IFC’s “Documentary Now!” will never be a broadly appealing series, even among the channel’s very specific target demographic of highly educated, high-income earners. Shows like “Portlandia” mirror the outré lifestyles of the numerous casual hipsters in the audience; those jokes about boutiques featuring fashion influenced by 1890s-era lithographs are hilarious because they’re so true, amirite?
Meanwhile “Documentary Now!,” Fred Armisen’s other IFC series that he does with Bill Hader, is slavishly specific in its homages to classic documentaries that most people have never seen. Viewers can still be won over by an episode’s gentle humor if they go in cold, but the sharpest humor lands more on target for those who have seen the original work.
This week’s episode “Parker Gail’s Location Is Everything,” premiering Wednesday at 10 p.m. on IFC, offers an interesting middle ground by parodying the late Spalding Gray’s work in Jonathan Demme's 1987 film “Swimming to Cambodia." Gray was known for his autobiographical monologue pieces, finding a level of success in his performances that few were able to replicate.
But in this exclusive clip, Hader does such an impressive job of co-opting Gray’s style and electric endurance that his Parker Gail effectively exists apart from Gray, the man upon which he was based. All that a person needs is to be familiar with Hader’s brilliant character work, which is channeled to ridiculously indulgent effect in this piece, and the salubrious effect a good hot dog can have after hearing bad news. The guest appearance by improvisational actress Lennon Parham, star of USA’s “Playing House,” is a welcome bonus.