Inspired by a 2013 Saturday Night Live sketch entitled “Ian Rubbish and the Bizzaros: History of Punk,” Documentary Now! was first ordered by IFC in March 2014. Former Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, and Bill Hader created the series, along with former Saturday Night Live director-producer Rhys Thomas. For IFC, they co-produce with Saturday Night Live's creator Lorne Michaels. The seven-episode Documentary Now! season 1 premiered in August 2015, and concluded with a popular two-part production called “Gentle & Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee, Parts 1 & 2,” in which the aforementioned Hader and Armisen parody the 2013 documentary History of the Eagles. Comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney scripted three episodes of Documentary Now! season 2, along with the Documentary Now! season 3 episode "Original Cast Album: Co-Op,” which parodies D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 documentary Original Cast Album: Company.
Per Deadline, IFC has officially renewed Documentary Now! for season 4. The press release statement aligns with the series’ comedic premise, as Armisen notes, “Every project in existence is great. All shows are of equal money and value, and this one is no different.” In addition, Meyers suggests, “This has been, and always will be, a cash grab.” An official premiere date for Documentary Now! season 4 hasn’t been set, primarily because “Fred, Bill and Seth are super-busy.” Since 2014, Meyers has hosted the NBC talk show Late Night with Seth Meyers, with Armisen serving as the bandleader. Prior to that, Meyers was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 2001 to 2014, while Armisen appeared on the series from 2002 to 2013, and also co-created the IFC satire series Portlandia.
As for Hader, he’s the co-creator and star of the HBO series Barry. On March 31, Barry season 2 premiered, and will complement the return of HBO’s most popular program, Game of Thrones. On Barry, Hader portrays the title character, a hitman trying to jumpstart his acting career in Los Angeles. Barry season 1 premiered in March 2018, and Hader ultimately won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In addition, his Barry co-star Henry Winkler also won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. As a whole, Barry received five Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and was renewed in April 2018.
While Documentary Now! is fundamentally about comedy, it’s also a series that takes pride in attention to detail, and being faithful to its original source material. At times, the Documentary Now! jokes are so dry that some viewers may gloss over the inherent comedy, all the while reveling in the authenticity and quality filmmaking. All of the Documentary Now! creators are well-versed in comedic writing and improvisation, while Hader is known to be a knowledgeable cinephile, one who appreciates international and independent cinema. Moving forward, Documentary Now! will be able to provide laughs while making astute commentaries about pop culture, both past and present.