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TV Review: Who is America?

PLOT: Sacha Baron Cohen adopts several characters to explore American political culture.

REVIEW: Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who is America?” was Showtime’s big, high-profile summer project, continuing their recent trend at hiring A-list talent who you wouldn’t normally expect to see on TV, following up on last summer’s “Twin Peaks: The Return”. What’s unique about “Who is America?” is that thanks to their agreement with Cohen, they weren’t allowed to promote it in any way until just a few days before it aired - making its debut a real event. Ratings, apparently, were soft, but it went viral in a big way (similar to Twin Peaks), although Cohen’s saying this was only ever intended as a short-term project, and there will be no season two. This makes sense, as the pop culture footprint was big enough that it’ll be harder and harder for Cohen to fool anyone without coming up with new personas, but then again, it seems there is no shortage of suckers out there.

What’s arguably “Who is America’s” greatest legacy are the very real political consequences it’s had, with several of the high profile guests he fooled already losing their positions. It’s easy to see why, with many of them coming off as absolute fools. It’s hard to say who exactly comes off the worst, but Jason Spencer certainly gives everyone a run for their money, with him dropping his pants and running around screaming “AMERICA!” and the n-word. Arguably, no one comes off as a bigger fool than the gun-rights lobbyist, Philip Van Cleve, who is somehow convinced to participate in a video called “Kinder-guardians”, where he shows off guns that could be aimed at tots, like the already infamous “Puppy Pistol”.

It’s hard to understand how some of these people could be so dumb, but that’s always been Cohen’s gift. In many ways, it’s a major comeback for him after the disastrous THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY, although I’d wager more of his future work will be aimed at the small screen rather than the big one. That said, not everyone is fooled, with Bernie Sanders, Ted Koppel, and Jill Stein quickly seeing through the ruse. Before you say that he cherry picks, only allowing the left to come off well, Dick Cheney also seems quite bemused by the whole thing, and while some have cheered the interview, I’m not at all sure that the former VP didn’t know exactly what was going on.

As for the characters, some of them go over well, but some fall flat. The best, without a doubt, is Erran Morad, the Mossad agent, while Billy Wayne Ruddick, the far-right conspiracy theorist, is also pretty great. However, some characters, like Rick Sherman - the former inmate, fall flat, with him clearly not fooling anyone. The show is definitely more of a mixed bag than “Da Ali G Show”, but overall it’s more often funny than not. While one has to wonder whatever became of his apparent interview with Sarah Palin, for the most part, this was a smart, funny piece of work, although it’s unlikely to win over any non-fans of Cohen’s. If you haven’t seen it yet - it’s definitely worth a binge watch.


Source: JoBlo.com

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