Just over halfway into its first season, there is no formal decision from Showtime about whether Sacha Baron Cohen’s controversial Who Is America? will be coming back. But the network’s CEO wants more.
“There have been casual conversations, but the goal has been to launch Season 1, and he’s still knee-deep in it,” Showtime programming president Gary Levine said of Cohen and the series after today’s panel.
Noting in his opening remarks at the Beverly Hilton that Who Is America? created “a lot of controversy and a lot of signups,” Nevins himself stated that the series is “a risk I am are really glad we took.”
“I think Sasha is one of the greatest comedians of our time,” Nevins added in the Q&A. “He is the Daniel Day-Lewis of comedy.”
“I don’t know what he is saying about America — clearly we are in a time of extremes,” the cable exec also said. Asserting that the controversies surrounding Who Is America? have “been helpful” in getting attention, Nevins praised Baron Cohen more by saying that “he has a remarkable ability to make noise.”
The CEO’s comments follow the fourth episode last night of Who Is America? seven-episode run where a disguised Cohen easily played former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As he has a number of conservatives since the show’s July 15 debut, the once Ali G actor had the Donald Trump pardon recipient firmly plant his foot in mouth repeatedly in discussions of golden showers by the former Celebrity Apprentice host and Presidential fellatio inducements.
Lured under parsed pretenses to be interviewed by Baron Cohen under a false name and persona, Arpaio is not the only sucker to get sucker-punched in the secretive Who Is America?
In the past few weeks, Cohen satire series has duped former Vice President Dick Cheney, ex-Congressman Joe Walsh, now resigned Peach State legislator Jason Spencer, failed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, citizens of Kingman, AZ and Gun Owners of America executive director emeritus Larry Pratt, among others. Former VP candidate Sarah Palin has gone public with claims that Cohen and his producers tricked her into appearing before his cameras but the ex-Alaska governor hasn’t shown up on Who Is America? yet. On the other side of the political divide only Sen. Bernie Sanders has been pecked at by Baron Cohen, and the 2016 White House hopeful shut the British comedian down pretty fast.
Nevins today tried to sidestep the WiA? backlash from the right by claiming the show “definitely engages on both side of the political spectrum.”
Having received mixed reviews, to put it mildly in some cases, Who Is America? has seen middling small-screen ratings results for the CBS-owned outlet. However, generating a slew of headlines and made available digitally almost 24 hours before its TV appearance, Baron Cohen’s show did do well in repeat plays and gained significant multiple platform traction with the most signups this year for a series in a single day for Showtime’s streaming service, according to the cabler.
The first and maybe only run of Who Is America? ends August 26.
TCA 2018 concludes Wednesday.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.