This 'Ali' is anything but the greatest

Friday, February 21, 2003

The imported British comedy "Da Ali G Show" (11:30 p.m., HBO) does the near-impossible: It actually makes me feel sorry for Ronald Reagan's attorney general, Ed Meese. Ali G is the comic persona of performer Sacha Baron Cohen. Dressed in a gaudy yellow outfit, Ali acts like a brain-addled "hip-hop journalist" who "interviews" former public officials in the hopes of tricking them into saying silly or stupid things.

"Ali G" is a big hit in his native land, and that itself is proof that not all humor survives the trip across the big pond. London newspapers have called him the next Peter Sellers. Brit wannabe Madonna considers him a "genius." But I won't hold that against him.

In tonight's premiere, Ali curses repeatedly and acts like a fool while undergoing basic training as a Philadelphia police recruit. He also interviews former attorneys general Dick Thornberg and Meese. Both men keep a straight face while trying to answer Ali's increasingly juvenile and scatological questions.

If dressing up in funny clothes and behaving cruelly toward septuagenarian Republicans is the height of current British satire, I'll stick with old "Monty Python" reruns. Combining Tom Green's tiresome rudeness with minstrel-show condescension, "Ali G" is a trans-Atlantic dud.

Tonight's other highlights