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|That's My Bush!|
|Created by||Trey Parker
Carrie Quinn Dolin
|Theme music composer||Trey Parker|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||8 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Trey Parker
|Running time||22 minutes (approx.)|
|Production company(s)||Important Television
|Original network||Comedy Central|
|Picture format||480i (4:3 SDTV)|
|Original release||April 4 – May 23, 2001|
That's My Bush! is an American comedy television series that aired on Comedy Central from April 4 to May 23, 2001. The show was created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, best known for creating South Park.
Despite the political overtones, the show itself was a broad lampoon of American sitcoms, including lame jokes, a laugh track, and stock characters such as klutzy bimbo secretary Princess (Kristen Miller), know-it-all maid Maggie (Marcia Wallace), and supposedly helpful "wacky" next door neighbor Larry (John D'Aquino).
The series was conceived in the wake of the 2000 presidential election, between Bush and Al Gore. Parker and Stone were sure that Gore would win the election, and tentatively titled the show Everybody Loves Al. However, due to the controversy regarding the election's outcome, the series was pushed back. Instead, the show was then plotted around Bush at the workplace.
The show received positive reviews, with The New York Times commenting, "That's My Bush! is a satire of hero worship itself; it is the anti-West Wing and the first true post-Clinton comedy. [...] This politically astute criticism is embedded in so much hysterical humor that the series never seems weighty."
Episodes dealt (with deliberate heavy handedness) with the topics of abortion, gun control, the war on drugs, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the death penalty. Every episode ended with George saying "One of these days, Laura, I'm gonna punch you in the face!", a parody of Jackie Gleason's line from The Honeymooners, "One of these days, Alice... Bang, zoom! Right to the moon!"
[That's My] 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 1970s and 1980s sitcoms, which proved a surprisingly apt target for satire and pop-culture riffing.
Parker and Stone stated before the 2000 presidential election that they would create a satire about whoever won. According to their DVD commentary, they were "95% certain that Gore would win" and started developing the series under the title Everybody Loves Al. When the final election results were in limbo, production was delayed until the winner was determined. With Bush's election, the title became the entendre rich That's My Bush! The final episode involved Dick Cheney forcing Bush to step down, and featured an alternate title music called That's My Dick! which, later in the episode, changed to What A Dick!
The entire idea behind the series was to parody sitcoms. The premise developed into having it be about the President in office. Parker recalled the idea came about three months before the 2000 presidential election. The duo were "95 percent sure" that Democratic candidate Al Gore would win, and tentatively titled the show Everybody Loves Al. It was, essentially, the same show: a lovable main character, the sassy maid, the wacky neighbor. Parker said the producers did not want to make fun of politics, but instead lampoon sitcoms. The duo watched a lot of Fawlty Towers in preparation.
The duo signed a deal with Comedy Central to produce a live action sitcom, titled Family First, scheduled to debut on February 28, 2001. They threw a party the night of the election with the writers, with intentions to begin writing the following Monday and shooting the show in January 2001 with the inauguration. With the confusion of who the President would be, the show's production was pushed back. The duo wanted to write a "family sitcom", with the Bush family.
Comedy Central, however, prohibited Parker and Stone from including the Bush twins (Jenna Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush). The writers then turned the Bush twins character into Princess. "An Aborted Dinner Date" was the show's pilot episode. The episode features Felix the Fetus, which was made and operated by the Chiodo Brothers, who later worked with Parker and Stone on Team America: World Police (2004). They also created the cat Punk'kin in "The First Lady's Persqueeter". The show's producers consider the second episode aired, "A Poorly Executed Plan", the true first episode.
This was Parker and Stone's first live action production to be a part of the Writers Guild of America, West. The show's writers got a big dry-erase board and on one side, they would write down political ideas (abortion, capital punishment) and on the other side would be typical sitcom stories (frat buddies show up, trapped in a small space). They would then combine the two ideas, in what Stone described as "a Three's Company mix-up kind of thing." That's My Bush! was filmed at Sony Pictures Studios, and was the first time Parker and Stone shot a show on a production lot.
Spider-Man was being filmed around the same time frame that the show was in production. The show was not shot in front of a live audience, so as to keep control over the show and by necessity, thanks to various shots they would be unable to do in a normal show. They had built several rooms from the White House in their studio (bedroom, dining room) and were allowed "one new, rotating set" per week.
Parker described the sets as "amazing," and they were in fact packaged up after the show's run and sent to other White House-related productions. The show's producers gained inspiration by going on a private tour of the White House thanks to Anne Garefino, executive producer, who once worked at the White House for PBS. A White House usher showed the producers various rooms not allowed on normal tours, which allowed them to detail each set effectively.
Casting was relatively simple; Parker and Stone came across a photo of Timothy Bottoms in Variety for a play he was doing in Santa Barbara. Parker and Stone called him in, and they found he was "perfect" for the role. The plan was not to viciously "rip on" Bush or make him out to be a monster; in accordance with sitcom stereotypes, Bush was made a sweet and lovable oaf. Kurt Fuller was the last actor to be cast in the show. Jeff Melman was the director for each episode. This was the first time Trey Parker was only writing, not directing.
Each episode was shot in two days. The weeks were spent writing and getting ready while the cast rehearsed. Like South Park, in which Parker would be able to write a scene and see it animated a short time later, he and Stone could walk to rehearsals and see the cast rehearsing their script. Each episode opened with a cold open, with a "cheesy" joke that segued into the theme song. The duo recalled that, with stupid titles, these scenes were often the hardest to write.
The episode "S.D.I. -Aye-Aye!"features the first utterance of the word "Lemmiwinks", which Parker and the writers intended to be a parody of The Lord of the Rings. The word was later famously used in the South Park episode "The Death Camp of Tolerance". The show's first episode set a ratings record (at the time) for highest debut with over 2.9 million viewers tuning in; however, ratings dropped after this, with an average of 1.7 million viewers.
During the production of "Fare Thee Welfare", the show's series finale, the producers knew the show would end as it would be very expensive. For example, for the episode "Eenie Meenie Miney Murder", Parker and Stone used a live bear, an animatronic bear, an actor in a bear suit, and a puppet bear, which ended up breaking their budget. Although the show received a fair amount of publicity and critical notice, according to Stone and Parker, the cost per episode was too high, "about $1 million an episode."
Comedy Central officially cancelled the series in August 2001, as a cost cutting move; Stone was quoted as saying "A super-expensive show on a small cable network...the economics of it were just not going to work." Comedy Central continued the show in reruns, considering it a creative and critical success. Parker believed the show would not have survived after the September 11 attacks anyway, and Stone agreed, saying the show would not "play well." There was talk of a spin-off feature film for the series entitled George W. Bush and the Secret of the Glass Tiger.
The concept behind the film extended the bait and switch gag of the show: it would have to do with a Chinese invasion foiled by the President. Parker and Stone intended to work on it during the summer of 2002. Parker recalls That's My Bush! "a great time in our lives," and "the most fun we've had in our careers." That's My Bush! has had an effect on the structure of South Park: prior to 2001, each South Park episode was broken up into four acts. While producing That's My Bush!, Parker and Stone found the three act structure provided a better story, and South Park has continued to use it in recent years. Stone called the show one of the most pleasant experiences in his life.
Timothy Bottoms went on to portray George W. Bush in two later films: in a comedic context in Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, and in a serious context in the television movie DC 9/11: Time of Crisis.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"An Aborted Dinner Date"||Jeff Melman||Trey Parker||April 4, 2001|
|George tries to have a dinner with Laura and a publicity dinner at the same time.
Political Issue: Pro-life and pro-choice rights.
Sitcom Plot: Trying to attend two engagements at once.
|2||"A Poorly Executed Plan"||Jeff Melman||Trey Parker||April 11, 2001|
|George tries to impress his old frat buddies with an execution.
Political Issue: The death penalty.
Sitcom Plot: A visit from old friends prompts an elaborate ruse.
|3||"Eenie, Meenie, Miney, MURDER!"||Jeff Melman||Tony Barbieri & Trey Parker||April 18, 2001|
|George, going by the advice of a telephone psychic, believes he will be murdered by someone in the White House.
Political Issue: Gun control laws.
Sitcom Plot: One character mistakenly believes the other characters are plotting behind his back.
|4||"S.D.I. – Aye-AYE!"||Jeff Melman||Tom Stern & Trey Parker||April 25, 2001|
|George tries to illegally hook up cable and accidentally shoots a laser into Austria.
Political Issue: The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
Sitcom Plot: Trying to conceal a blunder that the character was warned against making.
|5||"The First Lady's Persqueeter"||Jeff Melman||Trey Parker & Amy Welsh||May 2, 2001|
|George tries to put Pun'kin, the Bush family cat to sleep, while Laura tries to improve her "downtown area" after mishearing George's conversation.
Political Issue: Assisted suicide.
Sitcom Plot: Mishearing a conversation leads to a wildly incorrect conclusion.
|6||"Mom 'E' D.E.A. Arrest"||Jeff Melman||Kyle McCulloch, Trey Parker & Matt Stone||May 9, 2001|
|Laura tries to impress George's mother Barbara by organizing the War on Drugs Arrest ceremony while George accidentally takes ecstasy.
Political Issue: The War on Drugs.
Sitcom Plot: Trying to impress the mother-in-law.
|7||"Trapped in a Small Environment"||Jeff Melman||Trey Parker||May 16, 2001|
|Laura and George successfully set up Karl with one of Laura's friends, only to find out that he is married, while rioters outside protest oil drilling in Alaska.
Political Issue: Oil drilling in Alaska.
Sitcom Plot: Characters that do not get along must cooperate when they are trapped together.
|8||"Fare Thee Welfare"||Jeff Melman||Matt Prager & Trey Parker||May 23, 2001|
|Series finale. After losing an important peace treaty, George is removed from office by Dick Cheney and tries to find a new job.
Political Issue: Presidential impeachment.
Sitcom Plot: Being fired from your job. Also parodies the conventions of series finales and spin-offs.