Looking for documentaries? Recommended watches …
I’m a shameless consumer of documentaries, but like anything else, they are all about personal taste. There are docs that are excellent, but if the subject matter doesn’t float your boat, then you’re not going to be interested (sports, fashion, medical, and political documentaries, for example, are just not my thing).
That said, many people ask me what I’ve been watching lately if they’re into documentaries. Although I’ve been too crazy busy to do much of anything, I was lucky enough to get some downtime due to illness earlier in the year, I’m often working on mindless projects that could use an incentive, and I do take a full day off once in awhile to prevent burn-out and turn off my brain.
Here are some of the documentaries I’ve watched since the beginning of the year, and where to find them. Any that were directly related to my writing projects I didn’t list—there’d just be a glut of stuff on the same topics, and I wanted to give some variety. Please note, I’m not giving reviews on quality—I have no idea what constitutes a “great” documentary from a “crappy” one. These are just ones I enjoyed and thought were worth the time.
Hope you find something on here that strikes your fancy!
Bad Vegan: Frame, Fraud, Fugitives
The story of a vegan chef who rose to fame and fortune rather quickly among the elite—and then lost it all when she fell for the wrong guy (who’s clearly a narcissist. If you don’t understand what gaslighting is, watch this, because wow you’ll never be fooled again), which resulted in a pretty amazing extortion spree that ended in her suffering abuse and on the run. 2022, four episodes at around an hour, Netflix.
This one has gotten panned for being “shallow,” but honestly, how much depth do you really want about a couple of women who were abusing their children before killing them and themselves? This was more than sufficient and tasteful considering the circumstances, featuring interviews with investigators, neighbors, and examination of the family’s very public social media presence, and is a stark reminder that people can construct some pretty fake existences—if nothing else, this is a lesson in don’t believe everything you see (even the national media bought their façade), and that predators can lurk behind the most heroic-seeming people. 2021, 1 hour, 25 minutes, Discovery+ (also available through Amazon Prime).
Downfall: The Case against Boeing
This is enough to make you swear off flying forever. An examination of the cover-ups and victim blaming involving two fatal crashes of the Boeing 737 Max in 2018 and 2019 (you probably recall—this was back when all of those planes were grounded). Interviews with industry and FAA experts, former Boeing employees, pilots, and victims’ loved ones. 2022, 1 hour, 30 minutes, Netflix.
Meltdown: Three Mile Island
The 1979 Three Mile Island accident predated Chernobyl by seven years, but it’s not discussed nearly as much. This series reveals the missteps and safety culture failures that lead to the Three Mile Island disaster and its aftermath. Full of archival footage, original newscasts, analysis of the social/pop cultural/political climate of the time, it also includes compelling interviews with area residents—and the one man who pretty much saved the East Coast. 2022, four episodes running a little under 50 minutes each, Netflix.
The Found Footage Phenomenon
Movers and shakers in the found footage subgenre trace its history from its origins to today. Chock full of clips and analysis on the social, political, historical, and technological events that have shaped it, this is not to be missed. 2021, 1 hour, 41 minutes, Shudder.
The 80s: Top Ten
This six-part series jam-packed with vintage footage and interviews is seasoned with a bit of cheese, but it’s still a fascinating look at several things that made the 1980s one of the most memorable decades in history. Host Rob Lowe counts down the top ten watercooler moments (i.e., big news stories), streetwear, fast food, commercials, gadgets, and toys. If you grew up in the 1980s, grab your favorite snack to take along on this nostalgic trip down memory lane! 2021, six hour-long episodes, Disney+ (under the National Geographic tab).
Bathtubs over Broadway
Have you ever heard of an “industrial musical”? Yeah, I hadn’t either. These were shows—and sometimes films—that were made by corporations to boost employee morale, and were often presented at annual conferences. Follow one man on his journey to rediscover this lost art that, apparently, many actors, actresses, and now-classic Broadway songwriters and composers coveted to be involved in because the work was pretty steady—and the paycheck far larger. 2018, 1 hour, 27 minutes, Netflix (also available for rent on Amazon).
Remember The Price is Right? Well, if you do and watched it during its golden years in the 70s through the 90s, then you don’t want to miss this fascinating look behind the scenes, how prices could be figured out ahead of time—and at the scandal that nearly brought it to its knees. 2017, 1 hour, 12 minutes, Netflix.
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Ambercrombie & Fitch
I was never an A&F person, but this history of the company’s lightning rise and meteoric fall is studded with both groundbreaking and unsavory business practices. What a paradoxical ride, holy crap. 2022, 1 hour, 28 minutes, Netflix.
Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed
A history of the Hillsong Megachurch, from its founding Australia through the marketing campaigns that made it famous and on to cover-ups, scandals, and abuse allegations. The church’s victims and former satellite heads speak out, and there are loads of video clips of actual services and analysis of the marketing tactics and why they worked. Pretty interesting stuff. 2022, three episodes running a little under one hour each, Amazon Prime.
The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin
A look at the Christian weight loss guru’s rise to power. Interviews with former Weigh Down participants and church members shed light on her church’s cultish practices. 2021/2022, five episodes approximately an hour each, HBOMax.
NOVA: Dinosaur Apocalypse
This two-part dino-lover’s dream examines the groundbreaking discoveries made at Tanis (with the scientist who discovered them), which reveal much about the actual day the dinosaurs died. An impaled turtle, spherules from the asteroid impact lodged in the gills of fish, a mass death assemblage of several different creatures, and elements found only in space all paint a compelling portrait of the sequence of events on the last day. 2022, two episodes at under an hour each, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/series/dinosaur-apocalypse/
Yellowstone Supervolcano: An American Doomsday
Interviews with experts and renderings of effects when the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone finally goes are highlights of this documentary, but I found the explanations for basic volcano mechanics very useful for the lay person. It’s also a sobering look at a disaster that’s eventually going to happen whether we like it or not—even if it’s not in our lifetime. 2021, 1 hour, 23 minutes, Discovery+ (also available through Amazon Prime).
Posted on June 22, 2022, in Deep Thoughts & Fun Stuff and tagged 1980s fads, Ambercrombie & Fitch, Bad Vegan, Bathtubs over Broadway, Boeing 737 Max disasters 2018, Broken Harts, documentaries about air disasters, documentaries about nuclear disasters like Chernobyl, documentaries about volcanoes, Documentaries to watch in 2022, found footage documentary, found footage movies, Gwen Shamblin, Hillsong churches, new Hillsong documentary, NOVA documentary about discovery at Tanis, The Price is Right, Three Mile Island, true crime documentaries, TV show about 1980s, what happened the day the dinosaurs died, what happened to Gwen Shamblin. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
A super volcano, asteroids/dinosaurs, a church lady named Gwen, and the Boeing documentary all sound particularly intriguing to me.
Oh, good! I’m glad you found something interesting! That dinosaur one is FANTASTIC. I love the way they describe, in depth, what they can tell about the animal from the condition of the bones and provenience. I took archaeology for a while, so I was especially into that. Plus, you know … dinosaurs.
And the one about Gwen is like a train wreck you can’t stop staring at. Totally shocking.