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George W. as Ward Cleaver? 'South Park' creators will use first family to satirize sitcoms

Friday, January 19, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

PASADENA, CALIF. -- They're at it again.

"South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are about to tackle a live-action sitcom set in the George W. Bush White House titled "That's My Bush!"

If you think that title is bad, consider some of the titles they rejected: "Everybody Loves Bush," "H.R. Bushnstuf" and "Battlestar Gabushtica."

Actually, the title they preferred was "Family First," but it turned out the Mormon church owns that title. It most accurately reflects the show they envision, which is not a political satire.

"This is not a political show," Parker said. "It's a show that satirizes the American sitcom ... We had been wanting, actually for several years, to do a sitcom that sort of ripped on sitcoms because we hate them so much."

They'll goof around with laugh tracks, characters will have catch phrases and the Bush family will have wacky neighbors. But each episode will also deal with a real issue.

"[The first episode] basically has to do with the head of the Pro-Life movement, who was aborted as a baby and never really developed and is basically this little thing that runs around," Parker said. "And George, of course, is trying to put on the wacky dinner and chaos ensues."

No cast was announced for "That's My Bush!" but the show will soon go into production and will premiere in March.

Parker and Stone came up with the idea for a series about the first family a year ago, and they were prepared to base their lead character on either Bush or Gore.

"We saw it was going to be one of these two guys and either way, [we knew] people were going to be pretty bummed out that this guy's in office," Parker said. "Everyone thinks we're going to make [Bush] look like a boob, he's going to do that fine on his own, and that's why it didn't matter whether it was Bush or Gore, because we're not out to skewer a president. We're out to do something very, very subversive and actually make you really love this guy."

That's right, the George W. Bush they envision isn't the Will Ferrell manchild as depicted on "Saturday Night Live." He's more akin to Ward Cleaver.

"In the scripts we've written so far, he's the greatest guy in the world and so is his wife," Parker said. "That's how sitcom families are. They've got to be great. No one wants to watch a [jerk] for hours and hours."

Reports surface on the Internet that Parker and Stone intended to make Bush's twin daughters lesbians with the hots for one another, but Stone said that's not the case. A writer pitched that scene, but they never intended to use it. Parker said the rumor did elicit complaint calls from people in the Bush camp to lobbyists for Comedy Central.

"I think it's going to be a lot less vicious, personally, than people think," Stone said. "What we like ripping on is Americana, the hypocrisy of people's political views and even ourselves. It will be dirty and it will be edgier compared to most of what's on TV, but I'm not going to spend years of my life and stake our careers on being vicious towards some person or specific political view or agenda. It's a joke."

Stone said neither he nor Parker voted in the presidential election and they didn't have a clear preference between the candidates, but they consider themselves "more right-wing than most people in Hollywood."

"We're not extreme Republicans," Stone said. "I don't subscribe to either political ticket. Living in Hollywood to say that you're more right-wing than most people here doesn't mean a whole lot because they're pretty left-wing. We're just not like Alec Baldwin. I think if the Bushes knew that, they wouldn't be so bummed about the show."

The pair will continue to produce "South Park" for at least the next three years. "South Park" returns with new episodes in June, but don't expect a follow-up to the 1999 feature film.

"I want that to live forever as the quintessential 'South Park,' " Parker said. "I don't want to bastardize it with another movie, unless lightning strikes and I had the sweetest idea ever."



STAR INTERVIEWER: Martin Short's talk show is dead, but he's reviving one of the characters he appeared as, Jiminy Glick.

Short, wearing a fat suit, conducts outrageous celebrity interviews on the half-hour series "Primetime Glick," which will begin airing on Comedy Central in September. Short appeared as Glick at an uproarious press conference Wednesday. These question and answer fests aren't usually this much fun, and it's not something that translates well into print (you have to hear Short's voice and see his mannerisms), but if the show is half as funny as Short was Wednesday afternoon, "Primetime Glick" will be worth watching.

Glick said his peer Barbara Walters has an attitude, but he likes her. Maybe.

"I like her, if she'll come on the show," Glick said. "If she doesn't, I don't have much time for her."

Glick also answered questions about the two-part episode of "Barnaby Jones" he appeared in, back when he was acting. He remembered series star Buddy Ebsen was in a stupor most of the time.

"At one point, he said to me, with kind of a slur, 'Have you seen Donna Douglas?' So he clearly thought he was doing a 'Beverly Hillbillies' reunion," Glick said. "And I said, 'You know what? She's over with the critters in the cement pond.' And then we didn't see him for most of the afternoon. I think he just thought he'd been wheeled out to the terrace."



REVENGE OF THE '80s: Hooray for Nick at Nite, which will bring back several 1980s sitcoms for a week of programs March 4 through 9.

The week will feature "Diff'rent Strokes" Sunday, "Silver Spoons" Monday, "The Facts of Life" Tuesday, "ALF" Wednesday, "227" Thursday and "Square Pegs" Friday.

"ALF"? "Square Pegs"? I'll be watching.



OH, MR. GRANT: TV Land launches "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Monday with episodes airing 8 p.m. to midnight through Friday. A marathon of episodes from spin-off series ("Rhoda," "Phyllis" and "The Betty White Show") will air for 48 hours beginning at 6 a.m. Jan. 27.

A 48-hour "Chico and the Man" marathon begins tomorrow at 6 a.m. and will air weekdays at midnight beginning Monday.



LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Now that it's 20-years-old, MTV is getting into the lifetime achievement awards business with "mtvICON,", an annual tribute to artists "who have made a significant contribution to music, music video and pop culture." The first recipient will be Janet Jackson and the special will be taped March 10 in Los Angeles.

Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen is attending the Television Critics Association winter press tour.



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