I could never be a cord cutter. Relying just on DVD’s and streaming services doesn’t do it for me. Part of the overall television experience is the flipping. The aimless wandering around the dial looking for something watchable. Over the last little while the most compelling thing on TV doesn’t really have a set time slot, but it is on more than not. If you have a vast enough cable package you’ll have access to Trump TV. Not really a show in itself, but an aggregate of the wild and wacky Donald Trump as he gallivants around ‘Murica running or sometimes just walking for President. From comedy shows to news shows and all points in between it all just falls under an umbrella of “Trumpvision”. Of course you can be disgusted at this relic from the 80’s mad lust for fame and glory and dismiss the whole thing. Or like me, enjoy the ride.
My enjoyment comes from my love of hype and spectacle. Sports and award shows namely. Now it has bled over from monster truck rallies through pre-award red carpet specials to politics. The Trump rally shows America in all its ludicrous and decadent fabulousness. The cable news stations hype it up as Trump will arrive within the hour. He’s always 15 minutes late to build up more hype. Trump Force One flies in and taxis and out comes the Donald, to the delight of the thousands who have crammed a medium sized arena. (If it’s outdoors the Trump logo on the jet is positioned perfectly on camera.) There is he is, like a secular pope. His goofy “Make America Great Again Hat” instead of a miter. Some hackneyed entrance music plays like “Eye of the Tiger” or oddly enough an Adele song. Trump gets up there, doesn’t really say anything. He swears, he race baits. Tells everybody how awesome he is. But in the end he loves his supporters and he loves the US of A. Then everybody goes bonkers and he leaves to do it again the next day or in some cases and hour and half later. Then we hear from all the punditry. He’s a joke, this is awful, Lincoln rolling over in his grave etc, etc. Until the next rally where it begins anew. Because its not politics or policy. It’s TV. To his credit he does show up for more interviews than Hilary Clinton, if only to fed his own megalomania.
This is all captured in a show that covers the presidential race for the PT Barnum-esque pageant that it is. Showtime’s The Circus is pretty much my favourite show these days. It’s a docudrama/reality show about the presidential campaign mainly focusing on the republican side. We follow the show through the eyes of Mark Halperin, formerly of Time magazine and John Heilemann formerly of New York magazine. They whisk you into this world of town hall meetings, diners, and media availability. It’s sort of like a haphazard version of the Bill Clinton documentary The War Room which followed around James Carville and George Stephanopolous during the 1992 campaign. The style of the show is a great mix of sleek but gritty as it is shot beautifully with bucolic scenes of Iowa and New Hampshire. But everybody is going on little sleep and not festooned with make up. We get to learn a little bit of the candidates as people, or the characters the show wants them to be. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a bellicose, yet pretty witty guy, quick with zingers while downing almost offensive amounts of coffee. Ohio Governor John Kasich is a Ned Flanders-esque fellow who painfully peppers his downtime with “dad jokes”. “This beer is hopppin’….get it?!” Florida senator Marco Rubio is cast as peppy youngster. He knows about rap music so he’s the sort of positioned as the uber cool “Fonz” type. Jeb Bush is portrayed as the not cool guy. Smart but not comfy in his skin. He’s not bad in small exchanges with our hosts but when he has to be “on”. He doesn’t know how to be on TV. And that’s the game. He has a great cringeworthy scene with a Showtime cameraman where he asks if he can get on Homeland and kill a terrorist with his bare hands. Bernie Sanders also pops by sometimes as the grumpy neighbour type. Seemingly very annoyed at the entire process, like he always has to find a bathroom or is hustling to get to the post office before it closes. Our hosts are characters too. Mark, the clean cut by the book numbers guy. Slightly more weathered and wise. John, the more hipster of the two. He wears blue jeans with his blazer. More bombastic and acerbic than his counterpart. They also have a daily show – With All do Respect. They basically just face each other and jibber jabber off the day’s events in short 90 second increments. They almost lust after Trump. As he, for all his faults, is a great character especially compared to Martin O’Malley and Rick Santorum. As others in the chattering classes poo-poo Trump-A-Mania; they revel in it for all of its mayhem.
One of my few faults is my difficulty in eating with out watching TV. I eat quickly and loudly and don’t like to be interrupted. People sometimes ask me “How is it” – well I’ve been eating nonstop for a solid ten minutes so obviously I’m enjoying it. But my own gastronomic neurosis aside, it’s a great show to eat to. It has a quick but not a rushed pace. They always have neat charts and visual models to keep you interested and its on at 4pm, which is when I’m hungry. Its on Bloomberg TV which is stock news all day and then they get all crazy and show the program with Mark and John and later in the evening they go buck-wild and show the previous nights Charlie Rose from PBS. With All Due Respect is the least-rated show in cable news so, ipso facto, it must be of the highest quality. It will be a better show the longer the Trump express chugs along, which embodies all the negatives of TV. Loud, dumb, and cringeworthy. While eschewing the greatness of TV at the same time; intriguing, fun to ridicule, and having no idea where the next instalment will take us.
Raphael Saray is a character actor/broadcast journalist/sports announcer based in Flin Flon, Manitoba. He penned this piece while listening to his mother’s story about having to get the starter on her Cadillac fixed. “To make a long story short…” it started.