Netflix should resist the urge to do a Tiger King sequel

It's time to give up the golden goose, says Emma Bullimore.

tiger king

What is it about Tiger King? Somehow a fairly interesting (but strung out) documentary series about a cast of colourful (some might say criminal) characters has become the must-see show of the year. Even Prince William’s talking about it.

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Sitting on Netflix alongside some truly original, ground-breaking programming, this series spotlighting animal abuse and dodgy mullets trampled over all the rest. If you don’t know who Carole Baskin is then, quite simply, you haven’t been doing lockdown right.

Now the rumour mill is churning out all sorts of possible sequels. Aside from the dramatic adaptation with Nicholas Cage playing Joe Exotic, there are rumours of various follow up series from Tiger King 2, to a Siegfried and Roy side show. Joe’s associate Jeff Lowe has already been given his own reality series and more will follow – just think about all the TOWIE spin-offs on ITV2 and you’ll get my drift.

It may be controversial, but I’m here to ask Netflix to resist them all. Seriously, quit while you’re ahead. Of course you’ll make money from a spin-off, anticipation will be huge and millions will press play. But much like series 2 of Killing Eve, it’s a doomed project – whatever show you make doesn’t stand a chance of matching the success of a series, elevated in no small part by the weird backdrop of a pandemic. While terrestrial channels panicked about filling the schedules, Mr Netflix put his feet up and fed us to the lions.

A sequel is a bad idea for many reasons.

Let me start with the people who love the show. You’ve enjoyed the series, do you really want a watered down follow up that doesn’t live up to the original? Haven’t these characters told their stories already? A lot of series one was achieved because the subjects were so naive. Joe Exotic spoke incredibly openly, his heart on his sleeve. Surely even he would put his guard up in front of the cameras now, as would the likes of Carole Baskin who is furious with how the series turned out. And just think of Making A Murderer – series one was all anybody could talk about. Series two barely caused us to bat an eyelid.

Now a word for those, like me, who think the series is overrated. Somehow we’re all so shocked by Joe’s lifestyle, by the country music career, the polygamy and the dangerous obsession with his antagonists, that the series has established itself as flamboyant bit of entertainment. “Isn’t he bonkers” we tweet, “This story is insane!” we text.

Tiger King
Joe Exotic at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Netflix’s Tiger King

But hang on a minute, isn’t this one of the darkest things you’ve ever seen on TV? Accusations of tiger cubs being routinely euthanised in gas chambers? Assassinations being ordered left, right and centre? Zoos being run like cults with employees worked into the ground and emotionally abused? Do we really want to glorify these horrific tales, peppered with misogyny and cruelty, any more than we have already? Do you want to give some of these chilling characters more air time by creating a circus of reality TV shows around them? I would watch a sequel in which the police picked apart all of the accusations that emerged from series one, but other than that I’m done.

Don’t get me wrong, if Joe Exotic is freed I would watch his post-jail Oprah interview the moment it dropped. But otherwise I hope Netflix locks the door on Tiger King’s cage and walks away.

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Season one of Tiger King is available to watch on Netflix now. To find out what else is on, check out our TV Guide.