'Who Is America?' Premiere Review
Synopsis: Sacha Baron Cohen offers his take on America's patriotism.
In all honesty, I cannot remember the last time I had such a range of emotions as I had watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s new series, Who Is America? I started the premiere episode of the seven-part series with a lot of laughter. Mid-episode I had my hand over my face attempting to cover the disaster of what I was witnessing and by the end, I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing or screaming in outrage at my tv-screen. But maybe that’s the point?
If you’ve been wondering where Cohen has been the last couple years -- Who is America? is the answer. Seemingly Cohen ran off the day after Donald Trump’s Presidency began and has been making his way around America with a set of at least five (four in this episode, another seen in the promo) new characters to dupe and interview the unsuspecting. The targets in this series are primarily American senators, congressmen or political figures. This guerrilla comedy is what Cohen is known for, so of course, it's great to see him getting back into it. One major difference here and for this show in general to his previous series The Ali G show and subsequent character spin-off movies is Who Is America? has a much more bleak and potent agenda in play.
In the last two weeks with the lead up to the premiere you may have heard Sarah Palin or Roy Moore amongst others speaking out negatively about the series and speaking poorly of Cohen fooling them (and offering amazing free promotion for the show), but honestly, the big question is: how did he fool them? Sacha Baron Cohen became a household name, or at least Borat did in 2006, so can he really fool people the same ways as he did before? Yes.
Cohen is amazing at becoming his characters and never breaking as he has proven before and with some makeup and prosthetics he has created a gun-toting Israeli enthusiast, a reformed ex-con who wants to be an artist, overweight crazy right-winger and a crazy left-winger to balance it out. The crux off what makes these characters stand-out is best for you to find out on your own.
I don’t think it's all on the makeup and prosthetics, or even the acting of Cohen that has to lead him to dupe such key political figures like Bernie Sanders, Sarah Palin and whoever else we don’t know about yet. It’s the climate of America. These people are willing to take an interview anywhere for a chance to push their agenda and obviously do little to no research on whatever fake names and titles Cohen and crew provide them. It, of course, works in the show's favour and makes for great content, but it’s shocking enough to know how easy some of these people are fooled.
Is this Cohen’s funniest show? No. This isn’t the Ali G show, but this show is aiming for more than that and although these are certainly crude humour here, it’s aiming higher. The final segment is more shocking than it is funny and I think that speaks to what Cohen wants to achieve with this series. Though, this does make the middle segment with an ex-con trying to sell unique art seem rather out of place in the episode. Is it Cohen poking fun at the art world? Yes. But we have seen this before from him, and it seems out of place in this particular show.
Who Is America? has shock value and it is guaranteed to hit. It deservingly should. After you watch the premiere (and you should) ask yourself this: what’s cruder, the faeces or the guns?
Who Is America? Is sure to be a wild ride and you should get aboard this coaster now. I can’t believe what Cohen has managed to do in the first episode. It’s hilarious, shocking and without any presentation or narrator, the segments just speak for themselves. The last segment -- which is the star of the episode -- is nothing short of crazy. I can’t wait to see how the remaining six episodes play out, not just on screen, but the guaranteed reaction in the media as well. Welcome back Sacha, I missed you.
Directors: Sacha Baron Cohen, Payman Benz, Daniel Gray Longino, Dan Mazer, Todd Schulman,
Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen (created by, written by), Anthony Hines (written by), Dan Swimer (written by), Dan Mazer (written by), Lee Kern (written by) Adam Lowitt (written by), Brian Reich (written by), Kurt Metzger (written by), Eric Notarnicola (written by), Aaron Geary (written by)
Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen
'Episode One' Air Date: 16/07/2018
Who Is America? is currently available to stream on Stan with new episodes every Sunday.