Around this time last year, Wild Wild Country took the Twittersphere by the "tough titties" (to quote Sheela) storm. The Netflix documentary seemed too, well, wild to be true. Over six episodes, viewers learned of a sex cult history that included rumored poisoning by ground-up beavers, multiple assassination plots, the founder of Nike, a man getting stabbed in the butt by a syringe, massive alleged voter and immigration fraud schemes, and so much more. Somehow, this all went down in the rural hills of Oregon.
Even when the story of self-created city Rajneeshpuram, its “master” Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and his secretary Ma Anand Sheela ends with Wild Wild County’s “Part 6,” it seems like there’s still so much story to be told. Thankfully, IFC’s parody comedy Documentary Now is picking up where Netflix’s doc left off.
Doc Now season 3, debuting February 20 at 11 p.m. with two-parter “Batsh*t Valley,” embraces all the can’t-believe-this-is-real ridiculousness of Wild Wild Country, and then pushes it one step further.
The basic premise of “Batsh*t” follows Wild Wild Country’s major strokes. Zoolander’s Owen Wilson is Father Ra-Shawbard, the comedy’s Bhagwan (later called Osha) replacement. Shawbard rules over free love the Shawbard Valley commune as its colorfully-robbed guru, which the nearby community of Chinook, OR doesn’t love. Shawbard’s emissary Ra-Sharir (Necar Zadegan) is the draconian master manipulator who acts as his lieutenant (the fanatical similarity to Sheela is impossible to miss). Multiple witnesses from both the Shawbardite and Chinook sides offer color commentary throughout the fictional doc. Some individuals look almost creepily similar to Wild’s best interviewees.
However, Documentary Now, created by Barry’s Bill Hader and Forever’s Fred Armisen, doesn’t stop at merely copying the strange details of real-life documentaries past. Instead, “Batshit” takes the Wild details fans have seen and makes them so much stranger. There’s a great early-episode riff on Rajneeshpuram’s insistence on self-grown vegetables. Another joke takes the cult’s free love, public sex vibes to its silliest end, and then makes it even more bizarre by the end of “Part 2.” The cunning and wild eyes of Sheela become even more fearsome through Ra-Sharir. Sheela may have dropped the spare F-bomb on many a late night show, but Ra-Sharir screams, “Are you ready to die today?!”
“Batsh*t” works so well because episode writer Seth Meyers, of Saturday Night Live and Late Night fame, clearly takes the source material seriously. That’s why “Part 2” employs a surprise twist to give its narrative a resounding conclusion. At the end of Wild Wild Country's actual finale, it’s difficult not to be left with questions. Why was everyone wearing those colors? What did Sheela really want? What did Bhagwan really want? Why aren’t entire chapters of our national history dedicated to this Pacific Northwest catastrophe? “Batsh*t Part 2” puts in a lot of work to figure out a zany explanation for all of those mysteries that is still believable.
So if you spent the last 12 months wishing Wild Wild Country's wild ride never ended, you can at least pretend it's one hour longer. Not so tough titties at all.