Showtime Programming Boss Says Some ‘Who Is America?’ Bits That Celebs Are Bracing for Won’t Air

TCA 2018: And it’s not for legal reasons, Gary Levine tells TheWrap

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Stop telling everyone you were duped by Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Who Is America?” show, celebrities and politicians. Your episode might not even air, Showtime programming president Gary Levine (indirectly) said on Monday.

Levine made the remark in a reporter scrum following Showtime’s broader executive session at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour. Here’s how that smaller-scale Q&A went:

Reporter: “When does the Sarah Palin episode air?”

Gary Levine: “All I can say about that is there are several people who have thrown themselves in front of buses that may not be heading their way.”

Reporter: “So some of those bits he shot with famous people might even not end up in the show?”

Levine: “Sacha is incredibly hard-working and selective in the final product and he’s always refining it and he has a very high bar. So we will see what we will see.”

TheWrap: “Can you clarify if any of that ‘high-bar’ you’re talking about is because of legalities, or because [a bit] wasn’t funny enough?”

Levine: “No, this is Sacha the comedian, who just keeps working and working. He’s refining stuff right up to the moment it goes on the air. He screens it in front of audiences. It looks like he’s doing it all off-the-cuff, it is remarkably organized and deeply researched and I am in awe of his work ethic and his team.”

Thus far, high-profile victims of Baron Cohen’s antics whose episodes have aired include Bernie Sanders, Trent Lott, Jason Spencer, Corinne Olympios, Ted Koppel, Dick Cheney, Joe Walsh, Roy Moore and former sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Georgia lawmaker Spencer resigned after his particularly embarrassing appearance ran on the cable channel and its streaming service.

Palin is among those who preemptively drew attention to run-ins with a Baron Cohen character. Whether or not we see her on TV remains to be seen — and it even sounds potentially unlikely now.

Minutes before the scrum, Levine’s boss David Nevins said Showtime is “dying” to do a second season of “Who Is America?”

“I’m dying to bring it back, you know,” the Showtime CEO said. “There’ll be a process and I don’t know that I’ll be making an announcements, but, you know, he had me at ‘Hello.’”

“I think he is one of the great, original comic performers of our time and I knew doing a show with him was a risk, but it’s a risk I’m really glad that we took,” he continued. “And I think what he’s achieved is remarkable.”

When asked if he felt like the backlash to the show has been a blessing or a curse for Showtime, Nevins laughed and replied, “I think it’s been helpful.”

“Everything we did about the show, the whole way we launched it was incredibly unconventional,” he said. “We kept secret that the show was in process for more than a year.”

Levine later specified that Baron Cohen had pitched Showtime the project about a year and a half ago.

“Who Is America?” airs Sundays at 10/8c on Showtime.