The series portrayed the President as a likable buffoon who fell into one "Fawlty Towers" Plot after another, supported by his equally wacky staff and family.
Despite expectations for satire on political events, which had become the hallmark of South Park, the show focused more on being a parody of 1980's sitcoms humorously transplanted into the unlikely location of the White House. For example, the "wacky neighbor" stock character was transplanted unchanged, despite the illogical nature of the White House having a next door neighbor who could occasionally drop by unannounced. Parker and Stone planned the show before the 2000 election under the name Family First, planning to use whoever got elected as the main character (for those who are interested, had a few thousand votes in Florida gone the other way this article would probably be titled Everybody Loves Al, the working title in the case of a Gore victory). Once Bush was elected, they took advantage of his suggestive name and changed the title to a sexual pun.
Much of the show's humor came from raunchy or shocking humor contrasting or parodying the show's old-fashioned format. The President's Catchphrase, above, spoofs the classic Catchphrase from The Honeymooners, drawing attention to the blase disregard many old sitcoms had for domestic violence (it was played as if he had said something endearing, and was always followed by a cheering and laughing mock-Studio Audience). One episode employs a double Three Is Company plot: George's canker sore prevents him from performing certain husbandly duties, prompting Laura to conclude that age is starting to show on her anatomy, and when George overhears the Zany Scheme she contrives to address this problem, he mistakenly concludes that she wants him to euthanize their cat. There's even An Aesop at the end: Use your mouth, instead of beating around the Bush. As well as the sitcom plots, each episode did touch on a topical issue that was of particular relevance at the time (episodes revolved around the abortion debate, the War on Drugs, the Strategic Defence Initiative and oil drilling in Alaska), but these were usually used to add to the absurdity of the tropes of sitcoms rather than as the focus of satire. Most episodes had An Aesop that compromised on both liberal and conservative ideals, arguing that both sides have valid points and that neither is completely correct.
The show achieved solid ratings, but failed to match the success of South Park. Few conservatives gave the show a chance, and liberals were disappointed by the lack of satire or simply didn't get itnote . Ultimately, the network decided that the ratings didn't justify the show's high production costs, and cancelled it after an eight week run. Parker and Stone admit that the idea didn't have long-term potential, and they were already starting to run out of ideas when the show was cancelled. Contrary to common belief, the show was not cancelled in the wake of 9/11, but a good two months prior. (However, the events of September 2001 pretty much ruined any hope of the show being Un-Cancelled.) For a while there were rumors of an Action-Adventure movie called George W. Bush And The Secret Of The Glass Tiger, but it never came to be. Series star Timothy Bottoms would go on to play Bush in two movies.
At the time, a show featuring a sitting president seemed like a novel concept, but it would only be the first of several large productions to feature George W. Bush as the main character. The animated series Lil' Bush re-imagined Bush and his political allies as children similar to The Little Rascals. Oliver Stone went on to make a feature film biopic of Bush before he had even left office. Jon Culshaw took the idea for his short-lived ITV sketch show, which featured a series of sketches titled "My Two Presidents" that parodied sitcom tropes from the 1970's and 1980's.
"That's My Trope!":
- Affectionate Parody: Really, Bush is presented in a lovable — if rather dim-witted — light.
- An Aesop: Every episode ended with one of these. However, in keeping with the 80's sitcom spoofing, they were usually little more than over-simplified cop-outs.
- Bad Boss: Bizarrely, Dick Cheney (the Vice President) is given this role in "Fare Thee Welfare."
- Bears Are Bad News: In one episode, as George grows increasingly paranoid that someone's going to kill him, he buys a guard bear. Things Go Horribly Wrong when his attempts to root out the would-be murderer in the White House end with the bear acquiring a rifle.
- Breast Expansion: Princess tries to increase her intelligence with mammary enhancers to a spectacular effect.
- Broke Episode: One episode has Dick Cheney take over the White House, leaving Bush destitute and living off macaroni lamp.
- Closer to Earth: Laura
- The Comically Serious: Karl Rove
- Comically Missing the Point: Karl asks George why he is trying to put down a cat using a douche with Larry. George thinks Karl is referring to Larry.
- Crossover: A scene in the White House in the mid-2001 South Park episode "Super Best Friends" confirms that this show takes place in the same universe.
- Deadpan Snarker: The maid, Maggie
- Karl Rove also has his moments.
- The Ditz: Princess, Bush's secretary.
- Drop-In Character: Possibly the most obvious clue of the show's intentions, the White House has a next-door neighbor who's always dropping by. John D'Aquino, who played the Drop-In Character, later went on to play the President of the United States in the Disney Channel series Cory in the House.
- Feghoot: An episode parodying gun control issues turned out to be the set up to a joke about the right to bear arms but not the right to arm bears!
- George Jetson Job Security: Spoofed (among other things) in the episode "Fare Thee Welfare."
- Golden Mean Fallacy: Invoked on a regular basis, despite having the most prominent partisan in America as a subject. Once again, in keeping with the whole sitcom parody.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: And in the last episode, when Dick Cheney takes over, we get a title sequence that substitutes his name for Bush's to similar effect. One title card near the end calls the show "What a Dick."
- Locked in a Room: Very thoroughly deconstructed in "Trapped in a Small Environment".
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Cameos" include Dr Jack Kevorkian and Charlton Heston.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: The lead actor makes no attempt to sound W.
- Oops... I Did It Again
- Poor Communication Kills: Laura starts to worry that her sex life is going down the drain when she overhears George rant about how revolting "her pussy" is. He was of course, talking about her old and decrepit cat, Pun'kin.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: When two cops come to the White House to investigate whether Jack Kavorkian is hiding there, George frantically proclaims "if I was going to hide a killer, I certainly wouldn't hide him over there!" while pointing to the very spot Kavorkian is hiding in.
- Three Is Company
- Two-Timer Date: The sitcom plot of the first episode.
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Parodied to the extreme with A Poorly Executed Plan. In the episode, George's fraternity brothers from Yale come over for a visit. Predictably, chaos ensues. Ending with An Aesop about George having "grown up" while his fraternity brothers haven't.
- What's a Henway?: Larry always greeted George with one of these.Larry: Hey, George, there's some snoo on your lawn.
George: What's snoo, Larry?
Larry: Nothing, what's snoo with you?
- And in the last episode, when George has to leave the white house:Larry: (in tears) Say George, Can I borrow a kweerdoo?
George: What's a kweerdoo?
Larry: This! (kisses George)
- Larry's clearly deeply attached to these; he reacts with violent rage when a drug addict who's being arrested at the White House for to a War on Drugs ceremony (yeah...) spoils the joke in one case, and has to be held back from beating the guy up.
- Ironically, when he tries to use the actual "henway" joke, George cuts him off because he's in the middle of something and we never hear it.
- And in the last episode, when George has to leave the white house:
- Women Are Wiser: Played predictably straight, given that this is a spoof of 1980's sitcoms.