What direction does this show need to go in?
The return of Our Cartoon President is right around the corner. The adult animated series follows Donald Trump as he lazily navigates his way around being the president of the United States. The show has found success in accentuating the strange characters that surround the Oval Office and their dimwitted leader. While commenting on true-life political platforms, the Showcase original took on every major controversy this government has been facing. This leaves us with the question of what’s left to write about, and what can this series bring us that will be new and refreshing?
Our Cartoon President got its start as part of a reoccurring segment in the highly political talk show, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. This was at a time where all anybody was talking about was Donald Trump and how bad he was going to screw over America. Committing the shorts to full-length animated series felt like a no-brainer. And, Our Cartoon President premiered on Showtime in February 2018. Unfortunately, reception for the show was mostly negative. The premiere failed to capture half a million viewers, and the majority of the series opened to less than 200,000 watchers. The fact that Our Cartoon President managed to sign another season was a surprise- although a good one for us at Bubbleblabber, cause you know we love our cartoons.
Before we can even explore where season two can go, we need to figure out what went wrong last year with the show. The series seemed to have a lot going for it with the political landscape and having the legendary Stephen Colbert in their back pocket. However, the show did suffer from a few significant flaws. The first issue lies within the animation itself. Not how it is produced, it looks fantastic, and it’s hard to see Trump as anything but a cartoon anymore, but with the process. Unlike Saturday Night Live or The Late Show with Steven Colbert, which both saw a rise in popularity last year, Our Cartoon President didn’t have the luxury to make fun of the political news as it happened. With animation and development taking time, episodes would have had to been written months in advance. The series felt the hit for not being as relevant and up-to-date.
What really held Our Cartoon President from reaching the numbers that they want was limiting itself to such a small audience. To be a fan of the show, it requires you to be a specific type of person. The conservative messages already omit a major portion of consumers, about half of them if you go by election numbers. Beyond that, it takes somebody that is somewhat knowledgeable about current events to understand the show’s humour. All of the characters are based on real-life people that do not share the same celebrity stature as Trump. So, if you don’t know who all of these people are, you’re out of luck. This takes away another quarter of your audience, at least. Finally, it also takes someone who enjoys watching animation. Who knows why in the world you wouldn’t, but apparently these people exist. Which leaves you with an even smaller target audience. Yikes.
Finally, probably the most significant issue with Our Cartoon President is in its sitcom structure. Instead of being a show about the POTUS causing mass havoc and destroying the world, most episodes focus on his relationships with friends and family. Sitcoms are wonderful, but it is hard to compete with other animated shows that own the market, like The Simpsons or Family Guy. When it came to Our Cartoon President viewers were hoping for something grander on the scale. In the animated platform, there is no reason why you couldn’t have Trump accidentally launch nukes at North Korea causing World War Three, just to have everything reset the next episode. Unfortunately, the writers decided to go for humble morals and lessons in place of pure entertainment.
With that all said, what can Our Cartoon President do to really turn things around for the next season? The two most memorable episodes of the first year included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paying a visit to the White House, and when Trump finally was getting his wall between the US and Mexico built. These two episodes stand out for one main reason. The world of the show got a little bit bigger. Instead of a show that took place exclusively in the White House, or Washington DC, we got to see what impact Trump was making internationally. For Our Cartoon President to succeed it needs to open that world up in more ways than one.
Our Cartoon President needs to get outrageous. Political jokes are all well and good especially if you are a fan of The New Yorker and are consistently following what is going on in Washington. However, for fans watching cartoons on a Sunday night, we want our jokes-per-minute meter filled to the brim with anything that will land. Starting with one of the biggest clowns in the world is a great start, but even Trump’s animated version was too humanized. At no point do you have to make him a lovable scamp, instead make him the blundering buffoon who has no problem lying to people who obviously know the truth? The show should be hitting those outplayed jokes of tiny hands, orange skin, and stupid toupee as much as possible. If for nothing else but to add some light-hearted humour to the mix.
Also, the supporting cast needs to be filled out with more recognizable faces. If you are going to make this show more about the family than anything else than do that without bogging things down with every other face in Washington. Instead, we would rather see Trump face off against recognizable celebrities. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a highly publicized feud with Trump, let’s have an episode where these two throw down. Or, Kanye West paid a visit to the White House, let’s see what these two characters get up to when they take Air Force One out for a spin. I am just spitballing here, but they already sound like entertaining premises.
There is also that issue about staying relevant, and again the fix is to open up the world. There are plenty of political problems that supersede daily news. And, many more that you could create utilizing the most powerful man in the world. How would Trump fair against an unmistakable global warming catastrophe? What happens if North Korea proceeds to attack America? Heck, it’s a cartoon, take advantage of The Avengers popularity and throw some superheroes in an episode to save the planet.
Our Cartoon President is a great show. It has more promise than a lot of things we get on TV. There is no better character in the world to have been the center of your program. The problem is that it limits itself to becoming a show that everyone is talking about. Animation gives you the keys to an unlimited amount of possibilities, so do we really need to see how cartoon Trump makes it up to Melania? The family sitcom is the wrong direction for a show that can say important things. Our Cartoon President needs to take us to places that we never thought about, things that scare us, things that make us want to do better as citizens of the world. If the series could grow beyond it’s Oval Office setting, we wouldn’t be wondering if the show has a chance beyond Trump leaving the White House. We would be harassing them for new episodes like Dan Harmon.
Either way, we are about to find out what Our Cartoon President season two premieres Sunday, May 12, 2019, on Showtime and Crave.