Fred Armisen and Bill Hader as Big and Little Vivvy on Documentary Now! Credit: IFC

When I interviewed actress Jodie Sweetin last week she said she wasn’t planning to watch Lifetime’s The Unauthorized Full House Story, a TV movie about the pukey, popular late-80s/early-90s kids’ shitcom she starred in. As a not-famous person whose only hope of becoming a character in a Lifetime movie is violently murdering my husband or cutting a baby out of someone’s stomach, it’s impossible to imagine not watching, especially if promotional photos released in advanced of the movie’s premiere indicated that it had been hastily cast by a blind person.

This astounding and beautiful disregard for detail was the lifeblood that coursed through the entirety of the Full House Story and made it so delightfully garbagey. Every cast member looked like a made-in-China Halloween-mask version of the actor they portrayed and none of them made an honest attempt to affect their subject’s manner of speech or behavior. The re-created set bore no resemblance to the Tanner house we practically grew up in. And at one point Dave Coulier (Justin Mader) made a “more cowbell” joke even though the scene was set at least ten years before the Christopher Walken SNL sketch ever aired. Say what you will about bitty budgets and contracted shooting schedules, this kind of recklessness with the particulars has to be willful—it’s cheese that’s been carefully crafted to result in eye rolls and laughs. Next month the network rolls out both The Unauthorized Beverly Hills 90210 Story and The Unauthorized Melrose Place Story. They’re no fools. 

Meanwhile Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and cocreator Seth Meyers are looking for laughs by homing in on the minutiae of true stories on the new IFC mockumentary series Documentary Now! Using well-known films as their source material, the guys create fictionalized versions that go in bizarre and funny directions. The premiere episode, entitled Sandy Passage, is a parody of the Maysles brothers’ 1976 classic Grey Gardens. If truth is stranger than fiction, it was a bold place for Doc Now to start considering that Big and Little Edie Beale (here Big and Little Vivvy Van Kimpton) are about as strange as two documentary subjects have ever gotten.

The accents are more Brooklyn urchin than northeastern aristocrat, but otherwise Armisen and Hader attach to and augment for comedic effect the most amusing bits of Grey Gardens, from the mute marble fawn of a delivery boy to Little Edie’s habit of leaning in and whispering to whichever Maysles is behind the camera things she doesn’t want her mother to hear. The picture quality and camerawork are re-created to perfection too, and for a while the parody seems almost too spot-on. Finally, the story hangs a left turn and heads down a dark path toward a hilariously plausible conclusion. 

In the next two episodes, Armisen and Hader go on to mock Vice‘s cocksure brand of hipster journalism (here the media company is called Dronez) and create an alternate history for the Nanook-like Eskimo Kanuk. Now if only we could talk them into skewering Lifetime’s series of 80s TV biopics.