Donald Trump towered over the Television Critics Association’s Summer TV Press Tour 2015 like a “Great, Great Wall.”
Stephen Colbert, making his first press-tour appearance as David Letterman’s replacement on CBS’ Late Show, was supposed to be the star of the confab, but he too got sucked into the Trump universe:
“I’m hoping certain people stay in the campaign until September 9,” said Colbert, whose debut on Late Show is scheduled for the night of September 8. “I’m not going to name any names, but I want to do jokes on Donald Trump and I have no venue. Right now I’m just dry-Trumping.”
Earlier that day, CBS News braved the TCA (news orgs tend to give the event a miss — a reminder of the days when they used to take tough questions at the tour) and was rewarded with a headline-making Trump exchange. One reporter suggested, days after Trump made his post-debate crack about seeing blood coming out of Megyn Kelly’s eyes and her “wherever,” the news media should just take Trump’s word for it he hadn’t been referencing her menstrual cycle and move on. “The phenomenon of Trump is outside of Trump,” CBS News political director John Dickerson replied, a chunk of the electorate having found, in Trump, its “vehicle for the moment” who “speaks for them and the rage they have about this rigged system.”
By the final day of TCA it was NBC, and the journalists covering the clambake threw off all pretense they weren’t fishing for Trump reax.
Jay Leno, who showed up to promote his new CNBC show Jay Leno’s Garage, obliged, kicking off the final day of Trump TCA with a crack that the former Apprentice star received a medical deferment from military service for a condition known as “Intrarectum Cranial Inversion.”
Closely following Leno, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt launched into the Q&A portion of his panel, saying, “Without further ado…I want to open it up and see who has the first question about Donald Trump.”
The first question put to Greenblatt: “[Trump] continues to be in the presidential campaign. Will he be permitted to purchase advertising and put money into NBC now or are you going to abolish him from the network altogether?”
“I don’t think somebody who is running for president and might possibly be the next leader of the free world will be completely banned from any activities at NBC, but we’ll just have to see how this plays out,” Greenblatt joked, describing NBC’s relationship with Trump: “At the moment, we’re sort of separated.” Greenblatt speculated voters are “looking for somebody who just speaks their mind regardless of anything else,” acknowledging Trump is “a star.” But, Greenblatt advised, “at a certain point, you really have to also look at the message.”
One day earlier, former CNBC money wonk Donny Deutsch said he wants to ask Trump, “Dude, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?”
“I don’t know that he’s really thought it through,” said Deutsch, who’s being turned into an entertainment personalty with a soft-scripted comedy on USA Network called Donny! in which he plays “an idiotic version of myself” — almost as if parent company NBCUniversal were grooming him to take over for Trump as executioner on Celebrity Apprentice.
“Say what you want about the guy, he’s this incredible brand, and, he’s this enzyme right now,” said Deutsch, who appeared on the first three seasons of The Apprentice, and had Trump on his CNBC talk show about a dozen times.
“At the very least, he’s going to be a kingmaker here. If you spin it out and it goes no further, he’s got that 23 percent who are going nowhere. If he runs as an Independent, he’s going to hand it to the Democrats and, if he doesn’t, the Republicans,” Deutsch continued, adding, “Paddy Chayefsky could not have written this.”
Later that day, CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club star Butch Gilliam explained to TCA-ers, “The trouble with Donald Trump is that his thoughts turn into words.”
Even ABC’s biggest star, Shonda Rhimes, had to entertain a Donald Trump question. Someone asked her how her Olivia Pope character would handle Trump, were she managing his campaign. “Do you think she would tell him to do something about the hair?” Rhimes wondered to Kerry Washington, who plays Pope on Rhimes’ Scandal and was among those on stage. But Ellen Pompeo, who stars as Dr. Meredith Grey on Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, stole the spotlight at that Q&A when she suggested instead, “You could send him over to Meredith, and I could cut his vocal cords out.”
With so much Trump talk raining down on TCA like a summer squall on Atlantic City (before it “cratered”), so many other interesting stories from the tour got washed away from reporters’ memory:
— Jeff Garlin putting at 51% the odds of Larry David doing more episodes of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm.
— Downton Abbey producer acknowledging there is no movie script – yet.
— Empire spinoff in the works at Fox.
— The Virginia actress on PBS’ Civil War-hospital drama Mercy Street regaling reporters with stories about her father putting a noose around the necks of young men who came to call.
— Amazon execs giving it’s-the-show-stupid-not-the-scandal brush-offs to questions about their getting into bed with Woody Allen and Top Gear‘s Jeremy Clarkson.
— Miss Piggy and Kermit announcing they had consciously uncoupled.
OK, Miss Piggy apparently is as big news as is Trump — that one went viral.