Painter Bob Ross is arguably even more of a cultural icon today, in the 2020s, than he was during the 31 seasons The Joy of Painting initially aired from 1983-1994. The uniquely soothing positive presence of Ross transformed him, years after his death in 1995 from lymphoma, into a veritable saint of internet culture—which naturally also makes him the ideal candidate for a “but did you know about the dark side?” documentary.
That film is Netflix’s Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, which is coming very soon, scheduled for an Aug. 25, 2021 release. To date, there’s been almost no marketing for this humble documentary, but today Netflix released a puzzling little teaser, which claims it “wants to” show us a trailer for the film, but “can’t.” It hints at what is apparently the rotten core of the Bob Ross media empire as it exists today. So reads the official synopsis for the film, anyway:
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed brings us the shockingly untold story about the prolific landscape artist and host of The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross and his legacy. With a keen appreciation for nature, and a kind and gentle demeanor, he encouraged everyone he met to embrace their creativity and believe in themselves, becoming a cultural phenomenon along the way. The man who famously said that there were no mistakes, rather just happy accidents has brought sheer delight to the world for decades. While his soothing voice and unmistakable image continue to evoke nostalgia, there remains a sinister tale surrounding his name and the empire that was built on it being hijacked by once trusted partners, whose slow betrayal of him continued beyond his death in 1995.
Our first thought here is to wonder whether much of this drama is exaggerated or invented, especially when we see the name of director Joshua Rofé attached. Earlier this year, Rofé brought us the Hulu documentary Sasquatch, which we felt was very well made but attempted to stretch a lack of significant results into a sensationalized story in order to hide its investigative failings. Hopefully, Netflix’s deep dive into Bob Ross uncovers more genuine material fit for a feature-length doc than Sasquatch did. Check out the eccentric little teaser below.