An unqualified candidate runs for office on a platform of slander, smear tactics and other underhanded methods. No, we’re not talking about a certain creamsicle-skinned former reality show host. That’s the plot of “The Bunker,” the season premiere episode of Documentary Now! that offers up a dead-on, era-appropriate send-up of the 1993 political documentary The War Room.
If you remove the giant cellphones and colorful ’90s fashions, the political shenanigans depicted by stars Fred Armisen and Bill Hader aren’t too far off from what is currently happening in the 2016 election season.
As depicted in “The Bunker,” Teddy Redbones (Hader) and Alvin Panagoulious (Armisen) are cutthroat political strategists who utilize attack ads, outright lies and even culturally insensitive lawn jockeys to destroy the reputation of a sitting governor and secure a win for a schlubby, unqualified outsider in the 1992 Ohio gubernatorial election. While absurd, one needs only look at the tweets of a current presidential candidate to see similarly gasp-inducing, “Is this actually happening in 2016?” political moves playing out on a daily basis.
Take for example, the scene in “The Bunker” where Redbones and Panagoulious screen a Happy Birthday “message” to Governor Lester that expresses their candidate Councilman Herndon’s wish that “it’s his last.” Despite the blood-dripping font, the diabolical duo insist the TV spot actually means “his last birthday as governor” — while, in the same breath, Redbones requests the addition of creepy kids singing “Happy Birthday” all spooky-like. It’s a funny moment, but not too far off from the time Trump pondered a method in which “Second Amendment people” could potentially prevent a Clinton presidency and later claimed he meant “through voting.” No need to read between the lines there.
And that’s not to say the other side is completely innocent of the sort of dubious tactics depicted in “The Bunker.” Hillary Clinton, who is said to have been the one to coin the term “The War Room” during her husband’s first presidential run, has earned the reputation of running a cold and calculated campaign. Similar to when Teddy Redbones takes extreme measures to paint Gov. Lester’s supporters as violent (it must be seen to be believed), “Bernie Bros” (also a term invented by the Clinton team) were painted as violent bullies who threw chairs and physically attacked those “With Her” — a move that has proved to be controversial.
When you watch “The Bunker,” take note that isn’t just an homage to The War Room. Despite being set in 1992, it presents how a political campaign would eventually be run once candidates abandoned all sense of decency, journalism called it quits and the electorate lost its collective mind. We’re just lucky we have “The Bunker” and Documentary Now! to help us laugh at all the madness as we head towards November 8th.