Back in July, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin confessed she fell for Sacha Baron Cohen’s ruse on the show, Who Is America?, a new political satire on Showtime in which the comedian poses as a variety of asinine characters and entangles politicians in increasingly awkward situations.
“Yup—we were duped,” Palin wrote in a blog post on July 10. “Ya’ got me, Sacha. Feel better now?”
But yesterday at a Showtime executive session during the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in L.A., there was some insinuation that Palin might not make the cut, according to Jason Lynch, who has been covering the press tour for Adweek.
“There are several people who have thrown themselves in front of buses that may not be headed their way,” remarked Gary Levine, president of programming, alluding to her potential non-appearance. “Sacha is very hardworking and selective in [making] the final product. He’s always refining it. We’ll see.”
Baron Cohen has, thus far, interviewed individuals all over the political spectrum for the show’s first four episodes, and highlighted some alarming truths about the state of our country—truths that will certainly have viewers asking that titular question.
He has, for instance, convinced former Vice President Dick Cheney to autograph a waterboarding kit and strongly implied that former Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore is a sex offender.
At yesterday’s session, Showtime Networks CEO David Nevins called Baron Cohen “one of the great comedians of our time,” which is also, he conceded, “a time of extremes.” He said the controversy around the show has only contributed to its success—viewership went up 30 percent in the second week, and the trend continued into the third—and it has been wildly popular with younger demographics who flock to streaming platforms.
“[Baron Cohen]’s the Daniel Day‑Lewis of comedy in his ability to create a character, stick with it, [and] live in that sort of method world that he creates,” Nevins said. The executive added he’s not quite sure what the show is saying about America, but that it’s important to Showtime to be part of the zeitgeist and while the network knew it would be a risk, “it’s a risk [Nevins] is really glad that [it] took.”
The CEO also said at yesterday’s session that, in addition to the comedian’s ability to spread the hype, part of the show’s success lies in the fact that the network took the “unconventional” route of keeping the show quiet for over a year, right up until a week before the first episode aired.
As for whether Who Is America? will be back for another season, executives were optimistic, but made no concrete promises. “I’m dying to bring it back,” Nevins said. “I think what he’s achieved is remarkable.”