The race is on! This time three candidates – Annapurna TV, HBO and Tomorrow Studios – are rushing to ready political dramas about the 2016 election that hoisted real estate developer-turned-reality TV star Donald Trump into the White House.
Because apparently we have not yet maxed out on TV Trumpocalypse, despite its domination of cable news networks, the opening segments of many late-night series, wholly devoted documentary series already on the air such as Showtime’s The Circus: Inside the Greatest Political Show on Earth, and on and on.
In the running:
Annapurna and Mark Boal quietly have been developing a 2016 political drama series, eight to 1o hours long, through Boal’s Page 1 company. The project, produced by Megan Ellison and Boal (whose company is fully financed by Annapurna), is being kept under wraps. But we’re told by two sources that it is definitely about the election and Trump-centric.
Annapurna is no stranger to political projects, having butted heads with D.C. lawmakers on Boal’s earlier project Zero Dark Thirty. Controversy erupted around that film when U.S. senators on both sides of the aisle suggested the CIA “misled” Boal regarding the intense torture scene in the film. The film was sold as fact-based, but politicos wanted a disclaimer slapped on the film saying it was fiction. The government also went so far later as to threaten Boal with a subpoena to review his recordings and research. Boal and his attorneys won that argument on First Amendment grounds. It will be interesting to watch how far Boal and company will push the envelope on the new project.
Meanwhile, HBO is readying a miniseries about Trump’s victory over the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from the team behind the cablecaster’s five-time Emmy-winning 2012 telefilm Game Change (which followed the 2008 election that saw Sarah Palin becoming John McCain’s running mate). The team behind that one has no shooting script yet, but, like Game Change, it will be directed by Jay Roach, who will executive produce with Playtone’s Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman.
If it’s anything like Game Change, it will tell a very raw and sometimes funny behind-the-scenes run-up to the election in how Trump ended up as the leader of the free world. Game Change was critically praised, though neither of its targets (we mean subject characters), Palin nor McCain, would watch it and, in fact, criticized its very existence.
Meanwhile, Tomorrow Studios’ Trump: It Happened Here has a pilot episode and second episode script already in the hamper. That one is a bit different in that, rather than being a miniseries, Tomorrow is eyeing the Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment project as an ongoing series. Said to be lighter in tone, it’s written by political reporter Scott Conroy, who was the creative mind behind the Verizon go90 series Embeds (executive produced by Michael De Luca and former Fox News primetime star Megyn Kelly). Trump: It Happened Here is a ripped-from-the-headlines dramatization of Trump’s improbable made-for-TV race to the White House.
It begins with hotshot reality-TV producer Mark Burnett pitching The Apprentice as “Survivor meets Friends,” with real estate mogul Trump playing executioner-in-chief to then-NBC entertainment chief Jeff Zucker. Hope Hicks, who started as an agency publicist working on Ivanka Trump’s fashion line in 2012 and rose to become White House Director of Strategic Communications, is written as a very in-over-her-head Mary Richards in the pilot but already seems more Network‘s Diana Christenen by Episode 2. Corey Lewandowski‘s women issues apparently will be dealt with in subsequent episodes.
Now-CNN chief Zucker is portrayed as … well, Jeff Zucker.
Included in the scripts for the first two episodes is a scene depicting President Obama’s gut-bustingly funny take-down of the birther movement leader at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner – a humiliation some pundits say triggered a Trump revenge run for the White House.
Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.