Non-Fiction, used here as a catch-all for television, film, and web experiences not manipulated within an inch of their life (like competitive Reality TV, worthy of its own day), is just as much fun as fictional entertainment, only based in reality. But not overly scripted reality.
Let's get to it.
Tabatha's Salon Takeover: This might be the best candid reality show you're not watching. It's everything the US Kitchen Nightmares should have been, only about struggling hair salons. Host Tabatha Coffey originally ascended to reality fame by being the HBIC who literally taught us the true meaning of FIGJAM and flamed out because of pure hatred right before the finale of Shear Genius. She's a great stylist with a wonderful, functional, professional salon and an adaptable teaching method. The show follows the same formula every episode, but do not be fooled: these salons are chosent to demonstrate different business issues and Tabatha makes sure her treatment is perfect for each business owner. Season 2 brought a new level of sensitivity, understanding, and gross incompetence on all levels of salon jobs to the forefront that may have you running for the nearest Flowbee to avoid the madness. Here is just a small sampling of Tabatha tackling a major salon problem:
She doesn't always succeed, but she does everything she can shy of physical beatings to save these businesses. It's an astounding combination of great business advice, clueless business people, and an engaging expert guiding the whole process.
Good Hair: A documentary about black female hair care from a stand-up comedian? Why not? Chris Rock explored a simple question from his daughter to create one of the more entertaining and informative documentaries to get a somewhat wide release in recent years. There are some ridiculous moments, which are sadly essential for non-war/political/harrowing story/biographical documentaries in the post-Moore/Spurlock era. These stunts are far more engaging by virtue of Chris Rock's charm and humor. Especially effective is a sequence where Chris Rock walks around LA trying to sell authentic African hair to extension stores. You will learn more than you expect to about this massive industry, from where the hair comes from to hair care layaway plans. Here's a montage of celebrities revealing what is in their hair from the film:
Know Your Meme: Know Your Meme is a web series and a Snopes-like database of Internet memes. The focus here is the 2009 season of the show, spanning such broad subjects as Balloon Boy, Autotune, and Star Wars Kid. In each humorous short episode, the researchers investigate the origin of the meme, hypothesize what caused it to be so popular online, explore derivations of the meme, and project the lasting significance of the online trend. I've found it very helpful. For example, I now understand "Om nom nom" and no longer need to feel like an idiot when I question why Olivia Munn says it every day on Attack of the Show:
It's a different kind of non-fiction designed for the post-YouTube/Wikipedia age and it works wonders. Of course, its usefulness is limited to how much you know the terminology. YTMND? Still confused. And I'll fully embrace the series when they explain the Mudkips fascination, Pedobear, and Ghost Ride It in video form.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil: This is one of the best music documentaries I've encountered. It follows a failed 80's metal band that are still considered massively influential in the genre. It's a strange meditation on commitment to art, the ability of the music industry to destroy what it creates, and the strength of dreams.