Recently Consumed Media: Behind the Mask

We moved recently, and in an effort to keep costs down, became a hulu-and-Netflix-only-for-tv household. Mostly, it’s liberating to be untied from network ratings battles and the impossibly unpredictable schedules of cable programming.  There are things to miss — for me, it’s the nightly news and Jeopardy! — but for the most part the transition has been a fairly painless.

The best part of being a ‘web-based viewer’ is finding stuff you might not otherwise watch. You’re surfing around looking for the perfect show and something catches your eye… sometimes you’re back to browsing within seconds after taking a gamble on a show that turns out to be totally stupid. But other times, you find a little gem.

Behind the Mask, a hulu original, is one of those gems.

What it is:

Created by filmmaker Josh Greenbaum, Behind the Mask profiles sports and business mascots at various stages of their careers, be it at the high school, college, semi-pro, freelance, or pro level. It has two seasons in the can, and earned a Sports Emmy nomination for Outstanding New Approaches in Sports Programming in 2014.

Why it’s good:

The primary reason Behind the Mask rocks is the people it profiles. Some serendipitous wind blew a slew of really interesting people in Greenbaum’s direction… or maybe this is just a side-effect of the mascot subculture. Either way, these are compelling, multi-faceted, root-for-’em type of people hidden behind fur, fiberglass, and mesh-covered eye holes.

Take Kevin Vanderkolk, for instance, who doubles as the NBA Milwaukee Bucks’ Bango. A long-trained gymnast (who married a neurologist) Vanderkolk has athleticism that rivals and in some ways bests that of the players he’s cheering on.

This also isn’t a reality show that tries to contort its characters into society’s ne’er-do-wells. Instead, every mascot featured in two seasons experiences some type of success, which the show celebrates, and their share of defeats. Thanks to compassionate filming and some great storytelling, I found myself celebrating every win and sharing every disappointment. Real reality programming is so refreshing.

Just one thing, hulu…stop selling ad space to SeaWorld so they can assure us their orcas are happy. Thanks.

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