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DVD Review: That's My Bush!

Laura and George (Carrie Quinn Dolin, Timothy Bottoms) were a lot slap-happier on Comedy Central's That's My Bush!

Both the timing and the cancellation were just about right for Comedy Central's That's My Bush!

The president and his First Lady had inhabited the White House for barely two-and-a-half months when this sendup of a '70s sitcom portrayed him as a dumb, amiable bumbler and her as his understanding but often unfulfilled wife. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, had planned to lampoon Al Gore had he won. But they clearly got luckier -- from a comedic standpoint at least -- when George W. Bush prevailed after the prolonged electoral showdown in Florida.

Timothy Bottoms' portrayal of a hapless but well-meaning Bush proved to be comedy gold in a series that ended on May 23, 2001 after Comedy Central said it cost too much to make. The eight exceptionally irreverent and often riotously funny episodes are newly available on a two-disc DVD set retailing for $26.99.

That's My Bush! clearly could not have premiered or continued after Sept. 11th. Scenes such as the president with "Abortion Summit 2001" cake all over his face would have been in awfully bad taste. The president inviting his frat brothers to an execution wouldn't have played too well either. More than five years later some of this stuff is still hard to digest in a wartime climate that's nothing to joke about. Oddly, though, That's My Bush! is testament to how good we had it when its then virginal president was billing himself as a "uniter not a divider." Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

The pilot episode finds the president trying to split time between a promised intimate dinner with Laura (Carrie Quinn Dolin) and an abortion summit in which he hopes to make "uniter history."

Bottoms, whose career had pretty much cratered in the years after The Last Picture Show, turned out to be both a dead-on Bush lookalike and a surprisingly deft comedic actor. His flustered looks and ill-fated efforts to please are perfectly in sync with the series' throwback takeoffs on loud, broad sitcoms such as The Jeffersons, Maude, Three's Company and Sanford & Son. In a romantic touch, George has a mariachi band play the latter sitcom's theme song for Laura while he's frantically racing back across the hall to his ill-fated summit dinner.

The goofball prez even has a tagline, borrowed from Ralph Kramden's blowups on an even more vintage comedy, The Honeymooners. It's triggered by a loving Laura putdown such as "You're the best. even if you are a clueless bastard sometimes." To which hubby good-naturedly retorts, "Ho, ho, one of these days, Laura, I'm gonna punch you right in the face!"

No, Parker and Stone aren't subtle. Nor is the Bushes' saucy maid, Maggie Hawley (Marcia Wallace from The Bob Newhart Show), who means it as a compliment when she says, "Wow, look at you, Mrs. Bush. You look like a hooker!"

A later episode features a visit from battle ax Barbara Bush (Marte Boyle Slout), whose relationship with Laura is testy even though George insists it's lovey-dovey.

"Is that why, in her Christmas card, she still refers to me as 'That whore from Dallas'?" Laura wonders.

This is the same episode in which George inadvertently pops a few Ecstasy pills during a White House media event tied to the arrest of the 100 millionth drug offender. Bottoms again is a riot, especially after he thinks he sees a man in a banana suit.

That's My Bush! called it a wrap with a "Fare Thee Welfare" episode that has George and Laura tossed out of the White House by a demonic Dick Cheney. The series is then renamed That's My Dick! until George returns to power in the guise of a masked wrestler known as "The Mysterious Loser." A two-faced Karl Rove (Kurt Fuller) had come to miss his old boss. After all, he "was a great man, an honest man, a premature ejaculator, I understand, but very well-meaning."

Creators Parker and Stone remain resolutely immature, which is nice work if you can get it. That's My Bush! ages pretty well, however. It also reminds us that those were the good old days.