IFC’s ‘Documentary Now’ Goes Where Other Parodies Won’t

SNL alums team up for the fun of it

Though it features hilarious send-ups of some of the most influential documentaries of the last 30 years, Documentary Now—the new IFC series Seth Meyers created with fellow SNL alums Bill Hader and Fred Armisen—means no harm, Meyers says. 

"We wanted these to feel like companions," said Meyers, during a screening and discussion Tuesday night in New York.

In Sandy Passage, the premiere episode airing tonight at 10 p.m. ET, Hader and Armisen play two upper-class recluses, parodying the 1975 documentary turned Broadway play turned 2009 HBO film, Grey Gardens. "Nothing would make us happier than if people saw Sandy Passage and it would make them—if they hadn't seen it—go see Grey Gardens," Meyers said.

Director and producer Rhys Thomas noted that, first and foremost, they are fans of all the films Documentary Now parodies. They even contacted the people behind the originals before they began filming. "We slowly started reaching out to them to see if they'd be cool with it," said Thomas. "I don't think we got a single 'no.'"

"We really wanted it to be authentic to those films," added Hader. "I got excited when they said, 'We actually got the lenses that they shot The Thin Blue Line on to do [their parody, The Eye Doesn't Lie]."

While Grey Gardens and The Thin Blue Line don't immediately jump out as being ripe for parody, Brooklyn-based Vice would seem like the perfect target.

Documentary Now's second episode is about a Vice-esque news organization, Dronez, which sends ultrahipster reporters to Juarez, Mexico, to try to find the head of a drug cartel. The episode gamely sends up Vice's self-described edginess and its boast that it goes where other news outlets won't. It features Jack Black in a role obviously spoofing Vice founder Shane Smith.

When panel host, Alex Wagner of MSNBC, described the episode as being a "vicious" takedown of Vice's self-celebrated "edgy" style, Armisen refuted that notion. "I wouldn't say at all; that's just their style," he said. "That's just the way that they are."

Showing no hard feelings, Vice ran a clip from the episode on its website. IFC has made the full episode available.

"They really liked it because it was about them," said Hader. "They were actually really helping us a lot."