Paul T. Goldman premieres January 1 on Peacock.
By Elazar Abrahams
“This is 99% true,” says Paul Goldman early on in the new six-episode series bearing his name. “I’ve only embellished some of the trivial details.” An episode later, that number is down to 97%, and as viewers get deeper into the season, they won’t be certain if they can believe anything that comes out of the man’s mouth. As it turns out, his name isn’t even really Goldman.
Paul T. Goldman is an impossible show to describe accurately. The format combines familiar true crime documentary filmmaking with dramatized scenes that Paul wrote about his own story in which he plays himself. Weaved in throughout is behind-the-scenes footage from the making of this very show. Perhaps the most pertinent piece of information to know about this series is that it comes from Jason Woliner, the director of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and one of the minds behind Comedy Central’s Nathan For You. Indeed, this project is something akin to the world that comedians Sacha Baron Cohen, Nathan Fielder, and John Wilson revel in: the absurd.
Any further story tidbits or juicy twists have been heavily embargoed, and critics are not allowed to reveal them until those respective episodes have aired. Truthfully it may be best to go into Paul T. Goldman as blind as possible. Woliner has spent a decade shooting the project, and it unfolds a bit like a puzzle box, expertly blending fact and fiction.
Ethically, the series is a bit murky. Paul is clearly a little “off,” and at times, the series seems to be punching down at him. However, I haven’t seen the finale, and that will ultimately be the 30 minutes that truly reveal the point of this show. I wouldn’t be surprised if Woliner chooses to point the finger at himself. He clearly delights in the uncomfortable, and an examination of why he chose to spend ten years shadowing a wacky man who has concocted absurd allegations against his ex-wife would be illuminating.
Paul T. Goldman is neither as funny nor gripping as the Borat sequel or Fielder’s The Rehearsal, but nonetheless is required viewing for the novelty and creativity present alone. It is experimental in the truest sense of the word. While it does slip at points, the show is innovative and boundary-pushing, charting new territory for television as a storytelling medium.
I give Paul T. Goldman a B.