Last week, Netflix released a mysterious trailer for its new documentary about Bob Ross. “We wanted to show you the trailer for Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed. The trailer announces in bold white on black, accompanied by ominous music. “But we can’t.”
These cinemas, are combined with the provocative titles:
It seem meant to raise suspicions that one of the world’s most trouble-free favourites has a sinister past. And Netflix viewers are really waiting with bated breath for the documentary. To be released on Wednesday: is Bob Ross facing cancellation?
Bob Ross: Incidents of happiness, betrayal, and greed are not the punches you mean to get your clique. Fortunately, the answer is no. Ross emerged from films as popular as he was, if not more so.
No marketing bait is required, as Joshua Roffe’s documentary is both heart-wrenching and heartbreaking. For those of us with peace of mind watching the soft-spoken artist over the years.
It hurts to hear his son Steve Ross tell how Ross, Annette and business partner Walt Kowalski felt. How they felt basically that the artist and his family had finished.
The story came to light months ago thanks to Alston Ramsey’s report for the Daily Beast published in May 2021. While Ramsey’s article paints a nuanced picture of a plausible business shark that ends up hitting Ross himself in the back while making some knives – Happy Incidents puts Kowalski firmly in the role of the villain, with Ross as the innocent victim.
The big win and the backbone of the film is the interview with Ross’ son Steve. The Joy of Painting viewers may remember young Steve painting happy little trees and mountains with his dad on the show.
A much older and darker Steve warns Roffe that it will be difficult for the director to find anyone willing to talk to him. “What they did was disgraceful,” Steve said.
The crux of the mystery is this: Bob Ross, Inc.
Which is now run by Joan Kowalski, daughter of Ross’ former business partner. Who owns the rights to everything under the Bob Ross name. Includes reruns of The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross Paint Delivery Line. And your roommate’s cup of Bob Ross coffee.
According to the film, none of the profits goes to the Ross family, despite Ross’s intentions on his deathbed. This is thanks to a series of lawsuits that Kowalski filed shortly after Ross’s death, which they seem to have often done. Told litigation, e.g., dozens of potential film interviews were turned down or turned down at the last minute for the fear of being sued.
Those who did not give up included Ross’s son, his first wife and Steve’s mother, Vicki Ross, Ross’ friend and colleague, John Tham. Ross’ close friend, Dana Jester; Ross “The Joy of Painting” director Sally Schenk; Ross’ rival and floral artist who befriends Gary and Katrun Jenkins; and much more. We received a final course on Ross’ professional progress as an artist into a possible TV star.
Thanks to his ability to control the speed of painting “wet on wet”:
Learnt from German artist Wilhelm “Bill” Alexander. We also learn a bit about Ross when the camera isn’t rolling, which the son and his friends say is pretty close to his on-screen view. “The beans you see on TV are pretty much the same as what you actually think,” says Steve.
But while Roffe shows you the pink that everyone wants to see. The one that befriends the fox and feeds the squirrels, for the sake of health and putting a smile on the face of every ambitious artist. He leaves room for another side of Ross. “It can be decorated,” Ross director Sally Schenk once admitted.
He’s also a “tempter,” he added. His son says that Ross’s iconic and now ominous whisper is an attempt to sound s*xy and sensual. While not explicitly mentioned, the film doesn’t subtly suggest that Ross cheated on his first wife. Which the Daily Beast reports confirm. He cared less about Ross’s affair with Annette Kowalski.
Openly confirmed by Steve but denied by records about Annette’s recent loan. Which should have to sever the friendship between Ross and Kowalski forever.
This film is the best and also the most heartbreaking. As he thinks about the death of Ross’ second wife Jane to cancer and his cancer diagnosis that came shortly after that. Ross died in 1995 from complications of lymphoma; he is only 52 years old.
His young death may have surprised many viewers, and Steve said it wasn’t an accident. He remembered how his father argued with Kowalski when he was sick. “They tried to steal my name,” his father recalled.