From “The President Show” to “Our Cartoon President,” the laundry list of TV shows targeting President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE is getting longer. But with still more projects poised to flood the small screen landscape, is there a danger for the entertainment industry in greenlighting so much anti-Trump fare?
“It feels like there are two Americas out there under one border,” says GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. “You have the anti-Trump crowd and then, of course, pro-Trump voters.”
“Networks are having shows that appeal to the anti-Trump crowd; that can create a backlash from those who support the president, over time,” Bonjean contends.
Comedy Central premiered “The President Show” last year, with Trump impersonator Anthony Atamanuik sporting a wig and power suit to yuk it up as the executive mansion resident each week. Atamanuik said ahead of the show’s debut, “Laughing at the president is a proud American tradition and we hope not to disappoint anyone in that department. But our political system is too broken for us to be content joking about one man, even though he is a disastrous silly little toddler boy.”
Another Trump parody, “Our Cartoon President,” will premiere on Showtime on Feb. 11. The animated satire, co-executive produced by “Late Show” host and fierce Trump critic Stephen Colbert, will follow the “tru-ish misadventures of the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and his merry band of advisors and family members,” according to the network.
Colbert has seen his ratings soar over the last year as he’s skewered Trump almost nightly on his CBS show. Cable news networks have also enjoyed a ratings spike since the election, covering all things Trump.
Even in typically left-leaning Hollywood, Steve Ross, a University of Southern California history professor and author of “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics,” says he can’t recall a time that so many shows mocked a sitting president.
“I can’t think of it, but then again we’ve never had a president like Trump,” says Ross. “He’s our first celebrity president. He’s our first media-generated president.”
Jon Macks, a veteran comedy writer and Democratic political consultant, says with all the Trump bashing going on, the challenge for TV pros is “how do you differentiate yourself and what you’re doing, other than the form, to what is, in one sense, a cut-off base?”
“You have one topic with a lot of very smart people rising to the challenge to express it,” says Macks. “But in the end, it’s still Johnny One Note. It’s still just Donald Trump.”
Earlier this month, Endeavor Content announced it had bought the film and television rights to Michael Wolff’s controversial book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” with plans to adapt the White House tell-all into a TV series.
“I feel like they’re dipping their toe in very dangerous waters,” Bonjean says. “These could have a real tendency to backfire.”
“Look at what happened in the NFL and the controversy over kneeling during the national anthem and how attendance was lacking over the last half of the season,” adds the Rokk Solutions partner. “What really matters is quality entertainment, and if these shows have blatant anti-Trump messages, they can turn people off and cause Trump voters to go elsewhere to look for their entertainment.”
“If all they do is dump on Trump, I think you’re going to get people both turning off and being offended,” Ross tells ITK.
“If these shows are done cleverly,” in the vein of Charlie Chaplin — who “skewered everyone in authority” with his “tramp” persona, says Ross — “they can turn audiences against Trump. If they’re not done cleverly, they can simply turn off audiences.”
But Macks says with the popularity of Netflix, Hulu and other ways to be entertained, the days of networks trying to appeal to as broad an audience as possible may be over.
“We’re narrowcasting now, we’re not broadcasting as much,” he says.
Bonjean says when it comes to Trump, many viewers are likely already over their saturation point: “There is a real desire also among people to unplug from all the action, to unplug from the intensity.”
Macks, who worked as a top writer for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” for more than two decades, says, “We used to watch late-night news or late-night comedy and shows like these to get our mind off the news of the day.”
Now, television “doesn’t make us forget the news. It makes us more worried,” says the “Monologue: What Makes America Laugh Before Bed” author. “What you see in late-night and whatever, I think just amplifies the things that scare the majority of people.”
So with plenty of anti-Trump TV to choose from, is it only a matter of time before a pro-Trump sitcom hits the airwaves?
“Just remember, Hollywood is first and foremost in the money-making business, not the consciousness-raising business,” says Ross. “So if there’s a show, if there’s a network or cable outlet that thinks it can make money by going against the tide of anti-Trump, they’re going to do it.”