Owen Wilson plays an eccentric cult leader in a new episode of IFC’s “Documentary Now!,” in a not-so-subtle riff on “Wild Wild Country.” (IFC/IFC)
TV Critic

“Documentary Now!” is a show you will love or hate, or maybe both.

The series, created by “Saturday Night Live” alums Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers, consists of parodies of documentaries; Season 3 (11 p.m. Wednesdays on IFC) launched last week.

If the mockumentary genre is not your thing, don’t bother. And past seasons have been wildly inconsistent and occasionally self-indulgent. But the new cycle is off to a fine start.

Host Helen Mirren plays it totally straight as she lies and says this is “Season 52,” welcoming us to the first installment about a utopian cult. It is quite wonderful to hear her, in her posh British accent, speak the title of the opening episode: “Batsh*t Valley.”

That mockumentary, a send-up of Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country,” is full of sly and hilarious details. The cult will only eat vegetables if the vegetables give permission. And cult leader Father Ra-Shawbard (a gloriously bewigged Owen Wilson) tells devotees to “write down the names of your family members you are leaving behind and put them in this basket, along with their Social Security number and their banking information. And then you will be free!”

The fake documentary skewers the pretentiousness and earnestness of documentarians, as well as the fact that people are willing to utter the most ridiculous and self-incriminating statements when facing a camera.

Upcoming episodes include “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” (this Wednesday), a spoof of the documentary on the recording of the Stephen Sondheim musical “Company.” Only this musical is about the residents of a New York co-op building. Mulaney and Meyers wrote it, and Mulaney appears as the composer Simon Sawyer.

Arguably the biggest star recruited for this season is Cate Blanchett as sublimely haughty performance artist Izabella Barta in “Waiting for the Artist” (March 6). And if you are a fan of the deadpan absurdity of Armisen, you will be rewarded with his turn as her former lover Dino, who in a weird European accent declares, “The best art is made while eating a cookie.”

I believe that for Season 52, the creative team clearly ate a lot of cookies.