Tiger King Was the Biggest Pop Culture Phenomenon

Young couple sitting on their sofa watching Tiger King on Netflix
Artwork by Anthony Faust
Young couple sitting on their sofa watching Tiger King on Netflix

One thing that was a bummer during COVID-19 was the lack of new content available to watch on cable, streaming platforms, and theaters.

There were more new shows than ever, with something for everyone’s taste, but, the second week of March 2020, across the board, all television productions shut down. In the world of tight turnarounds and very little time dedicated to keeping shows “in the can” (completely done with production and ready to air), it was a matter of time before networks and streamers ran out of new fresh content.

Netflix was ready for this challenge. In fact, as people began to stay home during the pandemic, Netflix thrived. In the first three months of 2020, nearly 16 million users created accounts, which was almost double the number that signed up in the last few months of 2019.

The crown jewel of the pandemic lockdown period was The Tiger King. It was released on March 20, just as many Americans were settling into their new routine of not leaving their homes. In the first week of its release, it attracted (according to Nielsen) an estimated 34.3 million viewers. That is comparable to how many viewers Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, and All in the Family pulled in during the 70s, when there were only three lousy channels to pick from.

You could not escape Tiger King talk. It was a true crime documentary miniseries which told the story of Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, the former an owner of a big cat private zoo, and the latter an animal rights activist who tried to take him down.

It was discussed on Zoom Happy Hours, around socially distanced bonfires, and was the fodder of all the late-night shows recording from their hosts’ homes. People loved debating what really happened and loved discussing the crazy characters. Even months later, by Halloween, it remained one of the most popular costumes.

For the people that stayed home and went into binge mode, those first weeks of the pandemic and Tiger King will forever be linked. 

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About the Author

My life as a husband and father transformed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sent home from work in March 2020, I've yet to return to the office. Adapting to the new pandemic world proved challenging for us all.

However, we managed to find silver linings. Drive-by birthdays brought joy to my kids' friends. I'll never forget stumbling upon a heartfelt hand-painted rock during my jog, reminding us that we're all in this together. Regular Zoom happy hours with close friends created cherished memories.

While quality time with my family was a blessing, we also faced hurdles. Assisting my youngest daughter with frustrating math homework on a poorly designed iPad app tested our patience. Both girls struggled with wearing masks during sports and school.

Sadly, witnessing COVID-19 being politicized and witnessing the closure of small businesses while the wealthy thrived was disheartening.

I wrote this book to document our experiences, learning from them and striving for better decisions in the future. Join me on this rewarding journey of resilience and growth.

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