• Ken Silvers

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed


There is a fascinating new documentary playing on Netflix about well known painter and television star Bob Ross. "Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed" follows the famous painter from the start of his career in painting until his untimely death at the age of 52. For the uninitiated, Ross hosted a half-hour instruction show on PBS from 1983 to 1994 called "The Joy of Painting". He taught viewers techniques to paint landscapes using easy and satisfying methods. Ross always had his painting completed by the end of the half-hour show, and he became extremely popular during the run of the show. "The Joy of Painting" won three Emmy Awards during its run. The film features interviews with Bob's son Steve, who was also featured on his father's show, and appearances by Bob's first wife Vicky, his artist friend John Thamn, good friend Dana Jester, the director of his show Sally Schenck, and fellow television artists Gary and Kathwren Jenkins. All the aforementioned give a behind the scenes glimpse of Bob's offscreen life, and how the show was produced. All his friends state the Bob you saw on camera was exactly how he was in real life, except he was far more energetic than his relaxed onscreen persona. After all, how excited can one get while painting "happy little clouds"? Bob just made it seem all so easy while lulling the viewer into a state of relaxation. If you have never seen any of his shows, head to YouTube to catch a few and you will see what I mean. For those of us who watched the show during its original run (my Dad was a huge fan), all seemed happy go lucky in the world of Bob, but as this documentary reveals, there were some unscrupulous happenings behind the scenes as Bob's business partners, Walter and Annette Kowalski, eventually desired to control every aspect of Bob and his growing company, thus the betrayal and greed of the title. Toward the end of Bob's life, the Kowalski's became so obsessed with milking all the money from Bob and his newly formed company, their actions eventually prevented Bob's son Steve from having access to millions of dollars his famous father wanted him to have. The betrayal aside, the film treats viewers to Bob's early life, which involved the military, and how he first began painting. The film also reveals where and how each show was filmed, and how Bob's onscreen antics, such as adding a tree to a painting with a minute left in the show, drove his director crazy. However, director Schenck, reveals how much fun the artist was to work with, and she tears up several times during her interview segments. Not only will you feel bad about Bob's eventual exploitation, which continues to this day, but also for his son Steve, who lost his father far too early. Steve struggled to regain control of his life after his father's passing, but eventually decided to continue teaching the art of painting, which is what he knew his father would have wanted. However, the next time you see a Bob Ross coffee mug or t-shirt, remember his son gets none of the royalties due to the greed of the Kowalski's. If you loved his television show, or are new to the world of Bob Ross, I suggest taking in a viewing of the documentary "Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed" for a glimpse into the life of a kind soul who was betrayed. However, even after his tragic death, Bob still makes millions happy who watch reruns of his show. Now playing on Netflix. (Rated TV-14)

4/5