The life of the painter who became a well-known TV personality through his show The Joy of Painting. The show went on to have a decade-long run between the 80s and 90s.
Bob Ross was one of the most recognisable figures on television in the 80s and 90s. His perm hairstyle and calm voice endeared him to millions of viewers in the US. The documentary focuses on the life and death of Ross told from the perspective of those closest to him, his son Steve Ross, his friend Dana Jester, and painter John Thamm.
Creating a documentary about someone who has passed away several years ago presents several challenges, none more so than the fact that it will not have an authentic version of events about the person’s life than the person themselves. However, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, appears to have been able to provide an accurate account of his life. Steve Ross and Dana Jester provide heartfelt tributes to the man they once idolised.
The documentary chronicles Ross’s life from his days in the army to his marriages, his rise to prominence as a TV star, and his tragic death. It also details the alleged roles of Annette Kowalski and her husband Walt in cashing in on Bob’s legacy by forcing Steve and Dana out of it. While they were not interviewed for the documentary, they were featured throughout via archival footage and commentary from those who worked with and for them.
Through Steve and Dana, the documentary is able to provide a personal and professional insight into Bob’s life. So does painter John Thamm, who serves as an interesting interviewee and provides extensive commentary. The transitions between the interviews and the archival footage were seamless, which has become a hallmark of most Netflix documentaries thanks to its relatively higher production values.
The documentary is designed to be slow and methodical, much like Ross’ own soothing personality on his TV show, However, it disrupts the flow of the narrative and affects its overall pacing. This, in turn, makes the docu hardly as immersive as one would’ve liked,,
His life in the army isn’t delved into as much, robbing the story of the layers that a more detailed account would have provided. The one major drawback the documentary does have is that the Kowalskis could not be interviewed. It has essentially antagonised them, maybe rightfully so, as per the various accounts of how they operated. Notwithstanding, their version of events could have lent more perspective since they own the rights to the Bob Ross brand called the Bob Ross Inc.
The documentary is a poignant and at times a heartfelt tribute. There are plenty of voices providing commentary on the man most admired. Even though the pacing is invariably wayward, it offers more than enough to warrant one’s attention.