“Tiger King,” the Netflix documentary series that briefly distracted weary viewers from the coronavirus pandemic and infuriated conservationists, is back.
The wildly popular show ended its seven-episode arc with the titular subject, Joe Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, in federal prison, serving a 22-year-sentence for planning the murder of an animal-rights activist and for killing five tigers.
Netflix announced Thursday that an eighth installment would premiere Sunday. The episode will be an “after show” hosted by comedian Joel McHale and will include new interviews with people involved in the original series. (Notably absent from the list of interviews were Joe Exotic, who is in prison, and Carole Baskin, the operator of Big Cat Rescue, who has been critical of her portrayal in the show. As rumors about a new episode swirled this week, Baskin told Entertainment Weekly that she had not been approached to participate and would not agree to it if she were.)
“It’s eye-opening and hopefully funny,” McHale said in a video accompanying the announcement.
Since the series streamed, Joe Exotic has simultaneously expressed remorse for caging animals and bemoaned his inability to enjoy his new fame, and animal welfare activists have called for passage of federal legislation that would restrict some of the practices featured in the documentary. Casting has already begun for a fictional series based on a podcast about the story.
The filmmakers said they set out to expose the behind-the-scenes world of roadside zoos, which breed tiger, cougar and leopard cubs so customers can pet them and pose for photos, a practice animal rights groups said exploits and abuses the animals. The big cats, however, became a backdrop for what turned into a strange tale about the outlandish and unethical behavior of some zoo owners, murder plots and conspiracy theories, and questionable wardrobe choices.
Viewers stuck at home were absorbed by the series, which has sat comfortably among Netflix’s most-viewed original programs since it was released last month. Celebrities have posted pictures of themselves dressed in the more memorable get-ups of Joe Exotic and some of the other people featured in the series.
But animal rights groups said they hoped the new episode would shed light on the cruel experiences of the big cats trapped inside roadside zoos and focus less on the colorful, if morally ambiguous, people who handle them.
“These animals are not playthings. They are wild animals who should not be bought, sold and put on display the way they are,” said Kitty Block, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. “The story that needs to be told is about the animals and the suffering they go through.”
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