The television industry, at present, is bigger than it has ever been. There are more channels than you can watch, more streaming services than you can remember, and more TV shows than it is humanly possible to enjoy. If anything has been able to occupy the mental space of our collective minds more than the television entertainment, it is Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and his eventual election as the President of the United States. They are not necessarily independent of each other. TV has played a major part in his meteoric rise in the campaign. Everything that aired on television, both good and bad, worked in Trump’s favor. Trump too made it a point to occupy maximum screen time. In essence, the 2016 presidential campaign was one big reality TV show. And, that was only the season 1. So, brace yourself America. Season 2 is due in 2020.
While the effect of television on Trump’s campaign is quite clear, it takes a nuanced approach to see his effect on television so far, and going forward. Whether you like it or not, the 2016 Presidential Election was the most engaging topic of the year. And, Trump has managed to keep alive that energy since he has taken office by signing a series of controversial executive orders. The television industry, which is fueled by the creators and the demand of the viewers, never was and will never be immune to his antics.
There Will Be Friction
For one, the present day America finds itself in a precarious situation. The investor confidence has taken a serious hit. Large corporations are not confident that their President will be taking decisions that will be favorable to them. Naturally, money follows their confidence. Where there is no confidence, there will be no money either. In a nutshell, the drop in investor confidence means that there is less room for risk-taking behavior. This applies to TV networks as well. The American TV industry owes its high quality TV programming to the producers’ appetite for taking risks. Now, the producers will be predisposed to take lesser and lesser risks. So, they will be following tried and tested TV formulae, and we all know that makes for a bland TV experience.
There is a flip side here too. The political atmosphere is so charged and the show creators are bound to be affected by it. Their views about the present state of things will undoubtedly make way into their creative works. A lot of them might even try to passionately express a particular opinion, which will not go well with the risk-weary producers. Sparks of friction will fly everywhere. Jane The Virgin’s showmakers have already indicated that the show will be taking up the issue of immigration and the repeal of Obamacare in the future episodes.
Escapism Will Turn Viewers into False Heroes
The political situation in the US is a mess. Some people are taking it to the streets to express their displeasure; some people have turned their social media space into virtual battleground of words; and some people are spending their time and money to come to the aid of the distressed like the stranded immigrants in airports. Then there are also a lot of people who have resigned to the situation. Now, what better way to escape from reality than tuning in to their TV sets!
In the entertainment industry, there is a sort of consensus building that the astounding rise of a reality star, Trump, into the highest position in the country will spawn a series of shows that feature larger-than-life characters. The television will soon be inundated with ‘House of Cards-style’ shows, which will demand the audience’s attention. It is very difficult to capture the audience’s attention with the usual storytelling. A strong and big personality not only grabs, but forces people to pay attention to it. In Trump’s America, everything will be big, especially television.
Don’t Expect TV Networks to Always Take a Stand
Over the past year, Trump-bashing had become a favorite pastime for many TV channels who were aching for viewers. Since the announcement of the election results, Americans on the other side of the fence are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Trump is here to stay, and “is their President”. TV networks constantly reminding of Trump’s latest blunders is certainly not helping them escape the reality either. So, they are tuning into channels that are not focusing too much on him. Streaming services are a great option for them. If the networks keep on obsessing about Trump, they will lose a bulk of their audience with time. For better or for worse, TV networks are slowly realizing this too.
There is another part of this puzzle. While Trump-haters are tired of hearing bad things about him, the Trump supporters never wanted to hear anything bad about him in the first place at all. So far, the networks were playing a huge gamble by either supporting Trump or by criticizing him. Now, they cannot afford to take sides and ignore the other half of the population. Not to mention the powerful Republican lawmakers, especially when there is a Republican president at the helm of affairs. The survival instincts will kick in, and this combined with an audience that no more wants anything political, the networks will eventually give up their Trump-bashing, if not change sides altogether.
How The Future Will Look
Many showmakers have expressed their plans to incorporate the issues of immigration, racism, and fear in their shows. They feel that their audience will relate and empathize with these issues better when they see them on the screen. While it is a great initiative on their part to combat fear, racism, and repression by using entertainment, only time will tell how much effect they will have on a typical American’s psyche. Because, make no mistake season 2 of Trump’s presidential campaign will be with us sooner than you think.