Donald Trump promised supporters so much winning they would become exhausted. While the president enjoys at best sparse backing in Hollywood, his election has produced its share of showbiz winners, and less demonstrably losers.
“Donald Trump has done a lot for me in the first 100 days,” Stephen Colbert quipped earlier this week, a sly reference to how his CBS “Late Show” has surpassed “The Tonight Show” in total viewers since Trump’s inauguration.
Colbert, certainly, has benefited from sharpened satire with Trump in the White House, while some perceive “Tonight’s” Jimmy Fallon — who remains first in the demographics advertisers covet — as having suffered for his more vanilla-flavored approach. Others have specifically pointed to the NBC host playfully tousling Trump’s hair during a guest appearance in September as grounds for his decline, which might be more wishful thinking than reality.
Still, more politically minded late-night talent in general — including Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, “The Daily Show,” and HBO’s John Oliver and Bill Maher — appear to have gained by focusing on the Trump administration. And the higher-than-usual boost that some of those programs are receiving from delayed DVR playback suggests people are making appointments for their daily dose of satire.
The 100-day mark is arbitrary, especially for a franchise like “Saturday Night Live,” whose ratings were already soaring during the campaign. That trend has continued, however, since Trump’s inauguration, with sketches featuring Alec Baldwin’s Trump and Melissa McCarthy as Press Secretary Sean Spicer becoming their own version of must-see TV.
Throughout awards season, performers like Meryl Streep and Julia Louis-Dreyfus made remarks that poked at Trump, in the former case eliciting a Twitter response (“overrated”) that became its own much-lampooned meme.
Fictional programs that deal with politics have also generated extra attention, from “Homeland” to “Scandal,” “Veep” to the upcoming return of “House of Cards.” Other fare, meanwhile, from Hulu’s dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale” to Netflix’s science-promoting “Bill Nye Saves the World,” has been politicized amid the hyper-partisanship of the moment.
Because TV and movies take a long time to percolate, a scripted response to the election hasn’t fully materialized, though Comedy Central did weigh in this week with “The President Show,” a weekly late-night parody featuring comic Anthony Atamanuik as Trump.
Additional clues about the president’s impact on entertainment could come in a few weeks, when the major networks — the channels that aim to reach the widest possible audience, and thus provide perhaps the best gauge of the pop-culture temperature — unveil their new fall schedules to advertisers.
While Colbert and certain others look like beneficiaries of a Trump presidency, clear losers within the entertainment world are harder to peg. NBC’s attempt to revive “The Celebrity Apprentice” with Arnold Schwarzenegger as host didn’t work, although discerning the why of that — a poor substitute? Revelations Trump retained a producer credit? A concept whose time had come? — is complicated.
Schwarzenegger, however, probably earned some new fans for his war of words with the Commander in Chief, tweeting a video after Trump derided the program’s ratings in which he said, “Why don’t we switch jobs? You take over TV because you’re such an expert in ratings, and I take over your job, so then people can finally sleep comfortably again.”
Schwarzenegger might have gotten the last word there, but this script remains a work in progress.