Dubya's TV death has generated controversy, but that didn't make it interesting says Richey Nash
You’ve probably already heard about Death of a President (More4, 9pm). It’s the ‘controversial’ film-length drama documentary about a fictional assassination of George Walter Bush on 19 October 2007.
Dubya has just made a speech at the Chicago Sheraton hotel. He managed to do so without (a) saying something stupid (b) starting a war or (c) choking on a pastry product. But George W. Bush is upset: in his world that makes him unproductive. Still, he’s already got wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to worry about, not to mention the new Cold War with Iran and a moose-based assault by pensioners from Canada.
Before the speech angry protestors were outside causing a ruckus: waving banners, spitting at police, and generally looking like they’d come from the first night of the Rage Against The Machine reunion tour. One of these, a young shaven headed guy called Frank Molini, broke away from the crowd and managed to get to the top of a nearby building. He had a sniper rifle so guess what happened next, kids.
Bush was outside shaking hands with the crowd and then – bang bang – he keeled over and later died in hospital. It should all feel very controversial, very dramatic, yet somehow didn't.
You see, a good drama documentary should be based on something like global warming, a believable issue that will affect everyone on the planet. That’s how to ratchet up the scaremongering. The only person who needs to be afraid about the death of George W. Bush is George W. Bush. Well, him and Republican cumjug Fox News.
So it lacked drama, and the general premise was flimsy. Okay, so someone may get onto a roof with a sniper rifle and may shoot at the President and may kill him, but it seems a little unlikely. Not impossible of course, but not probable and certainly not inevitable. And it's not scary: if anything, not having a rich Texan moron in charge of the world would be a good thing. At least until the inevitable rise of Jed Bush.
Yet this premise could have worked in an hour-long show. Death of a President, however, was a patience-stretching two hours. With long documentaries you need a Michael Moore or Morgan Spurlock to push drive them on. You don’t get the same energy from random bits of ‘genuine footage’ and ‘genuine testimonies’. In fact, I had to start writing this review or I’d have fallen asleep.
The programme touched on interesting topics. The ‘assassin’ Frank Molini opened a debate about whether George W. Bush deserved to be assassinated. According to Molini, Bush has been responsible for over 100,000 deaths, is a war criminal and deserves the death penalty. It’s a debate that was quickly set down as the programme moved on to the irrelevant clues found at the fictional crime scene. Guess what programme-makers: nobody cares about the minutiae of a crime scene where a crime never happened.
It also touched on issues of Bush stealing civil liberties, then dropped it. A black guy is arrested under suspicion of being the assassin because, it seems, he is black but a dialogue about whether the US police are institutionally racist is lost. This black guy turned out to be an ex-soldier, but the argument about whether the armed forces were made to look foolish by Bush was forgotten. And when they found a guy they thought was the assassin but wasn’t, the jury sent him down because he was Syrian. Again and again, interesting points were picked up for 30 seconds then dropped.
But some bits were good. The supposed real life footage of Bush was surprisingly realistic. And the programme showed how fear whipped up by the media and government can lead to miscarriages of justice: an innocent Syrian was sent down for the assassination for looking a bit too al-Qa'eda.
Yet ultimately it was a frustrating watch. It didn’t warrant almost two hours, went into tiny pointless details too much and missed the big interesting points. It needed a firm hand to guide it but instead just ambled on to an inconsequential ending. Kind of like George W. Bush's approach to foreign policy, only with less meaningless bloodshed.
So what was the point? Frankly it’s hard to know, other than amusing people who want to see George W. Bush get shot. Sure it stimulated some controversy, just didn’t do much to stimulate brain cells.