Television’s reaction to Trump’s rise to power has been all over the map. From scripted dramas to late night, the rise of the Celebrity President is ever-present. Something interesting has been happening in the political drama landscape: Whether or not to cover Trump.
There is a feeling that every show needs to cover our current president because otherwise, it feels like a cruel joke or it’s not living up to its potential. That is part of a larger problem in television, where we dismiss the importance of a show for just being “okay” and not rehashing the same plot/character idea. You don’t have to cover Trump! That’s totally okay. The idea of a self-obsessed megalomaniac is not for every political show.
Madam Secretary (CBS) works in being bite-sized dramatic television that has a nice resolution at the end of each episode. If that specific show covered Trump, it would be a continuous loop of the Secretary of State’s office at odds with the White House. There would be no common ground or debate over philosophy and foreign policy. Showing such traits is where the show draws strength.
Scandal (ABC) tried to make their own Trump character by reworking Hollis Doyle, and in short, it did not work. The character was rushed and very reactionary to the meteoric rise of Trump’s candidacy.
Designated Survivor (ABC) is one of those shows that could subversively cover Trump. The entire premise of the show is that a completely unqualified individual has become president. Without the themes of hate and bigotry, Designated Survivor could show a navigation of the political system where the lead has no idea what he is doing.
These shows aren’t behind because they aren’t covering Trump, Rather, they remind us of the escapism element that television provides. This in turn allows us to have our political drama without being reminded of border walls and Muslim bans. Asking them to change now would be a detriment to their core values at the expense of uninspired storytelling.