IFC comedy Documentary Now! has a cult following, so it seems fitting for the sharp faux-doc series to turn its off-kilter lens on cults with a two-part parody inspired by Wild Wild Country and The Source Family. In “Batsh*t Valley,” which kicks off a new season on Feb. 20 at 10 p.m. ET, self-appointed spiritual guru Father Ra-Shawbard (Owen Wilson) starts a commune in rural Oregon in the ’80s with the help of overdevoted assistant Ra-Sharir (Necar Zadegan).
How did Wilson become the one chosen to lead us into ersatz enlightenment? “In order to be a cult leader there had to be an innate charisma, and for me personally there are few more charismatic actors than Owen Wilson, nor are there many who are funnier,” says Documentary Now! executive producer (and Late Night host) Seth Meyers, who wrote this episode. “Not to reveal too much where I come out on cults, but I think Owen could sell you a line of bullshit better than most people. You will find that this is a skill he has to use in this episode as well.”
Above, you can observe Father Ra-Shawbard in a namaste moment, though best to beware of what he’s selling. “He wants to spread a self-love, an inner peace, a celebration of our connection to the land,” Meyers tells EW. “I would say his internal message is probably more of self-enrichment.”
Father Ra-Shawbard will find himself in the crosshairs of an investigation by exasperated FBI agent Bill Doss (Michael Keaton, below), who aims to expose the man behind the mantras. “He thinks it’s a career case,” says Meyers, who created the series with stars/executive producers Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. “Bill Doss thinks if he can bring down Father Ra-Shawbard, this is going to lead to a promotion for him.”
Indeed, it’s shaping up to be a classic showdown between these two opposite forces. “I’ve always been fascinated by cults and the people who join cults and the law enforcement officers who try to end cults, and this has all of that,” says Meyers. Exactly how weird do things get in “Batsh*t Valley”? Hints Meyers: “There might be an entire plot point based on talking to produce.”