Imagine a play -- no, a theatrical experience -- that examines a key time in American history. Sure, it glosses over some of the era's uglier realities to provide a simplified, feel-good narrative, but the audience is looking for a fun night out, not a challenging lecture. And you know it succeeds because viewers cannot stop raving about how much they loved it. We are, of course, talking about FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers, the hit show that wowed a CPAC audience.
Awkward Title That Mentions Romance Twice: Maybe It Doesn't Think Much Of Its Viewers is based on the 2016 texts exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, as well as their later congressional testimony. They were having an affair, they both disliked Donald Trump (among other high-profile political figures) and, when this became public, they were both removed from the Mueller investigation.
The ever patriotic Fox News began comparing the FBI to the KGB, likened the investigation to a coup, and urged Trump to declare war on the "Deep State." However, while Strzok and Page were fired, and no doubt learned a valuable lesson about using company phones for personal matters, a 2019 Justice Department report concluded that they showed no bias during their work on the investigation into Russian electoral interference.
That report somehow didn't assuage the concerns of Phelim McAleer, writer of the self-described "edgy and groundbreaking" play, whose goal was to "Help expose the Russia collusion hoax." The result is probably the worst possible cross-section of politics and theatre since Abraham Lincoln decided to catch a play. To give you a sense of his target demographic, one fan commented "Can't believe we're seeing a never-ending coup attempt by the Dems, deep state and colluding media. That's supposed to be third-world level corruption and not how things are supposed to work in America. Shameful."
McAleer's previous creative efforts have included One Abortion Doctor Committed A Crime, So All Abortion Is Pure Evil, Big Environmental Protester Needs To Stop Bullying Defenceless Multinational Mining Companies, and, a film that's aged like a bloating corpse, Climate Change Is A Pansy Liberal Hoax, It's 2009 And We're All Going To Live Forever, Baby! A poll supposedly placed McAleer and his wife behind only Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as CPAC's most popular speakers -- which goes a long way toward explaining how they've raked in millions from crowdfunding campaigns for their films.
Seen here, probably on their way to ruin some poor waitress' day.
Given FBI Lovebirds' subject matter it's difficult to put politics aside but, if you try, it's 80 minutes of people sitting in chairs, reading to each other out of binders and, holy shit, occasionally standing up. The actors didn't even have to bother learning their lines, and it shows. Its sense of comedic timing is "It's time to hint at sex or insult a Democrat." Unless you're there to cheer and hiss at all the appropriate dog whistles it's a dull, stilted experience. "Here are some documents you can read, but spoken with a smug sense of superiority" doesn't make for scintillating theatre.
But don't tell that to the National Review, who called it "satire at its best," The Federalist, who called it "like a Saturday Night Live sketch, only every word is true and it's actually funny," or this crazy person, who said "It's a rare thing to get such a candid view of Deep State actors. Behind all the smooth-talking -- that seems to be the primary qualification for these jobs -- there is a certain ethical bankruptcy [...] I recommend FBI Lovebirds both as a primer on Deep State corruption and as solid entertainment." It's unclear how "texts read verbatim" constitutes satire, but the National Review wasn't lying when they said it had "500 people howling." You can watch it on YouTube, and the audience is eating that shit up. Of course, predictions that Clinton will win the 2016 election get big laughs, though strangely no one reacts to the line "America will get what the voting public deserves."
If you check it out you may recognize its stars: Dean Cain and Kristy Swanson, better known as The Worst Superman and The Worst Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Cain has also hosted 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, appeared in Airplane vs. Volcano, and powered through endless Christmas movies about how great dogs, marriage and/or Jesus are. And Swanson has had a few other notable roles, like Adam Sandler's Shitty Ex in Big Daddy, but her 2010s were mostly television movies and direct to video crap like Beethoven's Treasure Tail, which we think was the first R rated Beethoven.
Cain and Swanson are also both Trump supporters. The star of 1998's television film Futuresport, which is about using hoverboards to stop sporty terrorists, has expressed concern that you can be excised from Hollywood if you're not "Woke" enough, and further demonstrated his immense wisdom by helping a random Obama staffer receive death threats when he misidentified him as the Ukraine whistle-blower on Twitter. Meanwhile, Swanson grabbed headlines for comparing dumb "haha, Trump's tan makes him look orange, #theresistance" gags to racism against American women of color. Her Twitter feed is basically just "Please notice me, President Daddy" ad infinitum and, well, he did, as Trump recently met them too and praised their work.
Both stars were fading well before they started talking politics, but their embrace of Trump put them in a position to be congratulated by conservative media as "brilliant" and "superb" actors who are sticking it to liberal elitists. Cain's politics are a bit scattered -- in 2018 he both called himself "fully pro-choice" and starred in McAleer's anti-abortion movie. But he's not exactly a Hollywood pariah considering he had a recurring role on Supergirl as recently as 2017. It's possible that they're just, you know, not that remarkable as actors.
And hey, Swanson's got to put food on the table for her kid before she warns him about the evils of immigration, we get it. But FBI Lovebirds: Undercovers: Please Laugh When We Say The Word "Gay" itself is a contradiction. Fox News wrote that "Trump and his supporters believed the Strzok-Page texts were evidence of a Deep State conspiracy to get him out of office" as though the existence of a nefarious Deep State that secretly runs America is a blase fact, yet the all-consuming evil shadow government that's working against Trump is also apparently so inept that their follies can be mined for comedy. We elected a moldy ham sandwich to the most powerful office in the world, but we're still the victims here.
McAleer has mined a lot of promotional material from Vice calling his play "edgy and dangerous," but it's not. It's boring and sad, noteworthy only as a look into a world where its fans got everything they wanted but still need to feel screwed. McAleer's last theatrical stunt was Ferguson which, if you understandably can't keep all your police shootings straight, saw Michael Brown killed by a police officer who was legally cleared of any wrongdoing. For that play, McAleer crammed a month's worth of grand jury testimony into 90 cherry-picked minutes to argue, essentially, that Brown had it coming. In interviews, McAleer said he wanted to discredit the entire idea of police shootings of African-Americans as being a problem worthy of protest. It's not enough to have already won: any opposition has to be mocked, shamed, reduced to ignorance and jealous conspiracy. You can be both the oppressed masses and the gloating champions.
So that's what to expect your artsier spiteful uncles to talk about on Facebook. Politico dubbed it "Hamilton for the MAGA crowd," which is fitting in that they both present a soothing, wishful version of history. Although hey, at least you don't have to drop 500 bucks a pop on FBI Lovebirds tickets, so maybe the free market has spoken here.