Just three weeks after the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King” has swept the nation, its first spin-off show is here — with Fox and TMZ teaming up for “TMZ Investigates: Tiger King — What Really Went Down?”
The one-hour special, airing Monday (9 p.m. on Fox), is hosted by TMZ founder Harvey Levin, who dives into questions raised by the bizarre seven-episode true-crime saga.
“It was a really well-done docuseries and it clearly struck a chord,” Levin, 69, tells The Post. “Increasingly, we’re seeing some of these streaming services roll out stories that not only are good TV, but that really start important conversations. As entertaining as the show was, there are some real issues that demand attention right now, and I think the show brought that to light.”
“Tiger King” follows Joe Exotic, 57 (real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage), an eccentric former Oklahoma zoo owner currently serving 22 years in federal prison for animal abuse and a murder-for-hire plot to kill Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue. The series chronicles Exotic’s feud with Baskin that ultimately led to his incarceration in 2019. Netflix says “Tiger King” is its biggest hit since “Stranger Things,” and fans who have posted about it on social media include celebrities Kim Kardashian, Chrissy Teigen, Jared Leto and Dax Shephard.
In “What Really Went Down?,” which TMZ put together in one week, Levin interviews at least 15 people on camera — a mix of familiar faces from “Tiger King” and new faces. He says we’ll have to watch to see what they say, but teases that new information from sheriffs and witnesses will be revealed.
“You’re going to hear from a law enforcement official who is conducting this investigation, and he says to us that Don Lewis [Baskin’s second husband] was murdered,” Levin says. “Number two, you’re going to hear the evidence that the sheriff is looking at, in terms of who might have done this, and it’s very revealing. We talk to a woman who’s never spoken before, who definitely was one of the last people to see Don [alive], somebody who worked for him.”
“Tiger King” suggests that Lewis, who disappeared in 1997 and was declared dead in 2002, may have been fed to one of Baskin’s tigers, though there’s no evidence for that. “What Really Went Down?” will take a closer look at that story, as well as the question of Joe Exotic’s guilt in conspiring to have Baskin killed.
“The big questions we’re diving into are, was Joe framed? Did he abuse the animals? Who killed Carole’s husband? Should these zoos be shut down? And what is the status of the various investigations right now?,” says Levin. “I’ve got a sheriff on the show who’s saying he thinks Joe was wrongly convicted … You’re going to have to decide whether that’s true or not. According to multiple people on our show, Joe told multiple people that he wanted Carole dead. He was obsessed and talked about it all the time. The interesting thing about that is if he really wanted her dead, typically you don’t tell the world you’re going to do it.”
Levin says he thinks “Tiger King” struck a chord with America because of its colorful characters and “whodunit” element.
“It is a wildly entertaining show about tigers and people who are just really out-there,” he says. “America loves whodunits. Who’s the bad guy here, who’s the good guy here?
“We’re trying to present a fair picture of it.”