Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lil' Bush Review

Bush Bash
The decider-in-chief rendered as a shrimpy little cartoon on Comedy Central
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, June 21, 2007

It's weird. People talk about Comedy Central cartoon Lil' Bush like it's an audacious gut punch to the president. While the show's not without its charms, it's far from revolutionary. Bush is as popular as salmonella right now. Mocking him almost smacks of lazy writing. It's Leno territory.

Nobody thinks of Bush as the megaphone-toting cowboy standing on rubble on 9-12 anymore. He's the strutting idiot in the "mission accomplished" flight suit. Sure, it's interesting there's a whole animated TV show devoted to mocking him, but it would be a lot cooler if it was better.

The show's central conceit — portraying Bush and his staff as toddlers — is its biggest problem. First, it's confusing. Bush 41 is in office in the show, yet references to current events — like Bush 43's war in Iraq — are referenced constantly.

Many of the gags are predicated on juxtaposing the Bush administration against the formulas of cartoon shows, which doesn't work. The first episode features an extended Josie and the Pussycats-style musical scene that's more distracting than funny. Adult Swim has been on TV for six years — does anyone in America still think Hanna-Barbera parodies are clever? I was shouting at the TV, demanding more Abu Graib references.

All of which would be fine if the show was more precise. The cartoon features a Donald Rumsfeld character, six months after his real life counterpart was shitcanned. Voiced by Iggy Pop, Lil' Rummy is Lil' Bush's most trusted advisor — couldn't the Godfather of punk voice a larval version of Karl Rove instead? Meanwhile, Jeb Bush, the brightest of Herbert Walker's awful spawn, is portrayed as a feral manchild. Lil' Bush at one point chastises the Condoleeza Rice character for using fuzzy math, a reference to a seven-year-old presidential debate. Even worse, there's a tepid Monica Lewinsky gag dating back to the Mesozoic era.

Lacking cutting edge South Park style topicality, the show falls back on gross-out humor. In the second episode, Lil' Cheney not only has sex with Barbara Bush, he gets lodged inside her uterus afterwards. Maybe that's water cooler fodder, but it's a cheap gag that detracts from the smarter jokes the show occasionally attempts.

Lil' Bush isn't the first time Comedy Central show devoted to mocking G Dubs. That's My Bush, produced by South Park's Matt Stone and Trey Parker, aired on the network in the spring and summer of 2001. Starring a befuddled-looking Timothy Bottoms as Bush, the show was a satire of sitcoms, not politics. It featured a sassy maid, and a Larry Dallas-style wacky neighbor. Bottoms reprised the roll, minus the 30-yard stare, in the 2003 hagiographic made-for-television movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.

It's unlikely that anything from Lil' Bush would likewise be re-purposed as praise for the decider in chief. But in order for the show to succeed as the comedic assault on Bush it's intended to be, it needs to evolve into a much darker beast.

There are some inspired riffs, particularly showing Baghdad's Green Zone as a scene out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Also, even though the Lil' Bush's character utters his fair share of malapropisms, his most prominent character trait is misplaced self-assuredness, not stupidity. The character believes his own bullshit — there's a perfect moment when he declares his love for tatter tots, pauses slightly and says "decisive."

That's a joke worth being jealous of. More of that, please.