Peacock is ringing in the new year with the debut of a bizarre new series made by Borat Sequel motion picture director Jason Woliner, and based on the trailer alone, it looks like it’s going to be a genre- and reality-bending ride that’s, to put it bluntly, weird as hell. With the title Paul T. Goldman, The six-episode series counts Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg as executive producers and … hmmm, how to even explain that? It’s just your typical trailer for a TV series with scenes and behind-the-scenes scenes from a movie based on a screenplay based on a book based on the life of a man who tweeted at Woliner in 2012 and sparked a ten-year passion project that included the production of said film as well as true-crime-docu-style footage. Typical stuff. Here’s Woliner’s note about the show:
In 2012, a man named Paul T. Goldman tweeted to me.
He said he had an incredible story to tell and had written a book – and a screenplay – about it. He asked for my help to bring it to the screen. When I clicked on his Twitter, I saw that he had tweeted the exact same thing to hundreds of other people. I clicked on his website and watched a video he had recorded himself: He was a middle-aged, nebbishy guy who gave a monologue about how he had been the victim of a shocking betrayal that led to a transformation “from bitch to warrior” . and put him on a mission to take down an (alleged) international crime ring. I bought the book immediately.
It instantly became my favorite book I’ve ever read. The story is equal parts fascinating, funny, shocking and often strangely moving. It has endless bizarre twists and turns, and Paul himself is the most captivating person I’ve ever met. He reminded me of my favorite documentary subjects: Mark Borchardt from American filmTimothy Treadwell from grizzly man, or the kind of people who appear in Errol Morris movies like Tabloid and Sir. Death. They are striking, quirky, passionate, a little “off”; individuals with a strong sense of purpose, but perhaps an atypical form of self-awareness. After a few months of quiet observation, I replied to Paul and told him I was in.
The resulting series—a culmination of over a decade of filming—ended up being the most conceptually ambitious and personal project I’ve ever worked on. It’s an experimental show in many ways, and I’m still in grateful disbelief that the Peacock let me do it. The format, which combines familiar doc elements with dramatized scenes that Paul wrote about his story – with Paul playing himself — and weaving to with behind-the-scenes footage from the making of this show (don’t worry, it makes sense when you see it, I promise) was basically my way of taking a camera inside the brain of this very unique person. At times Paul comes across as likable and at other times he’s uncomfortable – and it’s going to be really exciting to see the social media response and conversation this creates as audiences debate where they stand on him and his story.
I’ve always been drawn to projects that are funny, surprisingly moving, innovative in form, and use real people to tell stories in groundbreaking ways. From my work onwards Nathan to you to the two years I spent directing Sacha Baron Cohen Borat Sequel motion picture, I can’t deny that I love being in uncomfortable, fascinating moments and figuring out how to capture them on camera. This is a project that has never stopped evolving and revealing new wrinkles, and after working on it for over ten years, my excitement for it only continues to grow. I can’t wait to bring the rest of the world in and I sincerely hope you enjoy this very unique series.
So why did Woliner devote ten years of his life to this one guy? “Um, it’s something I’ve been trying to figure out for years … I just became obsessed with him and his story and I couldn’t let go,” he says. “And despite years of the world telling me it wasn’t going to happen, for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to let go,” he adds with a laugh. “It’s kind of been this passion project that I wanted to tell people about and couldn’t shut up about, and I just kept pushing for ten years until finally, through some irritation and willpower and persistence in Paul Goldman style, figured out how to finish it, basically.”
The series is set to debut on the Peacock on January 1 with three episodes followed by new episodes every week. (Woliner is still working on the finale, which he says is “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to edit.”) Aside from Paul and Woliner, the series features a bevy of supporting actors, including Melinda McGraw, Christopher Stanley, Dennis Haysbert, Josh Pais, Rosanna Arquette and Frank Grillo.
Woliner says he hopes people check it out with an open mind — and ideally, without as much information beforehand as possible. “I would love for people to experience it the same way I did, which is just kind of going in blind and taking this journey with Paul and this story. There’s no wrong answer to this, so I’m very interested to see how people react.” As for Paul himself, Woliner says he’s ready for his big spotlight and already has his own take on how to brand the show. “Yesterday Paul told me he’s calling it a docu-dramedy, which I thought, Yeah, it’s… it’s pretty good.“
Try to define the show for yourself when it premieres on Peacock New Year’s Day.