outright proven to have committed, multiple violent and malicious crimes around San Antonio. Every single person in the police department seems to be his close personal friends, and they laugh off his offenses as "misunderstandings" and take a boys-will-be-boys attitude with him, saying he's a good kid at heart.
  • Kangaroo Court: Exaggerated. The police are all friends with Robbie, make Don sign a pre-written confession while holding him at gunpoint multiple times, and go to trial on a single witness testimony that they coerced and molded into a seemingly damning statement against him; when the case goes to trial, the prosecutor was in a competition with another lawyer to see how many death sentences he could get handed down, while Don is assigned a $200 defense attorney in the early stages of dementia that accuses him of being a "Nazi sympathizer" and attempts to strangle him. Even witnesses remotely sympathetic to Don turn on him because he can't stop being such a jerk.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Robbie thrill-kills a man in cold blood, frames an innocent patsy for the crime and gets away scot-free with everything, but the documentary shows he's in prison orange, too. It turns out that Don instilled such a hatred for jazz guitar in him that Wheadlan later murdered a jazz studies professor in 1984, and is serving life.
  • Police Are Useless: Every cop involved in this story is a complete idiot.
  • Smug Snake: Wheadlan is only too pleased with himself in how he framed Don Lentile for the murder.
  • Vanity License Plate: Robbie Wheadlan's license plate is "I <3 PUSS", while Don Lentile's is "!JAZZ!".

     Episode 5: A Town, A Gangster, A Festival 
A documentary crew travels to Arborg, Iceland for the annual festival honoring American gangster Al Capone.

The only episode so far not based on a specific documentary, though it has similarities to a typical Les Blank film.

  • Informed Attribute: None of the three finalists of the Al Capone lookalike contest look much like Capone. One of them is a woman.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Averted, as Árborg and its rival Vogar are both real Icelandic municipalities.
  • Quirky Town: Árborg is obsessed with Al Capone, Chicago and American culture of The Roaring '20s, to the bewilderment of a few of its citizens (like the new mayor) and outsiders.
  • The '60s: Vogar tries to undercut the success of Árborg's Al Capone festival by holding a Jimi Hendrix festival the same weekend.

     Episodes 6 and 7: Gentle and Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee 
Two-Parter Rockumentary that shows the story of the seminal 70s rock band Blue Jean Committee, and the conflicts between their founders, Gene Allen (Armisen) and Clark Honus (Hader).

Parody of the 2013 documentary History of The Eagles.

  • Adam Westing:
    • Alvin Izoff, the No Celebrities Were Harmed version of legendary music executive Irving Azoff, is actually played by Azoff himself.
    • Kenny Loggins, appearing as himself, is mostly starstruck when talking about the BJC, but a note of bitterness creeps into his voice when he mentions their Hall of Fame induction on the strength of Catalina Breeze, as "some artists have been around 30 years and made dozens of hit records" without ever being invited.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: "Who sent you, the Blue Jean Committee?"
  • Artifact Title: In-Universe. The band keeps its name after it changes its style and wears less denim.
  • Berserk Button: Vegetarianism and the rejection of meat, as Chicago is a proud sausage community with "a long and noble meat tradition". After rumor spread in North Chicago that Gene and Clark had become vegetarians (a "death sentence") when they started contemplating the California lifestyle, Clark's cousins firebombed his apartment (with Clark in it), and they had to hole up in the studio to avoid being beaten by mobs, where they wrote and recorded Catalina Breeze. The thing that finally explodes the tensions in the band and tears Gene and Clark apart is learning that the benefit concert they're playing is for animal rights — both are horrified, but Clark ultimately swallows his pride and decides to collect the paycheck, while Gene refuses to sell out and storms off stage.
    Mitch Dagonda: You can get away with insultin' a lotta things in this city. 'Cause we're a liberal town.
    Doug Gordon: Yeah. But don't insult the sausage.
  • The Cameo: Daryl Hall, Kenny Loggins, Haim, etc., all talk about what the Blue Jean Committee meant to them. Michael McDonald also inducts the band into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Part 2.
  • Canon Immigrant: Blue Jean Committee was created by Armisen years ago, as one of his many elaborate fake bands.note 
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Their early blues song "Hey Miss".
    Hey miss, can I get a beer?
    And then a couple of beers?
  • Derailed for Details: When discussing the band's early days in a particular Chicago neighborhood, Mitch Dagonda and Doug Gordon get sidetracked into a heated argument over what businesses are and are not still on that corner.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In-Universe. Blue Jean Committee's early albums were Chicago blues, until even the band themselves could no longer deny that they weren't particularly good at that genre.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The first minutes already make it very clear that whatever money Gene made with the band didn't last long.
  • Jerkass: As a young man, Clark had a volitile temper and would start a fight on any slight and admits that he only got into music because the musician kids in high school were getting more action than the wrestling team (which he was on). He's less violent but no less selfish in the present day, and while he's clearly unfulfilled, doesn't seem to understand why.
  • Lesser Star: Clark is considered the dead weight of the band in-universe.
    Chuck Klosterman: I suppose in retrospect it's predictable that this was going to self-combust, when you have one guy in the band doing everything, and the other guy just singing high.
  • Lonely at the Top: While Gene went back to Chicago and now finds satisfaction in a humble life where he plays bar guitar on weekends, Clark, who made a fortune selling out and licensing the band's name, is left dissatisfied and alone in his gigantic California mansion, missing the friendship he once had.
  • The Merch: invoked Since Clark owns the band's name, he put it on whatever inane product he thought could sell. He has a whole Shrine to Self made of them.
  • New Sound Album: Catalina Breeze, their first "Californian" record.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Gene, the humble and eccentric prodigy, and Clark, the vain and cynical businessman, are a pretty good analogue for Brian Wilson and Mike Love.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Clark's falsetto voice.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Alvin Izoff: They were the two dumbest mother[bleep] I ever met. And I work in the music industry!
  • Retool: Clark has the idea of turning the band from a Chicago Blues act to a typical Californian rock band, even though they have never been in Calfornia and never lived any of the things they sang about.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Clark is convinced that his falsetto singing is forceful and "phallic."
  • Shout-Out: The title and cover photo for their debut album St. Stanislaus' Matinee are homages to Van Morrison's Saint Dominic's Preview.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Catalina Breeze".
  • Unreliable Narrator: Clark presents his time and decisions in the band as cool and calculated. Everyone else around him remembers things very differently.
  • Viewers Like You: Parodied with a Commercial Switcheroo, shown in the middle of the last episode, of a Documentary Now! pledge drive.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Gene and Clark haven't seen or talked to each other since the breakup. Much of the documentary has the interviewees wonder what will happen when they're reunited at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, or if Gene will even show up. He does, and they're polite and amicable with each other, but their minimal interaction and Clark's sad expressions show there's still everything left unsaid.

Season 2

     Episode 1: The Bunker 
A camera crew follows maverick political strategists Teddy Redbones (Hader) and Alvin Panagoulious (Armisen) as they direct the campaign of underdog candidate Ben Herndon against popular incumbent Tom Lester in the 1992 Ohio governor's race.

Parody of The War Room, the D.A. Pennebaker/Chris Hegedus film about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

  • The Bet: Redbones and Panagoulious have no real interest in Herndon or Ohio politics in general. They just want to win a bet that they can get anyone elected.
  • Blood on the Debate Floor: Literally. To turn the tide of the election, Redbones has himself shot in the leg at the debate and accuses Lester of dirty tricks.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After approving an ad wishing Tom Lester a happy birthday but adding "let's hope it's his last," Redbones and Panagoulious absolutely cannot understand how it could be construed as a death threat. They eventually decide to cut some unneeded footage from the ad: the part that mentions Ben Herndon.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Redbones and Panagoulious succeed in getting the utterly unqualified Ben Herndon elected.
  • Extreme Doormat: Ben Herndon is a mild, friendly and somewhat vacant former councilman, who's only running against Lester, a man he himself praises, as "a kindness" because he wants to give Ohioans "a choice" in governors. He seems to have no strong ideological stances, any public denouncement of Lester is done at Teddy's request, and when he finally goes against and fires his campaign managers for trying to exploit an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, he mentions that he still had to "pray on it" first, after much waffling and uncertainty. In the end, his "honest debate" goes terribly, and he only wins thanks to Teddy sabotaging Lester.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Redbones, parodying Carville's own thinning hair at the time, is going bald not at the temples but at the crown, while the rest of his hair is unusually thick around it. The end result is a bizarre-looking tonsure.
  • Is This Thing On?: Redbones tests out a mic by saying "Put the taffy down, Tubby Tammy!"
  • Newscaster Cameo: Tabitha Soren, re-creating her MTV News election coverage from The '90s.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Redbones and Panagoulious are thinly disguised takeoffs of James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. Hader had previously imitated Carville himself on Saturday Night Live.
  • No Party Given: Averted. Ben Herndon is a Democrat challenger running against Lester, a Republican incumbent, though it's not brought up aside from news chyrons.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: "Herndon: A Choice for Governor", which only really drives home how unmotivated and pointless his candidacy is. Most campaign merch doesn't even include the "For Governor" part.
  • Sexiness Score: This trope is invoked as a metaphor when Alvin Panagoulious is talking about white lies on TV. The news anchor interviewing him isn't impressed.
    Alvin: It's kind of like when you meet someone's wife and you say she's a ten when really she's a true five.
    Luanne: ...And that's your political strategy? Rating women?
    Alvin: Ah. You could see it that way. [winks at her flirtatiously]
    Luanne: [nods awkwardly] Okay...
  • Shout-Out: Besides The War Room, it also plays roughly like a parody of/homage to The Candidate (which famously employed a documentary-style structure).
  • Slimeball: Redbones and Panagoulious, in different ways. Teddy is the ruthless veteran mud-slinger, directing absurd attacks like putting lawn jockeys on Lester supporters' yards, alleging that Lester himself might be a deadbeat father, gambling addict, and child slaver, and willingly maiming himself so that he can blame an unseen Lester fanatic; Alvin, meanwhile, is the ambitious young spin doctor, obsessed with ranking women on a 1-10 scale and trying to kill a story about Ben Herndon failing community college five times in a row (a parody of Stephanopoulos downplaying Clinton's affairs to a reporter).
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the midst of a heated confrontation with the press, Teddy Redbones walks over and gets into his car, which has an enormous airbrushed mural of Roy Orbison on the hood.

     Episode 2: Juan Likes Rice & Chicken 
Food Porn documentary about Juan, an 83-year-old Colombian whose restaurant earns three stars from Michelin despite being a 45-minute walk from the nearest road and having only one meal on the menu. Experts, including restaurant critic Nico Rodriguez (Hader), question whether Juan's son Arturo (Armisen) can continue his legacy.

Parody of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

  • Absurd Phobia: Arturo's ability to run the restaurant after Juan is gone is uncertain because he's afraid of chickens.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Unlike many of the documentaries, this one ends up on an unambiguously positive note. Arturo successfully manages the restaurant despite everyone (including himself) expecting failure, Diego and Juan reconcile, and Juan stops being such a workaholic to spend more time with his loved ones.
  • I Have No Son!: After Juan's other son Diego opened a competing restaurant, Juan regards him as dead.
    Arturo: I spoke with Diego.
    Juan: Were you at a séance?
  • Minimalism: Juan serves just four items—"warm coffee", a banana split in half, rice with butter, and (sometimes) chicken.
  • The Perfectionist: Juan, who will reject ingredients if they fail to meet his exact specifications by even a hair of a fraction.
  • Stealth Pun: Arturo discusses a bad experience with a mentally ill chicken. Since he's speaking Spanish, he uses the phrase "pollo loco" a couple times.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Juan (Technician) has a minimalistic menu and is intensely focused on getting the proper ingredients and serving them in an exacting way. His son Diego (Performer) opens his own restaurant which is focused more having on a fun atmosphere than on the food served.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Arturo. Everyone, especially his father Juan, questions whether he could take over the restaurant and maintain its level of perfection. Diego is also upset about his father's lack of approval, noting wistfully that Juan has never visited "Diego's Fun Restaurant." Juan finally does at the end and while he criticizes the cooking, Diego adds with satisfication that he also cleaned his plate.
  • Workaholic: Juan, even more than Jiro in the original film. He hasn't missed work in 35 years, even during heart attacks, and he didn't even notice that his wife left him for another man—when he saw her again, he just asked her where she'd been.
  • Thicker Than Water: Despite their differences, Diego goes to help Arturo when the hospital refuses to release Juan after a third heart attack and Arturo has to run the place alone.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: This is why the chicken isn't guaranteed. Juan gives himself five minutes to catch a chicken—if he doesn't, then he believes fate has decreed the chicken will live another day, and removes it from that day's menu.

     Episode 3: Parker Gail's Location Is Everything 
Famed monologist Parker Gail (Hader) discusses confronting his personal demons after he's forced to move to another apartment.

Parody of the work of Spalding Gray, and in particular the film Swimming to Cambodia.

  • Big Applesauce: Gail's saga begins with his Lower Manhattan neighborhood falling victim to gentrification. At one point he runs through a long list of Manhattan streets where he goes apartment hunting.
  • Bottle Episode: After the budget for another episode fell through, the creators quickly pieced this one together, choosing a Swimming to Cambodia spoof because it wouldn't require very many sets.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Only natural, since Spalding Gray used this trope frequently.
  • Life Embellished: Deconstructed, as Gail takes so many liberties and exaggerations with his stories that they often have no basis in reality.
  • Marijuana Is LSD: Parker talks about a wild nine-hour experience after taking one puff of a joint that (he says) was offered to him by a prospective landlord. (It was actually, we learn from the landlord, one Parker had on himself and smoked in the bathroom.)
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Bill Hader has Spalding Gray's voice and mannerisms down cold.
  • Parental Abandonment: Gail reveals that his parents' divorce and his father leaving home were the sources of his childhood trauma growing up in Rhode Island. Turns out his parents are actually still happily married, and they're very annoyed that he keeps saying they're divorced.
  • Silent Snarker: Parker recounts a quasi-mystical telepathic encounter with a bodega cat. Like most of the other characters Gail has encountered during the story, the cat gets an opportunity for rebuttal. It just stares balefully into the camera.
  • Twist Ending: At the end of the episode, we see three people sitting at a table across from Gail, who have apparently been listening to him this whole time. They're the parole board, and it turns out he's in prison for burning down the Stereo City that was built at the site of his former apartment. Unsurprisingly, his application is denied.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Parker is shown to be this, as everyone he mentions in his monologue gets a chance to respond and point out everything he makes up.

     Episode 4: Globesman 
1968 documentary following the lives of four door-to-door globe salesmen, including Tom O'Halloran (Armisen) and Pete Reynolds (Hader).

Parody of Salesman, and wound up appearing as DVD Bonus Content on The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray of that film.

  • Bittersweet Ending: Tom, while still largely a failure, gets his pride in his salesmanship back after he's able to close on a sale that Pete couldn't. The thing is, it's based on a lie — Tom is such an awful salesman that he nearly ruined Pete's deal with his inappropriate comments, and Pete secretly bribed the guy with $20 of his own money to buy the globe from Tom instead. As a result of Pete's pity for his friend, Tom will be more confident in the future, but continue to fail and struggle in a profession that he's not cut out for.
  • Butt-Monkey: Tom, even more than his role model Paul from Salesman. Not only is he bad at his job, the other salesmen have no respect for him.
  • Continuity Nod: Globesman is a documentary by the Fein Brothers who made Sandy Passage from Season 1.
  • Cringe Comedy: Tom's constant verbal missteps, like casually saying he might "Jew down" a couple before he looks at their last name and realizes they're Jewish, and telling a man his allegedly 13-year-old daughter looks older because her breasts are rather well-developed for her age.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: In homage to Salesman.
  • Everybody Smokes: Smoking is a vital part of the life of a Traveling Salesman in The '60s. Pete even orders a pack of cigarettes for lunch.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Tom, who loses sales for, among other things, yelling at a kid for pointing out a typo on the globe and insulting Jewish people to an old couple two seconds before realizing they're probably Jewish too.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Mike doesn't have a catchy professional sobriquet like the rest of the guys, so his nickname is simply written as "Mike Stankowicz".
  • Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Karl Richter, a Pinnacle atlas salesman (posited as the natural enemy of globe salesmen, as a house doesn't need both a globe and an atlas), keeps swooping in and stealing sales from under the guys, making harassing German phone calls to them while they stay at motels, and leaving dog shit on their pillows with his business card. They eventually corner him in a gas station bathroom, beat him with a tire iron, and leave him for dead—though the last shot reveals he's still pursuing them.
  • Traveling Salesman: Parody of the one of the classic works depicting this trope.

     Episode 5: Final Transmission 
Art Rock band Test Pattern is playing their final concert before going on a hiatus, and the tensions between singer Lee Smith (Armisen) and bassist Mark (Hader) are explored.

Parody of Stop Making Sense.

  • Black Sheep Hit invoked: While Lee was dominating Test Pattern with his artsy songs, their biggest hit was "Save Time for Me", a poppy ballad written and sung by Anita (played by Maya Rudolph). In true '80s fashion, it was also a Breakaway Pop Hit, from Sun Warriors (apparently some sort of Heroic Fantasy movie, judging from the projections on the screen behind them while they play it).
  • The Cameo: Paul Thomas Anderson is the voice of Harrison Renzi, the show's version of Jonathan Demme (of which Anderson himself is a fan.)
  • Continuity Nod: Like Location is Everything, Final Transmission is directed by Harrison Renzi.
  • I Am the Band: Lee Smith, the pretentious lead singer of Test Pattern, and primary source of inter-band tension due to his attitude. He doesn't consider Anita's and Mark's songs to be Test Pattern songs.
  • Jerkass: Lee Smith seems to go out of his way to give Mark a hard time. Despite Mark writing several songs, Lee only allowed one to be recorded. Before they play it in the concert, Lee has an extended intro describing how people reviewed Mark's vocals negatively, doesn't let Mark finish his own intro before starting the song, and then near the end of the song he tells the audience it's almost over.
  • Lesser Star: Mark, the timid, bitter bassist for the band.
  • New Wave Music: Along with parodying Talking Heads, Test Pattern's music is an amalgamation of 80s New Wave Art Pop, including the unusual World Music influences.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While Talking Heads and Stop Making Sense are the main focus of the parody, other elements seem inspired by The Last Waltz and The Band: the farewell concert, intragroup financial squabbles, and the off-camera director interviewing the band members. The singular focus on Lee, who constantly intercedes and dominates the film with his egotism, is in particular a satire of Last Waltz producer and Scorsese's personal friend Robbie Robertson, who takes up much of the movie's runtime and was accused by Levon Helm of sabotaging his bandmates.
    • "I.O.U. 7 Cents" is a pastiche of Tom Waits' Jazz and Experimental eras, down to Lee taking on Tom's raspy voice and mannerisms.
  • Starving Artist: The song "Art + Student = Poor".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Anita ("Save Time for Me") and Mark ("Everybody's Moving Around") both get chances to sing songs they wrote. Lee isn't very thrilled about letting them have the spotlight.
  • Stylistic Suck: Mark's vocals for "Everybody's Moving Around" are weird and awkward, and Hader had to do multiple takes due to singing it too well.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: invoked Very much the philosophy of Lee Smith. He once engaged in a project where he married different objects to prove "the banality of marriage", finally marrying Anita, who happened to be Mark's ex-girlfriend.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The band formed at an East Coast art school, has a name taken from a term used in television production, and has a Control Freak Cloudcuckoolander frontman who exerts creative control, just like Talking Heads.
  • World Music: Lee adds Balinese gamelan musicians to one song, much to the consternation of Mark.

     Episodes 6 and 7: Mr. Runner Up: My Life as an Oscar Bridesmaid 
Two-Part Episode. Colorful producer Jerry Wallach (Hader) recounts the ups and downs of his turbulent five decades in Hollywood, including his collaborations with Italian star Enzo Entolini (Armisen).

Parody of The Kid Stays in the Picture.

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Invoked by Wallach himself to explain the casting of blonde bombshell Bridget Bailey in the film version of the novel She Cried for Justice.
    "I wanted to find an actress who was vulnerable, yet resilient. Someone who, when the audience looked into her eyes, they saw the horrors of The Holocaust. But, she had to be hot."
  • Always Second Best: The main theme of Wallach's life. His films constantly receive Oscar nominations but always lose.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Wallach talks of the day that changed his life being first seeing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs...only except admiring the movie itself, he was looking at the packed theater and how much money it was making. From the start, his entire journey is about the money, not the art.
    • When Jerry is discussing casting the Gestapo officer in She Cried for Justice, the footage lingers over an actor in military dress that looks very much like George C. Scott or Lee J. Cobb, while Jerry mentions that he recruited "the best method actor of his generation". It's Enzo again.
  • Banana Republic: Pinnacle turns out to have been a tax shelter for money laundering by U.S. agencies, and eventually became a dummy corporation for United Papaya, itself a Central Intelligence / Uruguayan military joint effort.
  • But Not Too White: As Jerry becomes increasingly haggard with age and assorted vices, he starts applying a heavy spray tan that almost verges on brownface.
  • The Cameo: Peter Bogdanovich, Mia Farrow, Faye Dunaway and Peter Fonda all share stories about Jerry Wallach, and Anne Hathaway presents an Academy Award in a newly-filmed sequence.
  • Canon Immigrant: Jerry Wallach is partly based on the President of Hollywood, a character Bill Hader played at the Comedy Central roast of James Franco.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Jerry gives his old Brooklyn neighborhood as "Polack Beach", and claims that his father, who looks to be in his fifties based on childhood photographs, died from a heart attack at 35 ("it was his time").
    • Enzo is censored by the Vatican and becomes persona non grata in his native Italy for comments his wife makes about how church service is boring, but not for his wife being 12 years old.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Jerry went almost completely bald at the age of 5 from magenta fever, and, from childhood on, wears a series of hairpieces of varying authenticity. It's even how he scammed his first break in Hollywood — he threw it under the wheels of Burt Lancaster's car and pretended Burt ran over his dog.
  • Executive Meddling: Invoked. When Jerry gets hold of the rights to She Cried for Justice, Edna Bach's memoir of surviving the Holocaust and testifying at Nuremberg, he casts a bubbly bombshell actress in the lead, his friend and good luck charm Enzo as the Nazi on trial, and has the movie continuously rewritten to play to Enzo's comic strengths. The end result — a romantic comedy titled Blondes, Blondes, Blondes and a Millionaire — fails to get the Oscar.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Pinnacle Pictures for Paramount Pictures, right down to having an iconic mountain peak logo.
  • Follow the Leader: invoked One of Wallach's failed strategies to win an Oscar is to make obvious knockoffs of recent acclaimed films, like Koreatown, Back from Vietnam and Upset, and White Love in Rhodesia.
  • Historical In-Joke: Peter Bogdanovich is known for his neck scarf. In the episode, he says he made a bet with Jerry Wallach that Friend of the Son of Man would not recoup. If Jerry won, Peter would have to "wear a bandanna around [his] neck everyday for fifty years... And here we are."
  • Humor Dissonance: In-universe, Enzo Entolini is referred to as "the Italian Chaplin" and enjoys fantastic success, while starring in what are referred to by Jerry as, objectively, mildly amusing movies; his depressive mother had a heart condition that could get worse if she was too happy, so Enzo learned at a young age to consciously perform at a "B to B-minus level". Naturally, this makes him a perfect collaborator for a middling producer like Jerry.
  • I Am Not Shazam: Invoked. Jerry refers to the story of Moby Dick in a rambling, inaccurate analogy about "Captain Moby Dick and Mr. Whale".
  • In Name Only: Averted when, having more or less rewritten Edna Bach's Holocaust memoir into a Romantic Comedy, Wallach decides to retitle the film as well.
  • Instructional Film: During its absolute low point as a studio, Pinnacle Pictures made driver's ed filmstrips about how to maintain while you're drunk.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Jerry blamed Julie Andrews for screwing him over when his movie was nominated for an Oscar when all she did was just announce the winner.
  • Mr. Imagination: Parodied, in keeping with the "runner-up" motif. The escape of the movies let little Jerry imagine he could be anyone he wanted to be — like a stuntman fighting Errol Flynn, or an Apache shooting at John Wayne, or a maiden being seduced by Dracula.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Jerry Wallach is a spoof of Robert Evans, but there's Expy Coexistence, since we see footage of Evans himself at an Oscar ceremony.
    • Enzo Entolini is an oblique spoof of Roman Polański and how Robert Evans kept hiring him whenever he was in a jam.
    • Bridget Bailey is an expy of Marilyn Monroe, with Blondes, Blondes, Blondes being an amalgam of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire, down to the yellow-text-on-black-field title of the movie poster.
  • Oscar Bait: Plenty of it, but the Academy wouldn't bite.
  • Prematurely Bald: Jerry lost his hair at 5 from a bout with magenta fever. He claims "you couldn't tell" just from looking, as photos show him in the sixth stage of male-pattern baldness.
  • Sword and Sandal: Wallach's first attempt at Oscar Bait was the epic Friend of the Son of Man, based on the controversial and borderline-heretical Gospel of Lewis (since Jack Warner had already bought the rights to the entire canonical Bible).
  • Take That!: After years of remorseless pandering and lowest-common-denominator crap, Jerry finally wins an Oscar based on a vague premise he thinks up in seconds... which becomes the film Crash.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The episode opens with Peter Bogdanovich warning the filmmakers that Wallach is one. It then segues to Jerry's director, producer and narrator credits.
    "Everybody has a great Jerry Wallach story, everybody. The only person in Hollywood who doesn't have a great Jerry Wallach story is Jerry Wallach. Because his are all lies. In fact, if you can keep Jerry Wallach as far away from this documentary as possible, you might actually have something close to the truth."
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: After so many chances, Jerry thinks he's finally going to get his Oscar with a Humanitarian award named after him... only to discover he's one of four other nominees... and then it goes to long-time friend and star Enzo.

Season 3

     Episodes 1 and 2: Batsh*t Valley 
Two-Part Episode. In The '80s, Cult leader Ra-Shawbard (Owen Wilson) and his followers take over the small town of Chinook, Oregon. Along with extensive archival footage, there are interviews with former cult members, townspeople, Ra-Shawbard's controversial lieutenant Ra-Sharir (Necar Zadegan), and FBI Agent Bill Dawes (Michael Keaton), who took particular interest in the cult.

Parody of the Netflix series Wild Wild Country, with some material inspired by the theatrical documentaries The Source Family and Holy Hell.

  • Addled Addict: Ra-Shawbard preaches purity, but eagerly consumes a variety of drugs.
  • Becoming the Mask: Cooper is sent in to extract Ra-Shawbard, but guilt over the operation's disastrous consequences and emotional turmoil over several difficult life events make him vulnerable to indoctrination, even though he knows the whole thing is a sham.
  • Been There, Shaped History: It's suggested that Ra-Sharir might have been in Jonestown, and she may have manipulated them into mass suicide so she could steal their money.
  • Big, Stupid Doodoo-Head:
    • As the war between the Shawbardites and Chinook mayor Marge Middleton escalates, Ra-Sharir breaks into the town newspaper offices and inserts an obituary into the paper.
      Today, Marge Middleton lost her long battle with stupidity. She will not be remembered by her friends and family, as they are too stupid to do so. Services will be held wherever stupid people are buried.
    • Marge retaliates by renaming the town Ra-Shawbard's Butthole.
  • Bothering by the Book: Ra-Sharir pays a $100 fine entirely in pennies just to be petty.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Turns out that Ra-Shawbard was an FBI agent and the whole cult was fabricated by the FBI.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Shockingly, Ra-Sharir decides to stay in Chinook and becomes friends with Marge—but Marge makes sure to pay for green juice with pennies.
  • Elective Mute: Ra-Sharir announces that an obviously drug-addled Ra-Shawbard has taken a vow of silence, which conveniently means that cult members now have to follow her orders.
  • A God Am I: Ra-Shawbard develops chemically-induced delusions of godhood. He decides to test them by having a car drive toward him at full speed. It doesn't end well.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The FBI's attempt to start a cult to study nearly ends in a siege and mass suicide after Ra-Shawbard starts using drugs again and Ra-Sharir takes over.
  • Helium Speech: The Shawbardites have a special ritual called Heliumtropic Meditation, where members inhale helium then confess to misdeeds in their altered voices.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ra-Sharir attempts to hypnotize the cultists into mass suicide, but the pinkeye she'd given herself makes her commands ineffective.
  • Ice-Cream Koan: Ra-Shawbard's pronouncements have this feel to them. Deliberately so, since his cult is the creation of FBI agents, who can't resist Trolling his gullible followers
    There is the world we see, but there's also a second world that we do not. How do we unlock the door for that world? And if there's a second world, could there be a third one? A fourth one? Could there be a sixth world?
  • Immodest Orgasm: One of the first sources of conflict with the town was when the Shawbardites' very loud orgies violated the local noise ordinances. In response to being asked to tone it down, they instead hooked up microphones and speakers to the "orgy room" so it would be even louder.
  • Irony: Marge says in her first interview that the town of Chinook was named after people who didn't want outsiders coming in and taking over the place by force, oblivious to the fact that this was exactly what white settlers did to the Chinook.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Delivered uncensored and with the utmost seriousness by Helen Mirren.
  • Karma Houdini: Ra-Sharir escapes legal retribution because she has Cooper's helium confession on videotape, which would be hugely embarrassing for the FBI if it was publicized.
  • Never Found the Body: Ra-Sharir implies that she and the other cultists killed Ra-Shawbard after he lets slip about working for the FBI, but it's never confirmed. Agent Doss, however, refuses to believe it because of the Pittsburgh Steelers postcards he's sent every year from an unknown address.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Connie Chung, in Retraux newscast footage from The '80s.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Ra-Shawbard is a cross between Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (subject of Wild Wild Country), a guru from India who started a commune in Oregon and ran afoul of authorities, and Father Yod (formerly James Edward Baker), the leader of the Source Family, a hippie cult that owned a vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles and recorded some odd Psychedelic Rock albums in The '70s. Ra-Sharir is based on Rajneesh's spokesperson, Ma Anand Sheela, the Ensemble Dark Horse of Wild Wild Country.
  • Psyhcopathic Womanchild: Ra-Sharir is a manipulative, militant zealot, but also very immature. Her wrath toward the people of Chinook goes into overdrive because they refused to give her first prize in a pumpkin-carving contest.
  • Shout-Out: An FBI Agent named Cooper is sent to a small town in The Other Rainforest.
  • Significant Anagram: The names of the Shawbardites are actually anagrams of the last names of Pittsburgh Steelers players from The '70s, with "Ra" added at the beginning
  • Sinister Shades: Ra-Sharir starts wearing them after she takes over the cult.
  • The Starscream: Ra-Sharir, a Mysterious Woman who becomes Ra-Shawbard's second-in-command and spokesperson, but then starts taking over the cult, including drugging Ra-Shawbard to incapacitate him.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After Ra-Sharir takes over the cult in all but name and turns it increasingly militant, some of the cultists become unwilling to follow her orders when she demands their loyalty because they joined for a relaxed vibe and the orgies, not fighting with locals.
  • Wham Line: Both for the first episode and in-universe as everyone acknowledges the turning point of events was when an injured Ra-Shawbard yells to his followers "listen, you idiots, I work for the FBI!"

     Episode 3: Original Cast Album: Co-Op 
An intimate view of the marathon recording of the Broadway musical cast album set and performed in the 1970s and featuring a cast of eclectic characters wanting to live together in the titular co-op. Tensions arise between creators Simon Sawyer (John Mulaney), Howard Pine (James Urbaniak) and producer Benedict Juniper (Taran Killam) and the cast members Larry (Richard Kind), Patty (Paula Pell) and Dee Dee (Renée Elise Goldsberry).

A parody of D.A. Pennebaker's behind-the-scenes documentarynote  Original Cast Album: Company, a chronicle of the 14-hour recording session for the Stephen Sondheim musical. Another documentary dealing with a Sondheim musical, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (about Merrily We Roll Along), is referenced as well. And, like Globesmen, it ended up as a bonus feature in the Criterion release of the Company documentary (this time on both the DVD and Blu-Ray), along with a new interview with the cast of the Co-Op episode.

  • Actor Allusion: In Real Life, Richard Kind was part of the original cast of a Stephen Sondheim-penned, Harold Prince-directed musical: 2003's Bounce.
  • All There in the Manual: IFC has released the actual album on vinyl, and the liner notes explain the musical a little more, including character names—Larry plays Robbie the doorman, Dee Dee plays Anne (a tennis pro), Patty plays Donna, and the character who sings "Holiday Party" is named Danny.
  • Big Applesauce: Co-op is a musical about the residents of a New York apartment building, and their doorman.
  • Creator Cameo: Benedict Juniper joins in at the end of the finale, "Going Up".
  • Did I Mention It's Christmas?: Lyrics for a couple of the songs reveal that Co-op was set during the holiday season.
  • "I Want" Song: "My Home Court", where Anne sings about wanting to move in to the co-op, and how she'll decorate her apartment.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Larry is adamant that he's capable of doing his solo Patter Song, and, after embarrassing himself by only barely managing to get through it without passing out, boasts that he nailed it. He's also shown to be very insecure about his lack of talent, looking uncertain if he belongs in the cast and later asking the session musicians if he did okay.
  • Insufferable Genius: Simon Sawyer knows exactly what approach will best serve his work, but is detached, aloof and incredibly arrogant at all times, with his criticism being cryptic and often hurtful.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: D.A. Pennebaker becomes R.C. Baumgartner in this universe, and the main figures in the original documentary have thinly-disguised equivalents. Simon Sawyer is Stephen Sondheim, Howard Pine is Company producer/director Harold Prince, Benedict A. Juniper is Thomas Z. Shepard (the Company album's producer) and Patty is Elaine Stritch (whose difficulty recording "The Ladies Who Lunch" is the Signature Scene of the original).
  • Patter Song:
    • "Christmas Tips", Robbie the doorman's showcase number, is so stuffed with lyrics that Larry struggles to breathe when he sings it.
    • "Holiday Party", where it's revealed that Danny is singing fast because he went to the holiday party high on cocaine.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Over a span of 24 hours, the triumphant cast manages to record the album... which will most likely tank, because it's connected to a show that they learn partway through has already closed after a disastrous opening night.
  • Tuckerization: Besides having the same initials as Stephen Sondheim, John Mulaney also chose the name Simon Sawyer as a Shout-Out to two writers he worked with on Saturday Night Live, Simon Rich and Marika Sawyer.

     Episode 4: Waiting for the Artist 
Legendary performance artist Izabella Barta (Cate Blanchett) returns to her homeland of Hungary to stage a career retrospective exhibit, which she plans to climax with a new piece. But she's having trouble coming up with a good concept for it. Her ex-collaborator (and ex-lover) Dimo van Omen (Armisen) is also interviewed.

Parody of Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present

  • Accidental Art: Invoked by Dimo, who at the last minute before one of his exhibitions opens, goes to the store and buys whatever's available, then throws random combinations together and presents them as finished pieces.
  • All Take and No Give: Over the course of the documentary, it becomes clear that Dimo and Izabella's relationship consisted of him riding on her coattails and cheating on her, and her associates are not happy that she's asked him to be part of her retrospective. Until she uses the trapdoor to drop him into a giant sculpture of a penis.
  • Batman Gambit: Izabella's retrospective piece relies on Dimo wanting to participate. He does, and the ushers helpfully guide him upstairs... into the scaffold where a trapdoor drops him down into his position, inside a giant sculpted penis.
  • Con Man: Dimo treads the fine line between being a conceptual artist and being one of these.
  • Creator Couple: invoked Izabella and Dimo had a long working relationship, which often reflected their romantic relationship.
  • Eccentric Artist: Izabella is definitely a Cloudcuckoolander, but everyone just attributes her behavior to her unusual artistic sensibility.
  • Hiding In A Bathroom Stall: For her 2007 installation A Stranger in Need, Izabella sat on a toilet in a closed stall, while patrons took turns sitting in the adjacent stall and handing her sheets of toilet paper.
  • Mad Artist: Izabella flirts with being one of these, though generally she's the one who's the target of the suffering caused by her pieces.
  • Non-Specifically Foreign: Dimo is based in Italy (and has a vaguely Italian accent), but his surname seems to be Dutch, and his nationality is hard to actually pin down.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Izabella is a thinly-disguised Marina Abramović and Dimo is Ulay.
  • Personal Dictionary: Dimo claims that he was monogmous while he was with Izabella—as in physically present in the same space—and claims not to understand her accusations of his unfaithfulness.
  • Shout-Out: Most of Izabella Barta's projects are direct parodies of Marina Abramović pieces, especially The Bucket Series (of Rhythm 0) and Stairwell (of Lovers, where Abramović and Ulay walked on the Great Wall of China to symbolize their breakup).
  • True Art: invoked Izabella's work fully explores the Incomprehensible and Angsty elements of this trope. One of the rejected ideas for her latest exhibit is to burn down the museum.
  • Visual Pun: Izabella's final piece is an elaborate, high-profile way to call Dimo a dick.

     Episode 5: Searching for Mr. Larson: A Love Letter from the Far Side 
Brad Adams (Armisen) is a huge lifelong fan of The Far Side. Deciding that his destiny is to make a documentary about Gary Larson, Brad (with his father as the cameraman) leaves his wife and newborn child at home in Colorado so he can drive to Seattle on a quest to find his hero.

Parody of Dear Mr. Watterson, a 2013 documentary about Calvin and Hobbes, and more generally the subgenres of crowdfunded DIY documentaries aimed at specific fandoms (Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, the Super Smash Bros. Melee documentary The Smash Brothers), and documentaries where the director sets off to find a Reclusive Artist (In Search of Steve Ditko, Paul Williams: Still Alive, the John Hughes documentary Don't You Forget About Me).

  • Blatant Lies: Brad's Indiegogo fundraiser claims that Larson is on board with the effort, which is the only reason it gets $300,000.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Brad seems to see a level of deep, philosophical meaning in the single-panel gags of The Far Side that probably isn't there.
  • Copiously Credited Creator: invoked Brad is credited with everything in the film except camera.
  • The Determinator: Even though everyone tells him that the film is a dumb idea, or warns him that Larson hates publicity, Brad continues on to Seattle to find him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Brad uses the Indiegogo money to dig up a frightening amount of personal information about Gary Larson, including Larson's credit report and medical records. Brad comments blithely how he wouldn't want anyone doing this to him as he flips through the papers to find Larson's home address.
  • It's All About Me: The documentary is less about Gary Larson and The Far Side, and more about Brad and his relationship with The Far Side and his attempt to find Gary Larson. He interprets everything that happens through the lens of himself being the main character of the universe.
  • Product Placement: There's a scene set outside an Applebee's. Applebee's just happened to be the main sponsor of this episode.
  • Skewed Priorities: Brad has a newborn child and mistook the date when his wife's mother would be visiting to help her. He leaves her and their baby alone anyway despite her protests and ignores her requests to come home because she's suffering from post-partum sickness.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Brad's wife Lisa gives him one over the phone (not that it stops him).
    "Come on, Brad! Your movie is pretty dumb! I mean, what's the point of it anyway? That Gary Larson exists? I think everyone already knows that!"
  • They Stole Our Act: Brad is crushed when he goes to Gary Larson's house and finds there's already a crew there shooting an American Masters episode about Larson, directed by Ken Burns.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Brad's general cluelessness about life seeps into his narration, which is almost always contradicted by what's actually happening onscreen.

     Episode 6: Long Gone 
1999 study of Rex Logan (Armisen), a brilliant-but-self-destructive Jazz guitarist, mixing old performance footage with scenes of his day-to-day life and interviews with his associates, including ex-girlfriend Carla Meola (Natasha Lyonne).

Parody of Let's Get Lost.

  • all lowercase letters: The credits, following the lead of Let's Get Lost.
  • Anti-Hero: Rex Logan, an arrogant, self-indulgent, womanizing deadbeat dad who gets put on trial at the World Court for human rights violations.
  • Artistic Stimulation: Logan has had a lifelong struggle with drug addiction.
  • Creator Couple: invoked Rex and Carla, who joins his band. Fred Armisen and Natasha Lyonne are one in Real Life too.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The film uses an appropriately gritty aesthetic in its treatment of Logan.
  • Expy: A clip is shown of Logan making a 1973 appearance on Googy & Friends, a variety show hosted by a Rowlf-like puppet.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Sárdisovinia went through this, with Csaba turning into The Generalissimo.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: invoked Sárdasovinia's "Solar Revolution" is sparked by Logan's songs, in a take-off on the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia.
  • "Just Joking" Justification: Exaggerated. Rex bowed out of the band's big gig at the Copa, then arrived with Julius's mother as his date and began aggressively making out with her in the audience while staring right at Julius, later defending himself by saying it was only a joke. Rex would go on to date Mrs. Baxter for two or three more years, then cruelly dump her.
    Julius: [Wistfully; smiling] Luckily, I can laugh about it now. No I can't, no I can't, uh — that sumbitch broke my mama's heart.
  • Loony Fan: Mozsàr idolizes Logan, with his "Solar Revolution" being named after "Solar Winds", eventually going so far as to appoint him as his Cultural Minister and make him a central figure in the new government. Most of it seems to be his obsession, as a non-native Anglophone and poet, with Rex Logan the songwriter rather than Rex Logan the man; when he invites Rex on state TV, Mozsàr just adoringly reads the lyrics of "Flames of the Cosmos" back to him, and ignores the terrible origin of the song (a woman OD'ing on heroin and being assumed dead).
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
  • Ruritania: Sárdasovinia, the former Eastern Bloc country whose anti-Soviet revolution was inspired by Logan's music. Logan eventually moves there.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Logan's vocal pieces use these.

     Episode 7: Any Given Saturday Afternoon 
2002 account of TV sports executive Rob Seger (Kevin Dunn) and his efforts to resurrect the Professional Bowlers League. Once one of the biggest draws in American sports, the PBL folded in 1992 due to bad ratings. Backed by investors, Seger has convinced big names like Billy May Dempsey (Michael C. Hall), Rick Kenmore (Tim Robinson) and Larry Hawburger (Bobby Moynihan) to renew their quests for bowling glory.

Parody of A League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

  • The Ace: Billy is rumored to be the greatest bowler in the history of the game, and is shown winning every league that he takes part in, generally by a sizable margin.
  • Allohistorical Allusion:
    • Like Billy May, Walter Ray Williams Jr. is also a renowned lawn game player, winning multiple horseshoe championship titles.
    • Larry's disastrous 98 game in the '91 Detroit Invitational is based on Steve Jaros' 129 in 1992, the lowest-scoring televised game in history until Tom Daugherty rolled a 100 in 2011. While both Steve and Tom were able to laugh off their failures and enjoy future success, Larry's embarrassing showing — especially for a game that he didn't even have to play — leads him to quit pro bowling.
    • Rick Kenmore's "suck my sack" outburst is a reference to Pete Weber's legendary "who do you think you are? I am!" celebration.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Larry fails to reignite his career but rediscovers his love for bowling and seems to have found his place happily working at his local bowling alley while Rick fails to win the league but finally manages to earn his father's respect. Billy's ending verges on being a Downer Ending, as, while he wins the league, he chooses to bury his newly-uncovered self discovery for the sake of maintaining his bowling skills.
  • Boring, but Practical: Even Rob Seger agrees that Billy is an incredible bowler, but he completely lacks a personality.
  • Butt-Monkey: Larry is a terrible bowler — once losing his nerve and playing a 98 game on live TV, even though he won by default because his opponent's wife went into labor — and is treated like a laughingstock by the PBL community as a result. Rob Seger hyping him up to everyone as the "Comeback Kid" even involves recounting his failures to the room and how he "pissed away every opportunity that's come his way" while the poor guy politely sits there and takes it. Unfortunately, Larry has only gotten worse at bowling in the time since his retirement, and fails to even make it past the first qualifying round of the tournament.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Larry is set up as one of the three bowlers the documentary will follow, but drops out of focus after failing to win the first round of the league qualifiers. From then on he only makes cameos in the background of scenes before returning into focus during the ending.
  • Heel: Rick, with his bad boy persona, plays this role for the league.
  • Jaded Washout: Averted with Larry. Despite having lost all of his fame, fortune and respect and clearly being upset about it, he remains affable and self-deprecating throughout the movie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: While Rick has a reputation as "the bad boy of bowling", he never comes off as anything worse than a bit smug when not on the alley.
  • Lives in a Van: Larry lives in his car now. He happily notes that he doesn't need to pack his belongings for his trip to the PBL qualifiers in Vegas.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The main characters are all obviously based on the main figures in A League of Ordinary Gentlemen. Rob Seger is PBA Director Steve Miller, Billy May Dempsey is Walter Ray Williams Jr., Rick Kenmore is Pete Weber and Larry Hawburger is Wayne Webb.
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: Billy's wife has one dedicated to ALF (who Billy doesn't like because he's too disrespectful).
  • Putting the Band Back Together: What Seger does in his relaunch of the PBL.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Seger ramps up the drama in the PBL by hyping the contrast between Rick (Red) and Billy (Blue).
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: Billy is a sedate, quiet, friendly man in his 40's who almost never raises his voice, dislikes ALF for being "disrespectful", and wants to paint the house brown against his wife's wishes because he thinks even white is too bold a color ("what am I, a punk rocker?"). It's implied he moved to a senior living community because he can only relate to the elderly. He's shown near the end to have an immense amount of repressed trauma.
  • Retraux: A fake Nintendo Entertainment System game based on the the PBL is briefly shown, and makes a return appearance during the credits.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: Rick's dad Sean is a quiet and reserved man who was renowned for being ramrod-straight on the lanes, so Rick vowed to make a name for himself as "the exact opposite": a ill-tempered, hot-headed, foul-mouthed, argumentative... bowler. The idea that he could've just not gone into the sport doesn't even register.
    Interviewer: Wouldn't the opposite of a bowler be, 'not a bowler'?
    Rick: [Confused] ...No. It would be a rebel bowler.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Played with with Billy and Rick. The hyper-aggressive Rick is filled with daddy issues, while the milquetoast Billy "Dead Eyes" Dempsey keeps his emotions at a distance at all times.
  • Serious Business: Bowling is this for everyone in the film, though Seger makes some backhanded statements that suggest, deep down, he thinks it's a ridiculous sport.
  • Sports Game: The PBL had a licensed video game back in The '80s (with Billy, Rick and Larry as playable characters).
  • Stepford Smiler: During an unscripted moment, Billy reveals that his bowling skill came from his abusive childhood, when his drunken father would lock the kids in the basement for weeks on end and Billy would try to throw pebbles out the window to signal for help. Ultimately, though he begins to see a therapist for his issues, and it helps, he later stops going because his emotional catharsis was starting to affect his bowling talent.
    "Can't have that!" [Pained high-pitched laugh]
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: For all his hopeful underdog spirit, Larry still isn't a very talented bowler, and fails to make the qualifiers.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Deconstructed. While both are pro-level talents, Billy May's single-minded focus on the sport makes him somewhat creepy, both on the lanes and in person, and Rick's showboating is a transparent attempt to vent his daddy issues and feelings of inadequacy. Rick eventually gets a little better, whereas Billy regresses in dealing with his psychological damage for the sake of his career.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: A frequent facial expression for Billy, along with the quiet intensity he brings to his bowling. His nickname is "Dead Eyes Dempsey".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Rick is the son of PBL legend Stan Kenmore, who doesn't think too highly of Rick's bowling skills. Despite his rebellious personality, Rick desperately wants Stan's approval.

Season 4

     Episodes 1 and 2: Soldier of Illusion 

A portrait from 1983 of auteur filmmaker Rainer Wolz (played by Alexander Skarsgård), a deeply committed dreamer endangering both his own life, and that of his crew, when he moves his production to a remote mountain village in Russia. He works on two grueling projects simultaneously: one is a film "chronicling the Dushkir people during their Tusian sheep breeding season." The other? "A CBS sitcom called Bachelor Nanny," with lead roles played by tempestuous German actor Dieter Daimler (August Diehl) and washed-up former child star Kevin Butterman (Nicholas Braun). CBS exec Alan Yaffa (Armisen) oversees everything.

Wolz is deeply based on Werner Herzog, and Soldier of Illusion is mostly based on Les Blank's Burden Of Dreams, the documentary chronicling the massively Troubled Production of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, with elements from other Herzog works such as Grizzly Man and My Best Fiend.

  • Anachronism Stew: The film is supposed to taking place around 1981 or 1982, but the Bachelor Nanny living room set includes a CD rack. Compact discs wouldn't become common until later in the decade.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Rather than just tape Bachelor Nanny at a Hollywood studio, Wolz is determined to mount it in the Dushkir wilderness. When his initial idea to build a stage inside an abandoned mine proves unworkable, he constructs an open-air set in a deep ravine, then flies a studio audience in from California.
  • Emotionless Girl: Masho, the daughter of the Dushkir chieftain, barely registers any facial expressions and rarely speaks. Which complicates matters when she's cast as the sassy, wisecracking neighbor in Bachelor Nanny.
  • High Concept: Wolz eagerly describes Bachelor Nanny as "The story of a single guy who, after agreeing to take in his sister’s twin newborns, has to juggle both babies... and babes."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Besides Rainer Wolz being a thinly-veiled Werner Herzog, Dieter Daimler is obviously based on Klaus Kinski (right down to the Alliterative Name). The "Eve" monologue Dieter is shown reciting is a nod to Kinski's infamous one-man show Klaus Kinski is Jesus Christ Savior.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: We learn at the end that Bachelor Nanny was a huge hit that ran several seasons, Dieter quit the show after losing an Emmy to Michael J. Fox, Kevin hit a rough patch in his life and ended up on Death Row, and Masho became the Trophy Wife of Alan Yaffa.

     Episode 3: Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport 
1994 Slice of Life portrait of the English hairdressing business, focusing on Salon de Edwina in Bagglyport. Edwina (Harriet Walter) is the exacting owner, Alice (Cate Blanchett) is her clumsy assistant. Tension builds as Edwina prepares the latest edition of her stylebook, occasionally broken by the daily appearance of friendly deliveryman George (Armisen).

Dual parody of Three Salons at the Seaside and The September Issue.

  • Black Widow: Edwina keeps a notebook to keep track of which woman lost which husband and when. One customer has nine entries. "That was before we knew she was the Plimpton Poisoner."
  • British Stuffiness: A subplot has the women at the salon casually discussing how one of their regular customers has been kidnapped and held for ransom. Again.
  • Easily Forgiven: Edwina tells a story about a customer from several years ago who used salon appointments as alibis for multiple murders, and adds "you can't stay angry with someone for that long."
  • The Load: Alice isn't particularly skilled at hairdressing or even mundane tasks like sweeping the floor. Edwina only hired her out of sympathy after her husband died.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: While the setting is totally different, the relationship between Edwina and Alice is based on Vogue's Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, as depicted in The September Issue.
  • The Perfectionist: Edwina. Alice is forced to do the photography for this year's stylebook because the local professional photographer got tired of Edwina's nitpicking. Later, Edwina reveals that she's so fussy because she sees all her own mistakes in the photographs.
  • Undignified Death: Alice's husband was dancing on a brick wall he had built when it collapsed under him. He was buried with the brick he was still clutching in his hand.

     Episode 4: How They Threw Rocks 

1996 Sports documentary about the time honored Welsh sport of craig maes, in which two men throw rocks at each other in a sheep pen, focusing on the historic 1974 bout between charismatic legend Alwyn Lewis-Ifans (Trystan Gravelle) and hard-nosed upstart Sior Strawboss (Sam C. Wilson), with modern-day reflections on the match from journalists Owen Teale-Griffith (Jonathan Pryce) and Garth Davies-Gruffudd (John Rhys-Davies), plus former police chief Bev Turner (Tom Jones).

Parody of When We Were Kings.

  • Acrofatic: Lewis-Ifans is a bit paunchy, even more so when he neglects his conditioning before the bout, but still displays some agility.
  • Amusing Injuries: Despite the violence and injury inherent in throwing rocks full-force at an unprotected body and blood running from competitors' skin a few moments into a round, no one gets seriously hurt.
  • The Gambling Addict: Lewis-Ifans developed a gambling problem since his heydey—in the form of "how many peanuts in this jar" and other casual games which have, nonetheless, put him into debt.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • As with Two Hairdressers in Bagglyport, the personalities of the main subjects of the documentary being parodied are uploaded into vastly different characters in a much different setting. Bombastic, flamboyant, poetry-spouting Alwyn Lewis-Ifans is Muhammad Ali (he's even nicknamed "Allie"), and taciturn bruiser Sior Strawboss is George Foreman.
    • Also directly referencing When We Were Kings are the two contrasting journalist commentators—effete, Purple Prose-loving Owen Teale-Griffith (George Plimpton) and blunt, outspoken Garth Davies-Gruffudd (Norman Mailer).
  • No-Sell: Lewis-Ifans' first throw bounces off Strawboss with no effect.
  • Oh, Crap!: When everyone sees that Strawboss has collected over five hundred rocks, well beyond the usual amount, they realize that this is going to be a particularly brutal match.
  • The Quiet One: Strawboss barely even speaks when he's on camera.
  • Serious Business:
    • Craig maes itself is portrayed as woven deeply into the cultural fabric of rural Wales.
    • Allie is so outraged by the crime of an accused sheep-thief that he attacks him in court (with a rock, naturally).
  • Shirtless Scene: Craig maes competitors signal that they're ready to fight by doffing their shirts.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Strawboss (Technician) is brutally efficient, stoically standing and aiming his shots as hard as possible, while Lewis-Ifans (Performer) dances around and puts his bravado on display.
  • Throwing the Fight: Pre-match rumors begin that Lewis-Ifans has planned to take a dive in order to pay off his gambling debts. He did plan to, but he couldn't swallow his pride to deliberately perform badly. Instead, he beats Strawboss and then breaks a rule to disqualify himself and cause a forefit.
  • Victory by Endurance: "Turtling", where the player keeps their less-vulnerable back to absorb opponents' bows, is typically used when a player is near victory and doesn't want to get knocked out by a lucky hit. Lewis-Ifans turtles for every round past the first, getting very bloody but forcing Strawboss to exhaust himself by throwing his over five hundred rocks at him. Then he just has to pick up the ammo and lay into him.

     Episode 5: My Monkey Grifter 

Filmmaker Benjamin Clay (Jamie Demetriou) forms a deep, emotional, and financially taxing relationship with a monkey.

Parody of My Octopus Teacher.

  • 419 Scam: The "Kenyan researcher" that Benjamin communicates with is clearly one of these. In fact, everything, including the zoo, is an elaborate plot to con him into stealing his father-in-law's art collection.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: The ending suggests that Lulu is intelligent enough to have been in on it.
  • Downer Ending: The film ends with Benjamin losing his marriage, custody of his son, and all of his money. He still hasn't learned to not wire the "Kenyan researcher" legal funds, and the final shot is him realizing on camera that he's made a mistake.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Benjamin's previous film was about a man who could talk with birds. Everyone else could see it was a dotty old fellow with delusions of grandeur, and Benjamin became known as the idiot son-in-law of a famous Lord.
  • Impersonating an Officer: "Detective Blakely", who arrests Benjamin for the supposed murder of a zookeeper, masterminds the entire Lulu scheme to get at Lord Clay's art collection.
  • It's All About Me: In spite of his overearnest qualities, Benjamin is also extremely self-involved and narcissistic; not only does he believe a series of scam emails just because they say nice things about his movie, but the episode also implies that, contrary to his belief that she's become "difficult" and can't understand his work, his wife grew to hate him for being a neglectful father and husband. When decoding what he thinks is Lulu's sign language, he subconsciously translates her gestures into Lulu praising his talents — "artist", "risk-taker", "I want to see your films", etc.
    Benjamin: There was a kindness in her face that had been absent from the people in my life while they peppered me with aggressive questions, like, "did you really think that crazy man could talk to birds?", or, "how could you forget it was Nigel’s birthday?"
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Benjamin thinks of himself as a visionary that can see truth no one else can. Everyone else thinks he's a moron who is easily taken in by scams.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: After Lulu hears Benjamin ranting about his estranged wife, she appears to commit attempted murder by tripping her with a banana peel down a flight of stairs. When Ben confronts her about this, he sees her repeatedly gesturing to the zookeeper and believes she now wants him to hold up his end of the deal.
  • Super Gullible: Benjamin not only believes that Lulu's random monkey gestures are real sign language, but that she's capable of malice and murder.
  • Take That!: Usually, the show affectionately spoofs whatever documentary inspired that episode. For example, while "Kunuk Uncovered" acknowledged that much of Nanook of the North was faked, it is still somewhat respectful towards the source material. Here, however, the parody of My Octopus Teacher is more biting, portraying the protagonist as a neglectful husband and father who is easily duped into thinking his animal subject actually cares about him.
  • Upper-Class Twit: A variation, in that Benjamin is financially supported by his wife's family, which he in turn squandered by making a critically panned vanity project of a documentary, and has gained this public reputation as a result. Their ultimatum that he get a "proper job" falls on deaf ears once he's contacted by "Dr. Mwenda" and sees instead an opportunity to exonerate himself. By the end, he's cut off from them and flat broke.

     Episode 6: Trouver Frisson 

A film essay from 2000, in which revered filmmaker Ida Leos (Liliane Rovère) examines the loss of frisson (a sensation of thrill accompanied by goosebumps) in her life, leading to a journey across France to find it again.

Parody of the films of Agnès Varda (particularly The Gleaners and I and Faces Places).

  • Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: Pierre, Ida's old friend and collaborator, lives in a spartan care home. The staff seem caring enough, but they can't afford puzzles with all the pieces and Pierre's window looks onto a cinderblock wall. He tells Ida that no frission can happen in a place like this.
  • Brick Joke: Ida makes an extensive metaphor about the black mold stain in her home and her own aging skin, which can no longer get goosebumps. The post-credits epilogue reveals that she did get her frission back because the black mold was giving her malaise.
  • Cool Shades: Pierre Mouland has an extensive collection of sunglasses that he's worn throughout his life.
  • Le Film Artistique:
    • It's a navel-gazing exploration of an esoteric topic, featuring long stretches of voiceover, interviews, archival footage and montages.
    • Ida reminisces about starring in such a film with Pierre, playing a pair of philosophical bank robbers.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Ida Leos for Agnès Varda, Pierre Mouland for Jean-Luc Godard.
  • Quirky Town: The village of Frisson, which is naturally devoted to sensation-seeking, from such things as sex and sausage.
  • Serious Business: Ida (and everyone she talks to) treats the sensation of goosebumps as one of the most important things in life.