Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed review – an intimate experience

August 25, 2021
Romey Norton 0
Film Reviews, Netflix


This comes recommended if you’re a fan of Bob Ross and/or a fan of art.



This comes recommended if you’re a fan of Bob Ross and/or a fan of art.

Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed was released on the streaming service on August 25, 2021. 

Bob Ross hosted PBS’ The Joy of Painting for 11 years, from 1983 to 1994, and in that time he filmed 403 episodes, creating beautiful pieces of art in under thirty minutes. 

What do you think of when you hear the name Bob Ross? I think of mountains, fluffy clouds, happy trees and his giant hair. (His afro was a perm, is my life a lie? I didn’t know this, I just always thought it was a natural, real afro.) His painting show was gentle and calming, whether he inspired a love of landscape painting or lulled people to sleep with his whispering voice, his show was and is still enjoyed by many around the world. It made him an Icon for the MTV generation and then a meme for the younger/newer audiences. This is pretty awesome to say the painter and entertainer died in 1995, or is it? 

The title of this show suggests that behind the calming painters’ presence lies drama and scandals, and we get a little glimpse of that. Bob’s reputation isn’t tarnished at all, so hard-core fans, don’t worry. This is a very nice watch. No offense to Bob Ross, but I don’t think he was a very interesting guy. He seemed very humble and quiet, but the people around him are a different story. 

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed starts with his son Steve saying, “I’ve been wanting to get this story out for all these years,” which definitely draws intrigue. Then the story is simple, leaving a lot of room for more exploration and discovery. We briefly discuss Ross’ life in the Air Force and early life. There’s plenty of footage of The Joy of Painting and various talk shows he had appeared on, showing both serious interviews and funnier ones. We see how Ross’ passion and gift for painting turned into a business.

What is interesting and raises intrigue in Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed is when the film reveals that “more than a dozen people who knew and worked with Bob declined to participate in this film due to concerns of legal retaliation”. What we do learn is that the main rift in Bob’s life is around the Kowalskis. Steve, his son, saw the relationship between his father and the Kowalskis fracture and he has no affection or respect for them, at all, saying they have made millions from exploiting his name. They are known for suing people, so no wonder people declined to be interviewed.

Although I did enjoy not having multiple stories from multiple people, it made this film feel more intimate. The Kowaslskis are portrayed as the big, bad bullies. Having no desire to help or teach people, but only being in it for the money and wanting to continue making money once Bob Ross has died. They were trying to gain a claim over his name, on his deathbed. Which is incredibly sad. They didn’t show up at his funeral and tried to keep it on the hush side. The theory is that they would have pretended he didn’t die and kept the show going, in order to sell paints and make money. These people are definitely everything Bob Ross wasn’t. Be wary of where you buy your Bob Ross merchandise and products from. 

From this documentary, Bob Ross clearly had a love for art, people, nature, and life and he is refreshing to watch. When the documentary focuses on Steve talking about his memories and his dad’s life, that is when this documentary is at its strongest and most beautiful. For these lovely sections, it’s worth the watch. I’m glad that his son Steve still paints, teaches painting and that Bob’s show and artwork still manages to inspire and help people today. Teaching people that they are valuable and important. I recommend watching this if you’re a fan of Bob Ross and/or a fan of art. 

What did you think of Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed? Comment below. 

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