Directed by
Music byRobert Aiki Aubrey Lowe
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes3
Executive producers
ProducerClaire Read
  • Christopher Messina
  • Mattia Palombi
  • Sam Lipman-Stern
EditorChristopher Passig
Running time53–63 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseAugust 13 (2023-08-13) –
August 27, 2023 (2023-08-27)

Telemarketers is an American true crime documentary series directed and produced by Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-Stern. It follows two office workers who stumble upon the truth of their work at a telemarketing center and are determined to expose the industry. The three-part series aired on HBO from August 13 to August 27, 2023.


Two office workers at a telemarketing call center in New Jersey discover the truth behind the work they've been doing. Under the impression they're raising money for firefighter and police charities, the money is actually going towards their employers. When the company is shut down, the workers seek to expose the telemarketing industry.[1]


No.TitleDirected byOriginal air date
1"Part 1"Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-SternAugust 13, 2023 (2023-08-13)
2"Part 2"Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-SternAugust 20, 2023 (2023-08-20)
3"Part 3"Adam Bhala Lough and Sam Lipman-SternAugust 27, 2023 (2023-08-27)


In 2001, Sam Lipman-Stern began working as a telemarketer for Civic Development Group, later ordered to pay "$18.8 million, the largest penalty ever handed down in a consumer protection case" by the Federal Trade Commission,[2] which focused on raising money for police organizations.[3] Lipman-Stern began recording his time at the office, due to instances of employees doing drugs, and getting tattoos, which was allowed as long as employees made their quota, posting the videos on YouTube.[4] Lipman-Stern was informed by his co-worker Pat Pespas that Civic Development Group was keeping the donations, and he consequently wanted to expose the company on film.[5] The two began making a documentary project, investigating the company, interviewing charity experts and victims of scams, hiring a crew off Craigslist, but just as they were getting furthest in the investigation, Pespas disappeared.[6]

Lipman-Stern approached his cousin-through-marriage Adam Bhala Lough about turning the footage into a documentary.[7] Bhala Lough felt a project could be made with the material, and he and Lipman-Stern began developing the project as a feature-length film at Danny McBride and David Gordon Green's Rough House Pictures, where he worked in the documentary division.[8] Bhala Lough sent footage to Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, who he had hoped would direct the project, but they were unable to commit due to their obligations to the film Uncut Gems. Lipman-Stern and Bhala Lough then developed the project into a docuseries, with the Safdies boarding as executive producers via their Elara Pictures banner.[9][10][11] In 2020, Lipman-Stern and Pespas resumed their investigation, reaching out to Scott Pasch and David Keezer, the owners of Civic Development Group, who declined to participate.[12]


On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 96% of 25 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.80/10. The website's consensus reads: "Hold the phone! A truly stranger than fiction scandal is recounted with addictive aplomb in this gritty and farcical docuseries."[13] On Metacritic, the series has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 13 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[14]

Telemarketers was named among the best TV shows of 2023 by Time, W, Slate and The Wall Street Journal.[15][16][17][18]


Gotham Independent Film Awards 2023 - Breakthrough Series – Over 40 minutes (nomination)[19]


  1. ^ "HBO Original Docuseries Telemarketers Debuts August 13". Warner Bros. Discovery. July 26, 2023. Archived from the original on July 26, 2023. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  2. ^ *"New Jersey-Based Telephone Fundraisers Banned from Soliciting Donations; Will Pay $18.8 Million for Violating FTC Order". Federal Trade Commission. March 31, 2010. Archived from the original on August 17, 2023. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  3. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (August 11, 2023). "'Telemarketers' Directors on How Their Shocking HBO Docuseries Exposes a System of Scams". Variety. Archived from the original on August 11, 2023. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  4. ^ Kupernisky, Amy (August 14, 2023). "An American scam made in N.J. — HBO's 'Telemarketers' exposes Jersey phone schemes". Archived from the original on August 14, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  5. ^ Mechling, Lauren (August 14, 2023). "'Less regulated than ever': inside the wild world of telemarketing". The Guardian. Archived from the original on August 15, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  6. ^ Jones, Nate (August 10, 2023). "Scam Likely The creators of the HBO doc Telemarketers started filming their own office — where they'd later learn they were part of a nationwide grift". Vulture. Archived from the original on August 10, 2023. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  7. ^ Kraft, Coralie (August 10, 2023). "Hello? It's 'Telemarketers,' Here to Tell You About an Amazing Scam". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2023. Retrieved August 11, 2023.
  8. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (August 14, 2023). "How HBO's New Docuseries Telemarketers Harnessed the Safdies and Danny McBride for a Wild Story Twenty Years in the Making". GQ. Archived from the original on August 15, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  9. ^ Fear, David (August 13, 2023). "HBO's 'Telemarketers' Exposes a Billion-Dollar Scam the Cops Are in On". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on August 14, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  10. ^ Kohn, Eric (August 12, 2023). "Drugs, Fraud, Whistleblowers, and the Safdies: Inside the 22-Year Journey of HBO's Bombshell Miniseries 'Telemarketers'". IndieWire. Archived from the original on August 14, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  11. ^ Chapman, Wilson (July 26, 2023). "The Safdies Drop Surprise Telemarketer Docuseries on HBO — Watch the Trailer". IndieWire. Archived from the original on August 19, 2023. Retrieved July 26, 2023.
  12. ^ Jensen, Erin (August 13, 2023). "Drugs and prostitution in the office: 'Telemarketers' doc illuminates world you don't know". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 14, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  13. ^ "Telemarketers: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  14. ^ "Telemarketers". Metacritic. Archived from the original on August 15, 2023. Retrieved October 27, 2023.
  15. ^ Berman, Judy (November 30, 2023). "The 10 Best TV Shows of 2023". Time. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  16. ^ Valentine, Claire (November 21, 2023). "The Very Best TV Shows of 2023, According to W Editors". W. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  17. ^ Staff, Slate (December 8, 2023). "The 10 Best TV Shows of 2023". Slate. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  18. ^ Anderson, John (December 5, 2023). "The Best TV Shows of 2023: Giving the Small Screen a Tweak". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  19. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (October 24, 2023). "Gotham Awards Nominations: All of Us Strangers Tops Movie List; Ryan Gosling Gets Barbie Nom with Budget Caps Removed". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 25, 2023.