Parker, Stone unafraid to tackle political parody
By Jason Wallis
Lodi Living Film Critic
For the past several years, "South Park" has stood out as the smartest and most incisive comedy on television. Its creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are seen as the conservative answer to Michael Moore - funny, provocative, unabashedly biased and unafraid to challenge carefully observed social norms. But it wasn't always like that. Prior to the Bush administration, Parker and Stone seemed content to remain mired in fart jokes and sex gags, with only occassional explorations into the realm of political humor. Since the "uniter" took office, though, the duo has made it their mission to tackle the major issues that have divided this nation to an extent not seen since the Vietnam era.
Fortunately, they managed to reinvent the crudely animated "South Park" as their vehicle for political and cultural satire. However, that wasn't their original intent. Back in the spring of 2001 when Bush took office, Parker and Stone launched "That's My Bush!", a goofy sitcom following the misadventures of the U.S. president as he tries to juggle official state business with his obligations as a family man. As it turns out, the series wasn't the hate-fest that liberal viewers were hoping for (it actually portrays Bush as well-intentioned, if a tad clueless), and low ratings forced Comedy Central to pull the show after just eight episodes.
Some of the episodes are very hit-and-miss, but there are few that easily qualify as prime examples of absurdist humor. In one, a misunderstanding involving the White House cat and assisted suicide leads Laura Bush (Carrie Quinn Dolen) on a quest for a holistic "cleansing" to improve her sex life. In another, Parker and Stone parody another long-standing sitcom convention by trapping several characters - including the president (an uncanny Timothy Bottoms), Karl Rove (Kurt Fuller) and a very hungry Eskimo - in a confined space and allowing them to work out their problems. (This all sounds a whole lot stupider than it actually is.)
The complete series is being released for the first time on DVD on Tuesday, and admirers of political and cultural satire owe it to themselves to at least give it a shot. Granted, "That's My Bush!" isn't as overtly political as the premise might lead you to believe, and audiences expecting a ruthless dissection of the Bush administration will undoubtedly be disappointed. But if you view it as it was intended - that is, a satire of the American sitcom format, peppered with sly political jabs - you're likely to appreciate it far more.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***1/2 (out of four)