Picks and Pans Review: Rap Master Ronnie: a Report Card

updated 02/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/15/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Cinemax (Sun., Feb. 14, 11 p.m. ET)

C

This country has been suffering from a terrible satire shortage for years now, ever since the parody-perfect John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were replaced by the too-boring-to-bother-with Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter. Things should have improved when Ronald Reagan was elected. He was ripe. Whether ya loved him or hated him, ya had to laugh at him. Yes, the pH of political humor should have turned caustic again. But no. It seems that Teflon is resistant even to acid. Nobody has been able to take on Reagan and come out laughing. Even the sly, wry, wise and witty Garry (Doonesbury) Trudeau stumbles when he teams up with composer Liz (Runaways) Swados to create Rap Master Ronnie, an off-Broadway musical revue now brought to TV. Performing words written by Trudeau and music written by Swados, impersonator Jim Morris as Reagan raps his way through a ditty about South Africa's white regime and then introduces a bunch of musical skits with guest stars Carol Kane, Jon Cryer and the Smothers Brothers. The music is downright worthless; lawn-mowers are more hummable. And the lyrics, try as they might, have the bite of a baby. No, the only memorable satire I've seen in recent years came from Britain's Spitting Image. So like oil, autos and electronic toys, it now seems we're going to have to import our parody too. What a tragic trade deficit.

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