Dolly Parton documentaries and more country music shows to stream
Dolly is a phenomenon, no two ways about it. She was born in a one-room cabin in Tennessee, and with her business savvy and talent for singing and songwriting, she has become arguably the number-one country music artist in the world. She’s also a humanitarian who campaigns for children’s literacy.
There’s a statue of her in her hometown of Pittman Center, but she recently asked for the proposal to erect another statue of her to be shelved, releasing a statement that said: “Given all that is going on in the world, I don’t think putting me on a pedestal is appropriate at this time”.
She also turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom from you-know-who, not once but twice. Personally, I’m all for the pedestal.
Dolly’s life story is told in Here I Am on Netflix, which has three more Dolly titles to stream. Here’s a list of more country-themed documentaries, series and films for fans of Dolly, fans of “three chords and the truth”, and fans of heartwarming, heartfelt, true-blue entertainment.
Brad Paisley’s Comedy Rodeo (Netflix)
Brad Paisley is an easy-on-the-eye cowboy who writes songs like I’m Gonna Miss Her, which is about a guy who chooses fishing over his gal, and it doesn’t get more country than that. In this comedy special, he hosts comedians Nate Bargatze, Jon Reep and Sarah Tiana, his buddies from that time he fronted a showcase at the Wild West Comedy Festival, plus two other stand-ups, John Heffron and Mike E Winfield.
Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute (Netflix)
MusiCares is a non-profit organisation that has paid out millions of dollars in health, financial, and rehabilitation resources to music people in times of need. Dolly Parton was voted its Person of the Year in 2019, and this tribute features artists like Katy Perry, Willie Nelson, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, Yolanda Adams and more – including Dolly’s goddaughter Miley Cyrus.
“Everybody likes at least one Dolly Parton jam, and this set includes a wealth of her biggest-ever numbers. But it also takes time to explore her quieter, more bluegrass-oriented work, and culminates with a compelling appearance by the lady herself,” says Decider.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas On The Square (Netflix)
So about all those songs she writes … apparently there are hundreds no one has ever heard. For this 2020 Christmas special, Dolly penned 14 new festive tunes. This was on top of releasing her own holiday album and funding a Covid vaccine, by the way.
As far as Christmas movies go, it’s pretty much phoning it in: Christine Baranski (The Good Fight) plays wealthy Regina Fuller, returning to her hometown to evict the residents and sell the land to a mall developer. Singing, dancing, tinsel, happy ending.
Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings (Netflix)
Eight episodes, eight Dolly songs, eight stories – because that’s what songs are, says Dolly: they are stories, stories of her life, ups and downs, good and bad, all the memories.
Says The Hollywood Reporter: “Parton hosts each episode, introducing the song or biographical story that inspired the forthcoming vignette. Filmed at Dollywood, it’s a classic move intended to arouse nostalgia for a long-ago era of television when pop demigods like Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock lured you into their fantastical worlds.”
Dolly Parton: Here I Am (Netflix)
Getting right to the point, Southern Living says: “If you need more Dolly Parton in your life – and who doesn’t? – there’s a music-filled documentary on Netflix you should see. The 2019 documentary explores the music icon’s life and work with appearances by her friends and colleagues.
“From her songwriting to her philanthropic ventures such as the Dollywood Foundation and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Parton’s life is filled with stories, many of which find their way into her songs. The documentary is directed by Francis Whately and also features interviews with friends, past concerts and performances, and archival footage featuring Whitney Houston and Barbara Walters, among many others.”
A sweet coming-of-age movie, this is the story of small-town girl Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), raised by her Aunt Lucy. Will’s mother is a former beauty queen played by Jennifer Aniston, still involved in the pageant world, whose ideals are vastly at odds with Will’s plump figure, which earned her the nickname Dumplin’.
Here, Dolly Parton’s music is an inspiration, and her song Girl In The Movies, with Linda Perry, was nominated for several awards.
Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus (Showmax)
Clocking in with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this brilliant series delves into the outlaw stories of country singers who took drugs, shot people, went to prison, slept with other men’s wives, toured the length and breadth of the US of A – and wrote songs about it all. The format is animation, but it’s based on and drawn from live interviews with real people, people who were there and who lived to tell the tales.
“These legends then soon grow as tall as Paul Bunyan carving out the Grand Canyon with his axe. Even if you’re not a country-music follower, Judge’s stories of epic rural grandeur are well worth seeking out – and don’t be surprised if you find yourself a fan by the time the tale is over,” says AV Club.
Season 2 is more of the same but features funk and soul stars.
This six-season series began with the rivalry between the country queen Rayna James (Connie Britton) and rising young star Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), but over time it expanded into so much more than that, with an ensemble cast of love and family entanglements and drama – and lots of great original music.
All the main cast members sang their own songs, which is pretty impressive. Music producer for the first season was legendary T Bone Burnett (the husband of show creator Callie Khouri), who won an Oscar for best original screenplay for none other than Thelma & Louise.
Tricky Dick and The Man in Black (Netflix)
Richard Nixon desperately wanted to appeal to all Americans: 1970 was a busy year for him as he received a surprise visit from Elvis Presley at the White House when the singer decided he wanted to be an undercover agent in the crusade against hippies and drug culture.
Earlier that year, Tricky Dick, as Nixon was known, met Johnny Cash, who wanted to discuss prison reform. Nixon thought he saw a great opportunity by asking Cash to play some songs at a concert. “Richard Nixon was hoping for a light-hearted, impromptu concert at the White House, but the Man in Black delivered a full-frontal musical attack on the president’s ideology and policies,” reports Mental Floss.
Wild Rose (Showmax)
You know when you’re about halfway through a movie and you realise you’ve got a goofy smile on your face because it’s just so funny and touching and heartwarming? Yes, that. Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) is fresh out of prison, still carrying her dream to go to Nashville and make it big as a country singer. Real life in Glasgow is not having any of that, though; she’s got two young children, working as a cleaning lady, and dealing with her mother’s (Julie Walters) disapproval at every turn.
An unlikely friendship with her employer offers a glimmer of hope. Wild Rose is the best kind of musical melodrama, says The Atlantic. “Crucial to any of these films is a lead performance that can capture both the shine of the hero’s aspirations and the grind of day-to-day life. Buckley, an Irish stage and TV actor who has just begun her transition into movies, supercharges Wild Rose with electrifying purpose, adding flair and substance to the screenwriter Nicole Taylor’s routine but solid script about a diamond in the rough.”
I’m not ashamed to say I cried happy tears as the end credits rolled.