Review // “Who Is America?” Premiere

Last night saw Sacha Baron Cohen’s return to television, satirising and exposing America’s extreme left and right with terrifying and cringeworthy results.

Who is America? opens with the voices of John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famed inaugural addresses before quickly cutting to President Trump mocking a disabled reporter and shots of Harvey Weinstein. It’s pretty easy to guess where Cohen is going to get his material from with America as socially divided as it is right now.

Perhaps best known to the world as the man behind Borat, the fictional Kazak the FBI actually investigated as he made his way across the USA, Sacha Baron Cohen has returned to his roots of razor sharp wit while sat across from some of the most significant men and women in society. Politics are clearly heavy on Cohen’s mind and ripe for the picking is Trump’s administration, but he is equally satirising the liberal and artistic worlds. Under the guise of 4 new characters in episode one, Cohen asks Who is America?, featuring;

Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D, a scooter-bound right-wing academic who debates with Bernie Sanders on the 1%, while berating Obama-care for giving him further illnesses while in hospital.

Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello begins his dinner with Trump Delegate Jane Page Thompson with a First People chant before telling how his daughter menstruates on a US flag to symbolise the bloodshed their country was built upon. 

Rick Sherman, convict turned artist whose mediums involve faeces and ejaculate, keen to sell his new works since being released after a 21 year sentence.

Col. Erran Morad, an Israeli gun specialist who advocates a “kinderguardian” program, which would see children as young as 3 years old trained to use handguns and grenades.

Based on the first episode alone, Erran Morad is probably going to be the most popular and certainly the most inflammatory character going forward, having already coaxed some absolutely outrageous quotes out of high profile US politicians. But Cohen’s consistent ability to remain straight faced while discussing bowel movements with a California art dealer and a “pheromone called Blink 182” with a Republican senator is testament to a man who has built his career tiptoeing the line between genius and chaos, and this venture is no different.

Smart and edgy, but not perfect and certainly not as well devised as his feature length characters, Who Is America? is an interesting development for a man who hasn’t donned a mask for regular TV since HBO’s Da Ali G Show in 2004. The first episode is very entertaining, if nothing else than for the novelty of having Cohen’s particularly twisted sense of humour back on television. But of the 4 new characters, their airtime is oddly skewed and would perhaps have benefitted from streamlining or combining two already similarly eccentric characters. Though as the show’s production has been shrouded in mystery, its possible that this balance will be adjusted later in the series. That being said, the highlight of this particular episode, Erran Morad’s TV advert for children that closes the show will have you suitably amazed at what you are hearing from elected officials.

The biggest question going forward is, who will Cohen catch with their trousers down? With Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, OJ Simpson and many more high profile people set for the chopping block, will the show deliver some truly outlandish words? Or has Cohen’s shtick lost it’s impact as he struggles to maintain a low profile nowadays? If Palin’s recent comments on Cohen are anything to go by, then we’re in for a very interesting show down the line.

Who Is America? airs 10pm Monday nights on Channel 4 and the premiere is available to watch on 4OD here.

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