I watched More 4’s Death of a President last night and, to be honest, I rather wish I hadn’t wasted 2 hours of my life.
I don’t have a problem in principle with either mockumentories or a drama speculating what would happen if Bush was assassinated. I enjoyed the BBC’s If… series as well as their one-offs about smallpox and transport system collapsing. But most of these had something in common: they either explored how a supposedly unlikely to terrible event might conceivably happen, or they explore (rather more speculatively) what would happen in such a situation.
Death of a President did neither of these things. What we got instead was a rather feeble story padded out by use of the mockumentory style (authentic looking footage, lots of talking heads going over the same incident from several different angles…). It wasn’t making any serious claims about weaknesses in the Secret Service’s methods, it didn’t say anything really about the War on Terror or the civil liberty implications of the Patriot Act. The only thing it had to say was that a lot of people don’t like George Bush very much. Well, duh.
Worse, it ticked the box of every leftist prejudice going. The main suspect was a Syrian man who trained at an Al Qaeda camp. Therefore, he must be innocent. Instead, the murderer turns out to be an ex-US soldier, driven to do it because his son was killed in Iraq. In fact, far from being presented as a lunatic (who, let us not forget, inflicts President Cheney on the world for God’s sake), it actually portrayed as a tragic hero. The “villain” of the piece is clearly made out to be the Intelligence Community who lock up an innocent man, and Cheney, who nearly declares war on Syria despite having no evidence of their involvement.
Either this film has a message – in which case it stinks – or it doesn’t – in which case it is utterly pointless. I happen to think it is the latter. If instead of concocting some silly whodunnit the programme had explored the national and global consequences of what happens when the world’s most powerful man gets wiped out, it might have been more interesting, but even then I suppose it would inevitably have been politically loaded.
But at least it would have been better than the lazy nonsense I had to sit through last night.