Impeach "Lil' Bush" Season 1 for Comedy Less Funny than Getting Waterboarded
I have never been a fan of President George W. Bush’s administration. It has induced what I term “Political Tourette’s Syndrome” in me, where the best efforts to have a sane discussion about public policy decisions inevitably degenerate into a vicious stream of invective laden with profanity, centering on what I perceive to be a combination of gross incompetence, nearly criminal negligence, and poorly concealed hypocrisy. I may sue someone over it.
Sadly, Comedy Central’s Lil’ Bush has the same combination in regards to comedy, except maybe without the hypocrisy. It is a relentlessly unfunny show that never met a painfully obvious joke it didn’t like, and can’t even manage to make those very funny. Whatever few effective jokes it can muster are quickly beaten into the ground through repetition. It also takes limp pokes at figures in the Democratic and liberal camp which aren’t any funnier than the jokes made at the Republican/conservative camp, doing so purely on a personal level rather than a political one, and seems to mistake this for “bi-partisanship.” Come to think of it, just for that I’m going to flip-flop like a good Democrat and add hypocrisy to the list of the show’s sins after all.
The show casts George W. Bush and his inner circle as schoolyard children, managing to date itself almost immediately by making Lil’ Don Rumsfeld a cast member alongside Lil’ Condi Rice and Lil’ Dick Cheney. Later episodes attempt to deal with this at least a little bit by doing repeated gags about blaming everything on Rummy, though this isn’t any funnier than Lil’ Condi’s obvious unrequited crush on Lil’ Bush, Lil’ Rummy’s running gag of being an abused child, or Lil’ Cheney’s running gag of growling incoherent lines of dialogue. Even that last gag isn’t something the show can fully commit to — occasionally, Lil’ Cheney needs to interject a phrase just to make sure the viewer knows what he’s talking about. Cartoon Network’s Chowder does the same gag with Shnitzel, except Chowder is funny. There are also recurring cast members, including Bush Sr. and Barbara as the token adult figures; Lil’ Jeb Bush, who is dumber than a bag of hammers; and a set of Lil’ Democrats, including the Clintons, Al Gore, Barack Obama, and John Kerry.
Individual episodes of the show take aim at many of this Bush administration’s greatest hits, such as the Iraq War, illegal immigration, homosexuality, global warming, oil company profiteering, and extremely selective Constitutional literalism. There’s a lot more humor in the average Bush White House press conference, to be honest. Lil’ Bush‘s problem is that it isn’t as offensive or subversive as shows like The Simpsons or South Park, nor is it especially biting political satire. It never met an obvious punch-line it didn’t like, and paints with an extra-broad brush. Subtlety is not a trait it seems to value. Each half-hour episode is split into two segments, each of which manages to feel like a half-hour because they drag on for so long and are so brutally unfunny. I suppose an extreme optimist might consider this to be extra value for the money, since it feels like you’re buying two discs of content for the price of one.
The single disc release comes with a series of bonus features, and to be fair, the “bonus” episode “Walter Reed” is probably the best one of the lot. This doesn’t mean it’s very funny, either, but rather that it’s the best of a bad lot. Commentary tracks were recorded for every episode, which mostly reveal little other than the fact that the show’s crew had fun putting Lil’ Bush together. At least someone enjoys the show. Three individual segments receive guest commentaries by Jerry Springer, Ralph Nader, and Tucker Carlson, all of whom demonstrate why they’re not stand-up comedians themselves. There are also three behind-the-scenes featurettes, if you should want to know how to make an unfunny comedy. The last extras are a set of trailers and Comedy Central “Quickies” of hit shows. Putting the “Quickies” on was a real mistake, since you’ll get more laughs out of them in five minutes than you will from the rest of the DVD.
I’m going to guess that the show is incredibly cheap to produce, which is the only reason I can possibly see to renew it for a second season. As a comedy, Lil’ Bush crashes and burns faster than the current administration’s popularity ratings.