Comedy picks up 'Bush'

Show was created for cell phones

A shortform animated program created for mobile phones is making an unprecedented jump to primetime television courtesy of Comedy Central.

The cable network has greenlighted the half-hour original series "Lil' Bush: Resident of the United States," which re-imagines President Bush and key execs in his administration as elementary school misfits. Six episodes from writer-producer Donick Cary ("The Simpsons") have been ordered to air on Comedy Central next year.

"Bush" got its start in September as six five-minute clips offered by Amp'd Mobile, a U.S.-based wireless service that packages video entertainment programming with cell phone service.

"Bush" represents an unlikely reversal of the one-way flow of programming from television to other digital platforms, where networks and studios are attempting to extend franchises in search of new revenue. That said, many a programmer has cited the Internet and mobile arenas as potential breeding grounds for fare that could translate back to TV.

"What's exciting as a developer is that content can come from so many places these days," said Lauren Corrao, executive vp original programming and development at Comedy Central. "The great thing is that a broadcast showrunner like Donick can have a passion project that gets to percolate in a shortform venue that gets enough attention for others to take notice."

Amp'd is licensing "Bush" to Comedy Central while retaining rights to air the series on its Comedy Central-branded video channel as well as an exclusive hold on wallpaper and ringtones that emerge from the series in any region Amp'd operates.

"We looked at it as an experiment to use mobile as an incubator that would pop to television," said Seth Cummings, senior vp content development and programming at Amp'd. "It's a huge validator right out of the gate because it's the first project we did."

Although Viacom, Comedy Central's parent company, is an investor in Amp'd, the collaboration between the companies emanated from a different connection: Cary is executive producer of the channel's upcoming series "The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show." The cable channel was the first and last outlet Cary pitched the project.

"Bush" pokes fun at the Bush administration by turning them into the kind of pint-size cartoon characters that could make a cameo on "South Park." The title character is surrounded by close pals like Lil' Cheney, who grumbles unintelligibly, and Lil' Condi, who pines for Lil' Bush and does his homework for him.

"I can't do any more of this educational-type stuff," Lil' Bush complains to her in the Amp'd pilot. "It makes my head hurt."

In keeping with the 18-34 audience skew that Comedy Central and Amp'd target, "Bush" is not without its risque moments. When Lil' Bush's school serves falafel instead of hot dogs for lunch in one episode, he and his pals torture the cafeteria employees with methods made famous during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

With its satiric take on the president and his closest advisers, "Bush" has gotten traction on viral video sites like YouTube, where the original episodes has drawn more than 230,000 streams.

Cary, whose credits also include a stint as a writer on "Late Show With David Letterman" during the 1990s, will translate "Bush" to TV by expanding it into two 11-minute segments to fit the half-hour block. He is in the midst of a two-year development deal with Amp'd.

"Bush" won't be Comedy Central's first foray into devoting an entire series to poking fun at Bush. In 2001, the live-action spoof "That's My Bush," from "Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, had a short-lived run on the network.
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