Since he first put CDG antics videos on YouTube, Lipman-Stern’s documentation has wanted to demystify and destroy this workplace. As the timeline of “Telemarketers” presents his own growth from CDG and beyond, Lipman-Stern uses his experience and footage to seriously dig into this scam and its participants. But he couldn’t do this without his energetic best friend and co-worker, Pat Pespas. In the not-so-glory days, we see Pat snort coke before making calls, and he’s often referred to throughout the journey as “Pat F**kin Pespas!” (with a warm tone). If executive producers Josh and Benny Safdie would be perfect to adapt this story, so would executive producer Danny McBride to play Pespas, a one-of-a-kind fixture we see in so many different somber shades. Pespas is a loved legend in this world, a driven, passionate guy who can be his own worst enemy. In its nuanced way of embracing its subjects, “Telemarketers” gets a heavier layer in presenting a friendship with an addict over some rocky years.
Pat and Lipman-Stern seek more information and justice against their employer’s employers, beginning a wayward, years-leaping journey that makes up the second half of “Telemarketers.” Pat even goes back undercover to the world of telemarketing and goes “Michael Moore style,” confronting complicit figures in public who won’t return Pat and Lipman-Stern’s calls. It’s part of the comedy and its character study, with Pat donning a golf cap and sunglasses. Still, it’s not the best resource for narrative momentum. Sometimes the adventures of Pat and Sam (and co-director Adam Bhala Lough, who joins later in the shoot) have the air of simply futzing around and seeing just how many people won’t speak to them. But beholding the dedication and specific knowledge of those trying to challenge the system is what counts most here.
As much as you want “Telemarketers” to have a more direct focus for its David v. Goliath exposé, it’s not about that, and sometimes that is frustrating. But because we see it all with such humanizing honesty, Lipman-Stern’s intricate care for this world and its greatest injustices becomes our own. By the end of Lipman-Stern’s journey, “Telemarketers” has given scumbags like Pat an authentic voice, and it’s not trying to rip you off.
Full series screened for review. The first episode of “Telemarketers” is now playing on Max, with new episodes on August 20 and 27th.