When I first heard that a show was premiering on MTV called “World of Jenks,” I assumed that it would A) be about a group of guys who like to punch each other in the nads à la “Jackass” or B) star a stuffed monkey à la “Warren the Ape.” Luckily, neither is the case. Instead, “World of Jenks” is the type of show that MTV, despite its usual flash and pop, is actually amazing at creating: documentary television.
So who is this Jenks? Andrew Jenks is a 24-year-old documentary filmmaker who first got attention when he was a sophomore at NYU for his film “Andrew Jenks, Room 335.” In the movie, Jenks moves into a retirement community. The New York Post raved, “‘It’s almost impossible to believe that a kid could produce a documentary like this. It’s a gorgeous, hilarious, sad, wonderful, unblinking look at the joy of life—even at the end of it.”
Next, Jenks made a movie called “The Zen of Bobby V,” about the Mets former manager Bobby Valentine who’s moved on to managing baseball in Japan, for ESPN Films.
In each episode of “World of Jenks,” Jenks will spend a week with a person who lives a unique life—be it a homeless woman, an NFL cheerleader, rapper Maino, a mixed martial artist, an army recruit, or a teen with autism. And I’m not just excited about the show because Jenks is adorable in that floppy-haired, long-nosed Andy Samberg/Daniel Vosovic of “Project Runway” way. As a journalist who reads 98 percent non-fiction, I’m always intrigued by fascinating people and hidden subcultures. Especially when they’re reported on in an honest, sympathetic way. Which Jenks can obviously do. As he says, “Every episode is about really trying to understand that person’s entire story. Once you are really with someone the entire time for a few days, you start to really get who they are.” Amen to that.
MTV documentary shows are generally outstanding. “True Life” is one of the most underrated series on TV, and I’m happy that “Teen Mom” is finally attracting a lot of attention—and a zillion tabloid covers. Here’s hoping “World of Jenks” will be equally engaging in that tradition.