It's the golden age of TV, but no show on earth can compete with the world's most successful entertainer: Donald J. Trump, writes Maxim Boon.
Mankind has entered a very important epoch. Indeed, it might well be the most important in our species’ evolution: the glorious, golden age of TV. Astonishing sagas, chock-a-block with superheroes, white walkers, zombies, robotic cowboys and Winona Ryder hysterically hugging a bundle of Christmas lights, have millions worldwide utterly hooked. But none of these telly triumphs can hold a candle – for entertainment value or sheer globally reaching obsession – to the jaw-dropping dawn-to-dusk shit show of the American Presidential election campaign of Donald J. Trump. If you locked George R.R. Martin, J.J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, Michael Crichton and Stephen King in a log cabin, Misery-style, for a hundred years, they probably still wouldn’t come up with a character as pathologically rank as the GOP’s debate-snorting, batshit-tweeting, wall-building, Muslim-hating, Clinton-jailing, pussy-grabbing nominee.
That statement isn’t intended to dis those great small-screen storytellers and the legions of brilliant TV writers delivering one ratings-juggernaut after another. In fact, I'm certain they're just as transfixed by the race for the White House as the rest of us, for its narrative insanity if nothing else. The evolution of Donald Trump’s inexplicable journey to become the Republican party’s chosen champion is so audacious and implausible, so littered with gaffes and fuck-ups, that if some poor prophetic writer, pre-election season, had suggested a similarly misogynistic, sociopathic, orange-hued buffoon, dribbling almost unintelligible sentences through his pursed sphincter of a mouth, they’d have been walked out the building by security.
Some telly makers have even gone so far as to accuse Trump of killing political satire as a fictional genre. The creator of VEEP and The Thick Of It, Armando Iannucci, told CNN in September: “When the politicians are providing us with the fiction, there’s no place for people like me,” adding that the Presidential race had become, “more entertaining than any fiction could ever be.” He’s not wrong. More than 100 million people around the globe tuned in to watch the first Presidential debate, and it wasn’t to find out what colour pantsuit Hilary Clinton would be wearing. The world is entranced by the scale of Trump's cray-cray, safe in the knowledge that no matter how deranged and out of control he becomes, tomorrow will almost certainly bring fresh lunacy hitherto unwitnessed in political history.
Sage political funnyman John Oliver compared Trump to a “bed of nails” back in August, pointing out that he had made so many outrageous claims and misinformed promises – any one of which in isolation would send a common-or-garden politician belly-up – that none stood out. But this was before pussy-gate. Of all the infinite combinations of words available in the human language, there is perhaps none so sick-making and repugnant as “grab 'em by the pussy.” Even by Trump's standards, this was a shocking low. And yet, his candidacy remains intact. Donald hasn’t just jumped the shark: he has jumped the shark, while riding on the back of another shark, wearing a suit made of sharks.
Strangely, there is one thing mentioned in the Access Hollywood tape, now infamous for the aforementioned p-bomb, that does ring true. Trump labels himself "a star", and if fame equates to stardom, in a perverse and disturbing way he is the biggest star in the world right now.
It's undoubtedly this that has kept him clinging to his Presidential campaign, even as sexual assault allegations fly, tax evasion rumours percolate and signs of his growing instability are immortalised on Twitter. He is as obsessed with being a global celebrity as we are obsessed with his box-of-frogs delusions. But it nonetheless begs the question, what straw, among the innumerable heinous straws, will break this camel's back? It's this unknown, perhaps more than any other, that has us all hypnotised, and for the time being at least, the world will tolerate Trump's dumpster fire of a campaign, just so long as it continues to deliver such captivating car crash voyeurism.
Come November, however, after the fateful election result that may well set the tone of global geopolitics for decades to come, I personally hope far fewer people will be as eager to watch season two of the Trump show.
First published 14 October 2016, for The Music.