Hollywood declared war on Donald Trump early in last year's Republican primaries. Only the industry never declared a ceasefire after Nov. 8, 2016. Instead, they sent in more troops and more artillery.
You can see the tracer fire streaking across your TV screens. And it’s hardly relegated to the late night shows. The celebrity fusillade against one of their own began last year when comic after comic went hard on Trump. Sarah Silverman. Tom Green. Louis C.K. The barrage intensified when Trump emerged victorious from the bruising primary process and took on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE.
The aligned stars couldn’t contain Trump. And, some experts suggested the glut of celebrity PSAs had the opposite effect on their preferred candidate. That didn’t stop celebrities and, more importantly, the writers who craft broadcast TV dramas. Watching some shows today is like living in a pre-Election Day world.
Take “Designated Survivor.” Kiefer Sutherland stars in this ABC drama about a terrorist attack that kills the higher levels of the U.S. government. That leaves Sutherland, playing the nation’s secretary of housing and urban development, as the president by default (story spoilers ahead). The first season wrapped, after not one, but two episodes promoting more gun control laws, with officials learning the source of the terrorist attack. It wasn’t Islamic radicals but an alt-right group spouting slogans similar to Trump’s “Make America Great Again.”
Over on “Agents of Shield,” the ABC series squeezed some overt, anti-Trump talking points into its fourth season. Talk of “the resistance,” “alternate facts,” and “she persisted” peppered the dialog, all taken directly from opponents of the current administration. The show’s enemy is Hydra, an evil outfit that sends folks to be re-educated, controls the media and rewrite history books. Trump’s team hardly controls the media, to address just one of the silly comparisons on display. If he does, he’s doing a lousy job of it.
“Supergirl,” now on its second season courtesy of The CW, has its own Trump-bashing plot in play. The network even labeled the May 15 episode, “Resist.” Get it? That installment found Cat Grant, played by Calista Flockhart, giving a speech to rally the nation against an invading alien force in which she said, “Resist. Resist these invaders with everything you've got. They come with empty promises and closed fists. They promise to make our world great again, and yet they know nothing about the people who make this world great.” In March, “Supergirl” brought up Trump’s signature line, “Make America Great Again,” in order to compare it to slavery.
ABC’s “Scandal” reconfigured an existing character, Hollis Doyle played Gregg Henry, into a Trumpian figure last year. More recently, the show weaponized its Trump-like figure by making one of his followers a bigot who planted a bomb in a church that killed eight people. Even Fox’s “The Simpsons” got into the act. The long-running show celebrated Trump’s 100 days in office with a sketch featuring press secretary Sean Spicer hanging by a noose, among other niceties.
Hollywood can’t immediately use films to attack Trump. Movies take years to go from the development stages to the big screen. Television production schedules, though, are much more nimble. And we’re seeing evidence of that now.
Naturally, late night TV is a virtual super PAC for the resistance. The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert trots out such nonjokes as “President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE ... please resign” five nights a week. His colleagues, even Jimmy Fallon after the media pounded him for treating Trump in a humane fashion, follow Colbert’s lead.
If you can’t stay up that late, though, broadcast TV has Trump haters covered. The irony? Shortly after Trump’s election victory, ABC Entertainment Group’s president Channing Dungey vowed to reconsider the kinds of shows it delivers.
Why? According to Dungey, “In recent history, we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas.” Those are some of the Americans who saw hope in an untraditional candidate like Trump and, naturally, could be ripe for stories directly appealing to their red state sensibilities.
Earlier this month ABC canceled “Last Man Standing,” arguably the only mainstream TV show to take a consistently right-of-center perspective amid glowing ratings. That’s the same network with “Scandal,” “Designated Survivor” and “Agents of Shield” in its lineup.
Some anti-Trump TV is enjoying a ratings renaissance. Saturday Night Live’s nonstop Trump sketches helped boost its numbers. But will that last? And will primetime shows see a similar bump? Or will audiences who voted for Trump start tuning out Trump-bashing shows and never come back? Stay tuned.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.