For the first time ever, I’m glad to have seen The Hills and its spin offs. It means that I understand the joke behind The District, Newsweek’s (yes, that Newsweek) mashup of Barack Obama’s first 100 days as President and the faux-reality format perfected by MTV. Because, once you get past the fact that Newsweek decided to mock MTV (which is kind of like George F. Will starting a blog to mock Britney Spears), The District is pretty much pure pleasure.
A spoof recapping the President’s time in office on a weekly basis, The District combines news clips with voiceover narration from “Barack — President” (as the on-screen text helpfully identifies him) to cover the drama of D.C. in a format the average teenager understands. In his first week, Obama had a “kick-ass” inauguration, but the second installment sees him dealing with the fallout after his friends let him down. Looking ahead at the coming months, there’ll be no shortage of drama for Newsweek to document.
The series is held together by Iman Crosson’s flawless voiceover, which nails the President’s tones and inflections so perfectly that I initially thought it was composed from actual clips of Obama speaking. The editing and production are sharp and crisp, as well. But the second episode falters a bit with the decision to intercut clips of Olivia from The City with Obama’s apology for nominating sketchy appointees. The joke of the series works better when the focus remains on actual U.S. politics — which don’t need MTV’s help to seem odd.
When you overanalyze it, The District succeeds as a commentary not only on the pettiness of some political squabbles (in the first episode, “Obama” refers to Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as former “frenemies,” which is a pretty accurate description of those relationships, if you think about it), but also on the overexposed nature of the Obama presidency. He has a Twitter account and a YouTube account, after all; a reality show depressingly feels like a logical progression.
For right now, the satire remains satire. But the MTV generation grows older every year — The District might be today’s parody, but tomorrow’s political coverage.