In 2001, Trey Parker and Matt Stone created That’s My Bush!, a relatively mild sitcom about the new President, and cultural critics everywhere took notice. Was it disrespectful? Could this be good for a nation still divided over the election recount?
Six years later, Comedy Central is debuting Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States, which depicts the President as a tiny, suit-wearing tot, getting into hijinks with his friends Lil’ Condi, Lil’ Cheney and Lil’ Rummy. The gang goes to Iraq and kills innocent civilians; Lil’ Cheney tears the heads off birds and sucks their blood, and in one episode has sex with Barbara Bush and gets stuck in her uterus. But the show very likely won’t budge America’s attention from the five seconds of dead air at the end of The Sopranos’ finale.
You could say this is a function of our changing social mores or the decline of the Administration’s popularity. Maybe so, but it’s probably also because Lil’ Bush is too lame to be taken seriously, or, more important, taken humorously.
It’s not that Lil’ Bush’s humor is beyond the pale; the Barbara Bush storyline, for instance, is no more outre than the South Park episode last season about Hillary Clinton’s ladyhood. But for starters, Lil’ Bush seems already dated, suffering from the long turnaround time of traditional animation in a way that the quick-reacting South Park never does. Lil’ Rummy would have been swapped for Lil’ Gates months ago. The central premise–that Lil’ Bush lives in the White House with his dad, the President–defangs the current-events satire, since in real life 43 got into the Iraq quagmire precisely by making mistakes that 41 didn’t. (We also see Lil’ Jeb, but for some inexplicable reason, in the cartoon he’s the dumb one in the family.) And really: Barbara Bush jokes? In 2007? I’ll bet there’s a Marilyn Quayle gag coming up that will just kill.
There are a few good, topical zingers in the two episodes sent to critics. In the first, Lil’ Bush signs up for the Army, to find “the good news from Iraq.” He asks the recuiter when he’ll get his body armor; there’s a pause, then they share a long hearty laugh at the ridiculous suggestion. But most of the targets are stale and obvious (Lil’ Bill Clinton fools around with the Lewinsky twins, etc.), and unlike South Park, there’s too much all-around contempt for the characters for the show to work as a series.
South Park builds its satire around a group of believable, likeable kids–even Cartman may be a jerk, but he’s such a delightful one that you like spending time with him. Lil’ Bush and his friends are just obnoxious, privileged twits, which might work for a bit within a sketch show, but will wear thin week after week. Bush fatigue may be a fine political sentiment. But it’s unlikely to get this series re-elected.