Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Paul T. Goldman’ On Peacock, The Real(ish) Story About A Man Who Uncovered His Wife’s Massive Crime Ring
Paul T. Goldman self-published a book in 2009 called Duplicity: A True Story of Crime and Deceit, where he described how he uncovered the fact that his second wife was running a massive crime ring as she tried to siphon money from him. He sought out Woliner (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm) on Twitter to see if he could direct the screenplay he wrote based on the book. A decade later, Woliner has given us Paul T. Goldman, a docuseries (sort of) about the true(ish) story of how Goldman exposed this crime ring.
Opening Shot: Paul T. Goldman stands looking at a camera, and smirks a little as director James Woliner and crew set up for his introduction.
The Gist: Paul T. Goldman is not told in a way these kinds of series usually are laid out. We have Goldman, a nerdy single dad from West Palm Beach, playing himself in reenactments of his story, supposedly scenes Woliner shot for the movie based on Goldman’s screenplay.
The people playing the main figures in his story are no slouches. Melinda McGraw plays Audrey Munson (not her real name), who in 2006 agreed to marry Goldman if she could be a “part-time wife.” He just wanted a mother figure for his young son, so he agreed. But she kept asking for money and pressing him to put all of his assets in both of their names.
An incident where she told him to make checks out to “BCBS”, not “Blue Cross Blue Shield”, led him to a trailer park that was in Audrey’s name. He then finds out that he’s not only the first person she’s pulled this scam on, but the supposedly “Alzheimer’s-ridden mother” that she took care of part of the week didn’t exist.
Also in the cast: Rosanna Arquette, Frank Grillo, W. Earl Brown and others. There are no actual pictures or footage of “Audrey”. Whether Goldman is telling the truth or not is completely up in the air.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Paul T. Goldman has elements of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal, the aforementioned Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the comedic docuseries For Heaven’s Sake, and American Vandal.
Our Take: There were many moments during the first episode of Paul T. Goldman when we tried to figure out of any of what we were seeing was real. Is the news footage of Goldman we’re seeing real? Is Goldman being played by an actor who came from some bad community theater? And just what part of his story is actually true?
Those are the questions Woliner wants us to ask ourselves as we watch, but what ends up happening is that we end up staring at the screen not knowing what to really think. Goldman comes off as a lovable, albeit a bit goofy and naïve, guy who seems to put all sorts of common sense aside when it comes to his relationship with “Audrey”. Red flags go up left and right as they were “dating,” but he plows through anyway, and seems to admit straight to the camera that he got suckered in.
But then he talks about how he caught onto the financial red flags she was throwing up, and seemed to be sharp enough to not only catch them and investigate them, but also confront her when he finds out pieces of the truth. How does the same man miss the first set of red flags but catches the second, more insidious set?
It’s that unreliability that’s at the heart of the series, and Woliner knows it. But that unreliability, and the docuseries-within-a-film-within-a-docuseries, meta-cubed vibe he’s trying to foster, feels like it’s going to grow old fast. Despite the fact that the season is only 6 thirty-minute episodes, we grew tired of watching Goldman fumble his way through the scenes of this movie that is only being made for purposes of this series, and talk shop with McGraw and other actors in supposed “behind the scenes” footage.
The first episode was more fun than we thought it would be, thanks to Woliner knowing how to make Goldman into both a schlub and a hero at once. But we suspect that, once the novelty of this series wears off that the whole exercise will grow tiresome, as it was starting to do by the end of the first episode.
Sex and Skin: None in the first episode, unless you count awkward sex scenes between McGraw and Goldman.
Parting Shot: Goldman presents footage from “next week’s” episode, including him saying, “Beam me up Scotty… I’m in the Twilight Zone.”
Sleeper Star: Basically, someone in the cast who is not the top-billed star who shows great promise.
Most Pilot-y Line: We’ve liked Melinda McGraw ever since The Commish, which debuted 31 (!) years ago. She’s had a long, pretty distinguished career as a character actor in the decades since. The fact that she’s not only game to act across from a rank amateur like Goldman, but it seems like she even gets along with him “behind the scenes,” makes us like her even more.
Our Call: STREAM IT, but we’re not sure if our recommendation is going to stay that way after the first episode. As the story of Paul T. Goldman gets more outrageous, the less funny we think this meta-meta series is going to be.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.