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Television

Perspective: So long, Spicey: Why Sean Spicer’s brief but vivid career as White House press secretary was great TV

Outgoing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Outgoing White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer waves beside a US Marine as he enters the West Wing of the White House on July 21, 2017.
(Michael Reynolds / EPA)

Goodbye, Spicey. You were the best morning show on TV.

Though it’s only been six months since you were appointed White House press secretary by President Trump, you’ve cemented yourself as one of the most unforgettable figures ever to grace the briefing podium … or to hide “among” the bushes just outside the Oval Office.

Even Trump refrained from dissing you on the way out. No James Comey-style “not able to effectively” communicate.

“Just look at his great television ratings,” POTUS said through the new you, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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High praise given how he’s spoken about others he appointed to high offices. (Have you and Jeff Sessions traded notes on the boss yet?)

With your starring role reduced these past weeks to guest appearances, it’s already clear that Huckabee Sanders, your successor as press secretary, won’t be half as entertaining as you. She doesn’t use props, rarely gets flustered and won’t reprimand the press corps the same way you did.

Remember when you schooled CNN’s Jim Acosta and the rest of those nosy reporters who said they were just trying to do their jobs? “You don’t get to just yell out questions,” you told them. Hilarious.

It’s doubtful the reporters you also reprimanded for not taking turns like “good girls and boys” will be happier, or more entertained, by your stoic and guarded replacement.

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders takes the podium as Anthony Scaramucci, White House communications director departs.
Taking the podium: Newly appointed White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, right, and Anthony Scaramucci, incoming White House communications director, left, at the daily press briefing at the White House, Friday, July 21, 2017.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Word is that you resigned as a result of Trump naming his friend, financier Anthony Scaramucci, as the new White House communications director, a job you had, then lost, then had a second time, this time with the humiliating “acting” appended to your title. If that’s true — and really what is these days? — it’s understandable why you’d be reticent to work for a guy who has no experience in the office he now commands.

You at least did your time, dating way back to 2000 when you were communications director on the House Government Reform Committee. After that, communications director and spokesman for the House Budget Committee, then the Republican Conference of the U.S. House of Representatives, and then assistant for media and public affairs at the Office of the United States Trade Representative in President George W. Bush’s administration. All that and you still found time to hang out with the Easter Bunny this year, bringing back memories of that time you wore the bunny suit during the 2008 White House Easter Egg Roll.

The big question, however, is what will “SNL” do now that you, the inspiration for one of the show’s best sketch characters in decades, has stepped down?

Melissa McCarthy could try for a Huckabee Sanders impersonation, but where’s the fun in that? Where she looks terminally bored and even annoyed with it all, you provided the best material any comic could wish for when you passionately defended Trump’s unverified voter fraud claims, batted down collusion accusations with Russian salad dressing references or turned reporters’ questions back on them in a confusing game of press-room Twister.

And she hasn’t accidentally referred to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “Joe,” or the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “Trumball.” Come to think of it, you never did quite master the pronunciation of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad either. Wolf Blitzer tried his best to help you there, but hey, everyone has their own style and yours was to turn that name into an alphabet scramble.

But you were quick to point out that Whatever His Name was more evil than Hitler, because even the Nazi leader “didn’t sink to using chemical weapons.”

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We all make mistakes, it’s just that your gaffes offered comic relief in an era when it seemed there was little else to laugh about.

Remember on Day One, when you insisted that Trump had the “largest audience that ever witnessed an inauguration, period!”

Oh, the memes. Twitter lit up after those exaggerated inauguration attendance numbers. Remember 1.5 million #spicerfacts?

And the time social media corrected your upside down American flag lapel pin with video of an upside down press conference? At least your lapel pin was pointed in the right direction.

Most of all, we will remember you for rendering alternate facts as common to the White House briefing room as that drab, blue backdrop, the American flag and the sound of a billion camera shutters.

Your departure feels like a hit show ending midseason, or going on hiatus a few blockbuster episodes in. After all, we expected to spend 3 1/2 more years with you dabbing your forehead, blowing up at New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and backpedaling to explain why Trump’s midnight tweet negated everything you insisted was true the day before.

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All that punditry and hand-wringing aside (the health of our democracy is at stake!), it made for great television.

By contrast, Scaramucci’s total lack of experience in the field was evident the moment he took the mike Friday, or at least tried to take it. No one could hear him in the room, so he fumbled around for what seemed like an embarrassing eternity before he got the mike working to deliver a speech in which he assured the room he was ready for the job.

And the former Wall Street hot shot said at least five times that he loves the president. Let’s see what he says in a few months. Remember the guy before him, Mike Dubke? He resigned in May after just a few months on the job.

So now that you’re leaving morning television, we’ll have to find something or someone else to watch as we sip our coffee, wondering where and when the White House Easter Bunny may pop up again with his baskets of alternative facts.

lorraine.ali@latimes.com

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