Television: Trump goes from reality TV star to TV reality

President-elect Donald Trump. Photo / AP
President-elect Donald Trump. Photo / AP

Television is one of pop culture's nimblest mediums. News-oriented programs such as "Saturday Night Live" and "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" can incorporate big events on hours' notice, and even scripted dramas and comedies can comment on the events of previous weeks or months.

And in 2017, that will mean more Donald Trump.

We probably won't get the first movies and novels about or influenced by the Trump administration for another year. But television shows will be the first line of pop culture's response to this new era in American politics.

Trump isn't the only politician to be a creation of Hollywood (see: Ronald Reagan) or even the first reality television star to win elected office - that would be former "Real World" cast member Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis. But Trump used his reality-TV-burnished fame to scale new heights, with help from people like the Robertsons of "Duck Dynasty."

Having helped make a president, the genre is overdue for a hard look at the way it simultaneously elevates certain Americans, especially working-class white conservatives, and offers them up for mockery - and, given the seamy allegations about Trump's behavior from "Apprentice" contestants, a more thorough examination of what kind of on-set conduct is tolerable.

In scripted television, ABC's smart, blunt family comedies "Black-ish" and "Fresh Off the Boat" might respond early to the forces unleashed by Trump.

The African American characters in "Black-ish" venerate the Obamas and fear for their safety, while the second-generation Asian immigrant family in "Fresh Off the Boat" is chasing their versions of the American Dream - in ways that might be recognisable even to Trump voters who fervently hope he'll build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.

And if plans to re-create some of the classic episodes of Norman Lear's sitcom "All in the Family" move forward, it will be fascinating to see how the clashes between working-class Archie Bunker and his progressive son-in-law Michael Stivic (Carroll O'Connor and Rob Reiner in the original) play out after an election won by a blustery Bunker figure.

TV won't have to adjust only to Trump's arrival in the White House: For years, Hillary Clinton has inspired the medium's depictions of powerful women. Greg Berlanti's "Political Animals" imagineda former first lady ditching her cheating ex-president husband.

"The Good Wife" explored the complicated inner life of a wronged, but publicly implacable, political spouse. And CBS's "Madam Secretary" portrays the secretary of state as a working mother.

As Clinton exits the stage, TV will have to find a new model for women in politics. Maybe the medium can offer up inspiration instead of merely a mirror.

- Washington Post

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.

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