There have been many promising portents of Donald Trump’s political demise over the last couple of weeks.
For starters, virtually all of his election-denying acolytes — Doug Mastriano, Kari Lake, Blake Masters, Adam Laxalt — crashed and burned in the midterm election. Then there was Trump’s latest presidential campaign pronouncement, which was greeted with big yawns by even friendly outlets like Fox News (which broke away from his nearly two-hour Mar-a-Lago speech after about half an hour) and the New York Post (which covered the event with a hilariously dismissive, bottom-of-the-front-page headline: “Florida Man Makes Announcement”). Even Trump’s diehard base seem to be finally cooling to his strongman charisma; according to recent polls, Republican voters are instead now making googly eyes at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But there is one tiny development, one piece of easy-to-miss news, that to me truly points to the end of the road for the former, twice-impeached, soon-to-be-indicted president: Apple TV decided this week to pass on its plans to develop a TV series based on Maggie Haberbman’s bestselling Trump biography “Confidence Man.”
Months before its October publication, Apple optioned the book for a TV series, but apparently the streamer changed its mind and canceled the project. That’s a bummer for Haberman, but at least she’s in good company; almost none of the scads of buzzy Trump books that have been published over the last few years and drummed up talk as potential streaming fodder — including books by Bob Woodward, Kellyanne Conway, Adam Schiff, Philip Rucker, Michael Wolff and Capitol Hill cop Michael Fanone — appear to be in the pipeline for film or TV adaptations.
In fact, so far, only one Trump book has made it to the screen: former FBI director James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” Netflix turned that tome into a 2020 miniseries, “The Comey Rule,” with Jeff Daniels playing Comey and — lordy — Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as the 45th prez. (The actors at least earned Golden Globe nominations for their efforts.)
Personally, I’m happy Hollywood is moving on from Trump. Honestly, at this point, I’d rather sit through “Dahmer – Monster” than watch a Trump biopic. Hell, I’d rather have lunch with Jeffrey Dahmer.
The larger point here, however, is that Hollywood, with its cold, hard, money-grubbing logic, has concluded that Trump no longer sells as TV entertainment. And if Hollywood is correct about that, then it’s pretty much game over for the Donald.
Because above all else, Trump has always been a TV star. Until recently, the TV star. For much of the last six years, he’s had the biggest show on the air, enthralling half the nation with his wacky sitcom antics — remember the episode when he almost got into a nuclear war with North Korea and then ended up falling in love with Kim Jong-un? — while the other half couldn’t stop hate-watching, staring into their screens with slack-jawed astonishment and disgust.
Of course, all TV shows, no matter how successful, eventually run their course. Even “The Apprentice” saw a “yuge” ratings drop towards the end of its run, with its final, 2015 season pulling in just seven million viewers, about a third of the 20 million-plus that watched during its heyday. And now, at long last, the ratings appear to be slumping on Trump’s post-“Apprentice” foray into televised entertainment. You know, the political thriller he shot for four years in the White House before moving the whole production, two years ago, to a country club in Florida.
To be sure, Trump is doing his darndest to pull viewers back. And who knows, maybe he’ll succeed. There are certainly a couple of potential courtroom dramas that I wouldn’t mind watching him star in, including one centered on his plot to overthrow the U.S. government and another about those classified documents he squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago. If Merrick Garland is listening, I even have a fun title: “Orange Is the New Orange.”
For now, though, it appears that Trump’s TV star days are over. America, thank God, seems finally ready to change the channel.