Trey Parker and Matt Stone's That's My Bush! delighted in subverting expectations. Who could have guessed that a show with George W. Bush as its lead character would be less political and timely than an animated show about foul-mouthed schoolchildren, or a movie about fornicating, jingoistic puppets? In a way, Bush!'s irresistibly gimmicky premise—a workplace sitcom centering on Bush and his wife Laura—represents a perverse act of extended misdirection. While audiences waited for Parker and Stone to tear into the Bush administration, they instead attacked the hoary conventions of '70s and '80s sitcoms, which proved a surprisingly apt target for satire and pop-culture riffing.
Bush! nails the myriad cheesy details of sitcoms, starting with an insanely infectious theme song that plugs a litany of clichés ("Life is hard / that's the price of fame / When you're president, everyone knows your name!") with hilariously exaggerated enthusiasm ("That's our may-uhhn!"). To come up with show ideas, the writers simply combined hot-button political issues (abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia) with the hokiest recurring sitcom plots (mother-in-law problems, having to be in two places at once). Timothy Bottoms' Bush is the most powerful man in the world, but like most sitcom husbands, he's relatively powerless in his own home. In addition to looking uncannily like Bush, Bottoms manages to simultaneously channel him and the archetypal bumbling-but-good-hearted sitcom stooge. He even manages to make Bush's catchphrase ("One of these days, Laura, I'ma punch you in the face!") seem almost sweet.
The show surrounds Bottoms' buffoon-in-chief with the obligatory sensible wife (Carrie Quinn Dolin), wisecracking maid (The Simpsons' Marcia Wallace), and a wacky neighbor and ditzy sexpot assistant whose appearances spur Pavlovian hoots and hollers from a laugh track so prominent that it's practically a supporting character. The high concept wears thin at times, but decades of crushingly banal situation comedies give the show plenty to work with. Parker and Stone now concede that it would be nearly impossible to do a sitcom lampooning the president post-9/11, and there's something strangely touching about the show's conception of Bush as a thoroughly harmless fool. Though only five years old, That's My Bush! already feels like a relic from a more innocent time.
Key features: Compelling, surprisingly nostalgic mini-commentaries from Stone, Parker, and the cast.