Welcome back to Friday afternoon. It’s been a hamberder of a week so far. Now it’s time to shift gears and think about weekend TV watching. I’ve got recommendations for two documentaries and a pair of cooking shows to check out between now and next Tuesday. Here’s what to put in your queue over the long weekend:
A tale of two Fyre Festival documentaries
The tweets about busted, soggy FEMA tents and colossal luggage mix-ups were bad enough, but it was a single photo of a sad cheese sandwich that was the tipping point for the Fyre Festival, an event that will surely be remembered as one of the great public follies of the millennial era. “One kid with probably 400 followers posted a picture of what was essentially cheese on toast,” says brand strategist Mick Purzycki in the new Netflix documentary Fyre. “That trended and it essentially ripped down the festival.”
The Netflix film is one of two new docs released this week about the 2017 music festival in the Bahamas, where all of the musical acts bailed and most of the accommodations were faulty or non-existent. The other, Hulu’s Fyre Fraud, got a surprise release on Monday, in a clear bid to beat the streaming competition. The documentaries tell similar stories, have nearly identical running times, and include commentary from some of the same Fyre Festival experts. But they set themselves apart from each other in a few distinct ways.
Fyre Fraud, from directors Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, looks at the festival through the lens of influencer culture and millennial ennui. The event’s primary founder, Billy McFarland, was able to dupe so many young people into paying exorbitant amounts of money for his event by playing into their desires to escape their boring lives and party with models, musicians, and social media stars. Some of the most fascinating moments are the interviews with the influencers who got sucked into the Fyre vortex, all of them experts at broadcasting glossy versions of their own lives under the guise of authenticity. The Hulu doc also, notably, includes interview segments with McFarland himself, during which the crooked entrepreneur — who’s now serving six years in a state penitentiary for crimes committed in the name of Fyre — unflinchingly covers up lies with more lies as the camera keeps rolling.
Meanwhile, Fyre, from American Movie filmmaker Chris Smith, treats the festival like a true-crime saga about a conniving fraudster (McFarland) who betrayed not just the festival attendees, but all of his employees and business associates. The film was produced in collaboration with Jerry Media, the company that devised Fyre’s social media and marketing presences. Thanks to Jerry’s involvement, the Netflix documentary includes a lot of behind-the-scenes footage that seems stranger than fiction, including reel from the filming of the festival’s announcement video featuring five of the world’s top supermodels and McFarland’s celebrity partner, rapper Ja Rule. “We’re selling a pipe dream to your average loser, your average guy in Middle America,” McFarland barks at the models at one point.
Of course, Jerry Media’s involvement with the production is somewhat questionable, considering the fact that the company helped McFarland spin the Fyre fantasy that lured so many young people to a random, deserted patch of gravel next to the Sandals resort in the Bahamas. And while the Jerry guys position themselves in the Netflix doc as professionals working through a rough situation, the Hulu film is much harder on them, thanks in part to the participation of Oren Aks, a graphic designer who defected from the team, and is featured here as one of the main talking heads.
Although both docs have their fair share of outlandish revelations, Fyredigs deeper in terms of the logistical meltdowns that occured before, during, and after the event. In one memorable sequence, Maryann Rolle, a local chef/restaurateur who fed the Fyre construction crew, describes her surprise at seeing the first busload of guests dumped at her beachside restaurant, without warning, on the first (and ultimately only) day of the festival. And, in what is arguably the most shocking moment, an event producer named Andy King details how McFarland asked him to offer a sexual favor to a customs agent in a bid to retrieve four truckloads of confiscated Evian water.
If you’re considering which of the two Fyre docs to watch this weekend, the answer is probably Fyre Fraud, since it tells a bigger story than the festival itself, but I personally enjoyed Fyre more as a film. And if you have three hours to kill this weekend, I’d highly recommend watching both, even back-to-back, as I did earlier this week.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Dinner With the Band, “Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings”
Watch it on: Amazon Video
The gist: Reading Lizzy Goodman’s excellent oral history of post-2000s rock and roll Meet me in the Bathroom got me thinking about Brooklyn in the mid-2000s, and this awesome show that came out of that creative scene. Each episode features Sam Mason, fresh off his stint on Top Chef, making dinner with an up-and-coming artist in a groovy Williamsburg loft. In this case, it’s Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings helping Sam make a yuzu-marinated skirt steak with red-eye gravy, and a “when I come home martini.” In between dish preparations, the band performs “100 Days, 100 Nights” & “When I Come Home.” Mason has a relaxed rapport with the band, and the music sounds great.
Sadly, Sharon Jones died two years ago. The creative spark that band embodied has largely been drained from the neighborhood, and the loft where this episode was filmed was replaced by a shiny J. Crew store a few years ago. But this episode captures the spirit of an exciting time for music, food, and culture in this part of Brooklyn.
In case you want to go further down the Dinner With the Band rabbit hole, both seasons of the show are available on Amazon.
Girl Meets Farm, “Healthy New Year”
The gist: Molly Yeh is quickly becoming my favorite Food Network star (sorry, Guy) because her recipes are approximately 35 percent more creative than what you find on the other shows, and she seems extremely at ease in her nifty, retro kitchen. In this installment of Girl Meets Farm, Molly makes her own riffs on pita bread, a Mediterranean salad, and hummus with ground beef, plus “fresh mint cupcakes with cream cheese frosting” for dessert. The title of this episode is something of a misnomer, because, while all of these dishes look fun to make, none of them seem remotely healthy.
In other entertainment news…
- Jason Diamond went on the hunt for Sopranos headshots in restaurants throughout the Tri-State area recently, and what he found was fans of all ages that still carry a flame for the HBO show.
- It seems that the characters on afterlife comedies The Good Place and Forever are damned to eat boring foods for all eternity.
- On the Tonight Show this week, José Andrés and Jimmy Fallon talked about Puerto Rico’s recovery effort after Hurricane Maria.
- After being seated next to disgraced former CBS head honcho Les Moonves at the Polo Lounge in LA this week, comedian Kathy Griffin asked to be moved to a different table.
- The judges really dragged the contestants on Top Chef this week for messing up the beef challenge.
- And finally, Stephen Colbert’s beer bottle-filled rant about the Trump administration’s latest moves is maybe the only funny thing to come out of the government shutdown.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something hearty and vaguely budget-friendly this weekend, consider checking out this recipe for rotisserie chicken ramen from Lucky Peach’s 101 Easy Asian Recipes.