What’s Worth Watching: ‘Documentary Now! on IFC for Thursday, August 20

Documentary Now! Season 1
Tyler Golden/IFC
Description:Documentary Now! Season 1 Characters/Actors:(L to R) Fred Armisen and Bill Hader Type:Photos Photo Credit:Tyler Golden/IFC

Documentary Now!, “Sandy Passage” (Thursday, Aug. 20, 10/9, IFC)

Saturday Night Live alums Bill Hader and Fred Armisen, working with fellow executive producer/writer Seth Meyers, prove once again to be master satirists in one of the more elaborately amusing and effective put-ons we’ve seen in some time. Documentary Now!, introduced each week with mock gravitas by the esteemed Helen Mirren, is a six-part anthology of impressively detailed documentary parodies, aping the styles of iconic non-fiction films and series. (Future installments spoof Robert Flaherty’s silent Nanook of the North and the contemporary globe-trotting crusading of Vice.)

It will be hard to top the wild inaugural segment, “Sandy Passage,” which mimics the Maysles brothers’ bizarre 1975 cinema verité cult classic Grey Gardens. Armisen and Hader deliver uncanny impersonations of the reclusive and delusional mother and daughter living in squalor in a cat-infested, decrepit beach house. Irascible and pathetic, they’re quite the character study—until the seldom-glimpsed filmmakers dig deeper into the more sinister particulars beneath the surface, and unexpectedly, we find ourselves watching a creepy variation on The Blair Witch Project. It’s screamingly funny, and that’s almost the truth.