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This new HBO docuseries, with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, is like Succession meets Game of Thrones

Published Jun 6th, 2024 3:33PM EDT
Ren Faire on HBO
Image: HBO

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There’s no boardroom or glass towers in director Lance Oppenheim’s three-part HBO docuseries Ren Faire, the final two episodes of which hit the network this weekend. There is, however, a despotic and wealthy Logan Roy figure who rules over the Texas Renaissance Festival — as well as a succession battle that the 86-year-old sets in motion among his employees, which explains why this series has been described as a kind of cross between Game of Thrones and Succession.

George Coulam, known to festival employees as King George, is the aging monarch of this story, with piercing and unforgiving eyes and a general air of menace even in his dotage. “The perfect way to go would be to have a woman screw me to death … that’s my goal,” Coulam says at one point in Ren Faire, which feels like a very Logan Roy thing to say. He laughs like a predator. He has busts made of himself, and he pats the head of a female mannequin the way a potentate would before commanding an execution.

As for the series itself — whether it’s because of the iron-fisted ruler at its center or the colorful characters vying for his favor — Ren Faire currently has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with both critics and viewers raving about the fascinating story herein that’s never less than interesting. “Ren Faire works,” a Decider reviewer posits, “not only because it’s dramatic and stylish, but also because it’s a docuseries about some pretty interesting characters in a tension-filled situation.”

In addition to airing on HBO, each episode will also be available to stream on Max after they’re shown on TV. For the moment, Episode 1 (titled: Daddy’s Dyin’, Who’s Got the Will?) is available to stream on Max.

The key figures in this story include:

  • “King” George Coulam
  • General manager and erstwhile actor Jeff Baldwin, who’s a loyal 43-year veteran of the festival
  • Acting entertainment director Brandi Baldwin (who’s also married to Jeff)
  • Louie Migliaccio, who heads a kettle-corn operation
  • Former elephant trainer and current vendor coordinator Darla Smith
  • And assistant general manager Lauren Croft, plus all of the artists, vendors, jesters, wizards, jousters, and talking dragons of the festival.

Coulam, HBO explains, is the elected mayor of the town he incorporated. “He has glory, as the undisputed employer and self-proclaimed ruler of thousands. He has vast wealth, as the majority shareholder of the festival. Now, he is ready to give it all up and spend the last years of his life in the quest for a romantic companion. But before he retires, George will finally choose which of his longtime employees will take his crown.

“Blending documentary verité with fantasy, Ren Faire — a three-part docu-fantasia — invites you behind the curtain of the famed Texas festival to reveal a tense and comical succession drama. Featuring individuals self-styled as Shakespearean characters, the series details an epic power struggle between an actor, a former elephant trainer, and a kettle-corn kingpin, all vying to claim George’s throne. As King George’s idiosyncrasies mount, the series’ tension over who will be chosen ascends to increasingly operatic heights, against a backdrop where the employees imagine themselves in a real-life Game of Thrones.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.