Gregory Dennis: ‘Nah, it’ll never happen’ — reality TV pitch for the ‘President Drumpf’ show

June 2007
MEMO to: Aaron Sorkin
FROM: Dirk Diggler
RE: Your proposal for new political shows
Aaron, baby, I’m so excited to make the shows you’re proposing. Now that it’s mid-2007 and everyone is starting to think about the upcoming 2008 presidential election, I’m sure there’s going to be huge viewership for both shows.
Given your track record with “The American President” and “West Wing” and my work with you as the producer, we’ve got a built-in audience for more. I agree it’s a lock that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate in 2008. So we’ve got to look beyond her presidency for new shows.
First, on your proposal for one about wacky Vermont politics.
I agree that Vermont is finally on everybody’s radar after Howard Dean’s flame-out in the 2004 primaries when he was supposed to win Iowa and came in 17th. (Idea for theme music: Maybe we can get Howie to repeat the Iowa Scream to open every episode?)
But I gotta say, Aaron, I’m puzzled about some of the plot lines you’re proposing.
I mean, Bernie Sanders is everybody’s favorite cranky uncle. But I just don’t see him as a major presidential candidate. It’s a miracle he even plays well in Vermont.
Bernie’s not going any further. Even for a TV show, it doesn’t make sense for him to be the major hope of an ascendant American Left. Let’s be realistic.
I’m intrigued by the idea that Vermont would— at least for the purposes of our little fiction here — consider having another Republican governor. But after Jim Douglas vetoed not only gay marriage, but also the state budget — and then got overturned by the General Assembly — I just don’t see another GOP governor in our lifetime.
And the part of your proposal where the new Republican governor owns a construction company and races stock cars as a hobby? I like it.
But to have the governor skip much of the National Governor’s Association annual meeting — so he can drive his stock car in a race — well, that’s just not gonna fly.
No Vermont Republican would be that stupid, right? Republicans are already an endangered species in Vermont. So their leader wouldn’t dare skip special governors’ meetings on a topic as important to Vermont as the opioid epidemic.
I’m all for satire. But let’s keep one foot in reality.
Now let’s take up your idea for a show about a maverick president. He’s a billionaire real-estate developer, casino owner and reality-TV star who gets elected on a “family values” platform by promising to look out for the little people.
I gotta say, Aaron: Great premise. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington for the 21st century.
But I’m worried about how you’ve scripted out the show’s presidential campaign and the first six months of the “Drumpf” presidency.
Ok, so our guy Drumpf runs on a promise not to cut Medicaid, to respect the LGBT community and be a BFF to “the blacks.” That’s realistic enough for TV, though it would of course be absurd in an actual political campaign.
But your concept pitch goes off the rails when Drumpf gets nominated after a string of mistakes no modern candidate could survive.
He confesses to wanting to date his hot daughter, insults a Gold Star family who lost their son defending his country, and runs down McCain because he got captured. Then he questions whether the sitting president (presumably still Hillary, maybe played by Meryl Streep?) is in fact a Muslim who was born in Kenya.
I mean, c’mon, Aaron. It was one thing to have Rob Lowe, as an aide on “West Wing,” have a girlfriend who was hooking her way through law school.
But to have your candidate Drumpf get nominated, tell his supporters to punch out protesters, invite the Russians to hack his opponent’s computers, then call for his opponent to be locked up? That’s just not gonna pass the smell test. Even for TV.
You go even further off the rails when Drumpf gets elected despite losing by 3 million votes —thanks to that 200-year-old mistake known as the Electoral College.
And when he becomes president, I see problems from Inauguration Day onward.
I can buy it that Drumpf might have a few shady aides. But to have a campaign chairman who did millions of dollars of business with friends of the Kremlin? To name as national security adviser a guy who was on the take from the Russians? To have Drumpf’s son-in-law (also a real-estate developer) become the chief Mideast envoy?
OK, maybe we let some of that go. After all, this is fiction.
But you really lose me when it turns out that everybody suspects Drumpf colluded with Russia to hack the election, and hand him the presidency.
And do you really think we should swallow an episode where Drumpf cans the FBI director and confesses to the Russian ambassador — in a meeting in the Oval Office, no less — that he did it to shut down the FBI’s investigation into collusion?
See what I mean, Aaron? This stuff is just too far out even for television.
As a quibble, I also think your script is trying to cram too much into one week.
Especially where you have Drumpf hire a new communications director. That prompts the press secretary to quit. A couple days later the new comms guy unloads F-bombs to “The New Yorker,” claims that he’s got everybody wire tapped and calls his new colleagues a bunch of expletives-NOT-deleted.
It’s all so juicy that The New York Times — for perhaps the first-time ever — actually prints the F-word to quote the communication director.
And then — still the same episode! — the chief of staff gets fired, an ex-Marine general steps in to fire the new communications director, North Korea demonstrates it can nuke Peoria, the Russians expel 700 of our diplomats, and Drumpf tweets “There’s no White House chaos!”
You can’t expect viewers to follow all those developments in one week. That’s an entire season, my friend, not one episode.
So, much as I love all these entertaining fantasies, I gotta say it’s time we go back to the drawing board.
Wait — I just had an idea. How about a show where the United States gets its first black president?
Nah. It’ll never happen.
Gregory Dennis’s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @greengreg

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