Wednesday, April 4
Yes, that’s your Bush. And guess what? It ain’t funny! Tonight marks the premiere of That’s My Bush , the mega-hyped Presidential satire on Comedy Central from South Park grossmeisters Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In the sitcom, actors play the real-life Commander in Chief, First Lady Laura Bush and White House surrogates like Karl Rove. High jinks ensue: botched abortions, rigged executions, cake in the face, nudity. You know, highbrow stuff.
Though it strains to be strange, dirty and dangerous, That’s My Bush is about as shockingly revolutionary as a string of Silver Spoons episodes. In the premiere, the President, played by Timothy Bottoms, kookily navigates between a private dinner with Laura (Carrie Quinn Dolin) and a negotiation between pro-life and pro-choice forces (the leader of the pro-life corps is played by a Pillsbury Dough Boy-like animated fetus). In the second episode, Mr. Bush tries to impress some old Yale frat brothers who think he’s whipped by the First Lady by bringing them along to a good old-fashioned execution. Except that Dubya has scheduled two executions: one real, one fake.
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: That’s comedy gold, buster! The biggest problem with That’s My Bush is that Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone can’t figure out what they’re really satirizing, political life or the weary sitcom genre. Instead of doing one or the other, they do both, lamely, so that That’s My Bush kind of feels like a Who’s the Boss episode crossed with the worst SNL parody you could imagine.
There are some moments: Ms. Bush reads a copy of How to Kill Yourself Slowly in Bed ; a hideous improv troupe is hired to pose as Mr. Bush’s execution team. But most of the political jokes are warmed-over and tired–we know he’s supposed to be a bonehead, enough already. And unlike South Park , which shredded conventions of both animation and taste, That’s My Bush is just dull coarseness without the clever.
The actors, all decent, aren’t given much to do here, though they do look their parts. Mr. Bottoms has Dubya’s pursed lips and dim, blue-eyed stare down cold, but he’s rarely given a line worth delivering. (In fact, the ersatz President’s catch-phrase line is a creepy Honeymooners knock-off: “One of these days, Laura, I’m going to punch you in the face !”–which the studio audience chants along with him.) The auburn-haired Ms. Dolin makes for a proper First Lady, and Kurt Fuller is a comic doppelgänger for the frazzled Mr. Rove. But this physical verisimilitude only makes That’s My Bush feel like a Presidential wax museum breathed to life by the producers of Married … with Children . Mr. Parker and Mr. Stone must remember: As far as jokes about this President are concerned, Mr. Bush himself has already set the bar, and it’s awfully high. [COM, 45, 10:30 p.m.]
Thursday, April 5
Speaking of Mr. Bush, he had the journos rolling last Thursday, March 29, at the Radio and Television Correspondents’ dinner at the Washington Hilton. The President did a greatest-misses speech recounting his malapropisms and Yogi Berra-isms, including faves “Grecians,” “Hispanically” and “vulcanized” when he meant “polarized.”
NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, resplendent and looking kind of bad-ass in a Johnny Cash-style tuxedo–black shirt, black bow tie–called it a speech well done.
“I think it works really well for him, and that’s the whole idea,” the NBC anchor said after the President’s self-deprecating routine. “He’s done that before, and it works well.”
Mr. Brokaw was asked if he would say where he got his spiffy tux. “This tuxedo?” Mr. Brokaw asked, raising an eyebrow. “No.” He chuckled and walked away.
It was a neat answer. Like, does Mr. Brokaw talk about his other tuxedos?
Comic Ben Stein didn’t have Mr. Bush’s golden tongue. The former Nixon speechwriter turned actor (” Bueller … Bueller … “) positively detonated on the dais, with acrid jokes about lawyers, college students and Southern Californians. The true disaster was a long-winded crack about President Clinton pardoning John Hinckley, which might have been perfectly har-har-hilarious anyplace else besides the very hotel where Mr. Hinckley had almost assassinated Ronald Reagan nearly 20 years before to the date.
Afterward, the penguin suits and cocktail dresses trouped outside to a string of network-sponsored after-parties. Almost all of them were polite-chitchat-and-jazz-band affairs, but most people felt tugged by an obnoxious bass line thumping down the corridor, emanating from a dark and sweaty disco inferno hosted by the Fox News Channel. There, “Superfreak” pumped mightily from a sound system, and in the corner of the room, amid the glow of blue and red lights, was the 6-foot 4-inch Superfreak himself, Bill O’Reilly, the TV newsman you definitely don’t bring home to Mother.
Mr. O’Reilly looked tired but triumphant. The night before, he had been on The Tonight Show , grabbed the red-eye back east, slept a few winks, taped an edition of his show, The O’Reilly Factor in the Fox studios in D.C., and then donned a penguin suit to attend the night’s festivities. Mr. O’Reilly said he’d had a brief audience with President George W. Bush. “He’s going, ‘I love The Factor –we watch it all the time,” Mr. O’Reilly said over the disco din. “The President .”
And Mr. O’Reilly, a man who has seldom lacked for self-esteem, sounded slightly humbled by the waves of attention he’d been riding. “You got to understand,” he said, sitting down and tucking his long legs under a cocktail table. “Something like this comes along once in a lifetime. You’re not going to stay this hot.”
Still, Mr. O’Reilly’s bravado returned when he said that all this fuss had helped his show. “We got more people wanting to come on the show than we could possibly book!” he roared. “They like the intellectual joust, and even if they lose, they get credit for coming on! Especially the men: They’re macho guys, so if they’re single, they get more dates!
Bill O’Reilly, pundit and yenta! As the music got more distracting, NYTV asked the Superfreak–who had raved about his disco-dancing days in his autobiographical rant, The O’Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life –if he planned on teaching those boozed-up kiddies a few things about the Hustle.
“I got a sore leg,” Mr. O’Reilly protested. “I’m over the hill as far as that’s concerned.”
Ah, well–opportunities gained, opportunities lost. Tonight, Mr. O’Reilly busts a move on The O’Reilly Factor . [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]
Friday, April 6
Yes, that was Fran Lebowitz playing a steely arraignment judge in the March 21 episode of NBC’s Law & Order . The gravel-voiced writer and social critic was onscreen for barely a minute, but she called her brief cameo a bona-fide thrill.
“It’s my favorite show,” said Ms. Lebowitz, who talked to NYTV shortly after returning from Oscar weekend in Los Angeles. “I like every single thing about it.” Referring to the signature “cling-cling” that signals a new Law & Order scene, Ms. Lebowitz said: “There is nothing happier to me than the sound of those tones. When I hear that, I could be anywhere and I just grin. It’s my favorite thing in the world.”
Contrary to rumor, Ms. Lebowitz did not get her part by palling around with Law & Order creator Dick Wolf at Elaine’s. No, Ms. Lebowitz’s path to Law & Order fame began when she and lit buddy Toni Morrison showed up for a book reading by S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the award-winning cops-and-lawyers show.
“I asked [Ms. Merkerson] if Toni and I could come to the set, and she arranged it,” Ms. Lebowitz said. “And we spent the whole day on the set, which was the happiest day of my life. And then I just begged them until they gave me a part.”
At first, the show’s producers offered Ms. Lebowitz a plum role as a trial judge, but that was just too much to handle. “I have no acting ability,” she said. “I actually auditioned for it, and failed the audition.”
So the smaller role was offered. In her bit part, Ms. Lebowitz set bail for a perp being prosecuted by sexpot Angie Harmon and then uttered the line, “Spin the wheel, Louie.” It was a memorable line, well executed, but it made no sense. Ms. Lebowitz explained: “They cut the guy out. There was a guy, Louie. He was–I don’t know what the word is, the guy who brings the things to the judge–and that was Louie, and they cut Louie out. They had nothing to do with me. I feel sorry for Louie, who’s a real actor and probably was counting on this appearance. Everyone asked me about that.”
But apparently, Ms. Lebowitz was a hit. She said she had just bumped into Mr. Wolf out in L.A., and he had offered her a recurring role on the show. She immediately said yes. “I’m hoping this will open up more judgeships for me,” she said.
Like a People’s Court or Judge Judy kind of deal? Judge Fran ?
“Well, I was really hoping for something like the Supreme Court,” Ms. Lebowitz said. “I feel like if you spent an entire lifetime being so judgmental, it should pay off.”
Tonight on NBC, the Law & Order spinoff, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit . [WNBC, 4, 10 p.m.]
Saturday, April 7
Wait, that tingling in your extremities–is that the first stage of XFL playoff fever? No, it’s just last night’s chili burrito from El Sombrero. Tonight’s XFL contest will be either San Francisco at L.A. or Memphis at Las Vegas. Like it makes a difference. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]
Sunday, April 8
Jesus rises again tonight. The CBS miniseries, dummy. [WCBS, 2, 9 p.m.]
Monday, April 9
Dept. of Home Cookin': We’d burn in hell if we failed to mention In Search of Satan , a documentary that resident NYTV researcher Karina Lahni worked on. In fact, if we didn’t mention it, Karina promised us eternal damnation–and misspellings of every last name. [MSNBC, 43, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, April 10
In tonight’s episode of the new Fox reality skein, Boot Camp , the chippy cadets are ordered to strafe Turner Broadcasting headquarters. [FOX, 5, 9 p.m.]