Abandoned Trump TV Projects (That Could've Sunk Him)
It's easy to forget sometimes, but before he failed upwards into politics, Donald Trump was an unscrupulous real estate developer and game show host, helming such shows as The Apprentice and Miss Universe. Behind those successes however rests a veritable graveyard of abandoned ideas and concepts that could've easily sunk him, had he gone through with them. We're talking things like ...
The Apprentice: Blacks vs. Whites
Although Donald Trump spent most of the 80s and 90s lingering on the edge of pop culture like a sex offender lingering outside a schoolyard, it wasn't until 2004 that he got his big break with The Apprentice -- a show in which two teams of besuited business-school types compete for the chance to work for Trump.
By the time Apprentice entered its forth season in 2005, however, ratings were down and Trump was on the hunt for a new hook, something that'd draw in enough viewers to compensate for the love his father never gave him. His answer? He'd pit an all-white team of business people against an all-black team of business people, to see which race could bring in the most money -- despite the fact that, even back then, it was painfully obvious which team would win each episode and which team would not only lose (and presumably get their own full-page print ad in The New York Daily News).
But, don't worry. This would've been an equal-opportunity televised race war, in which the all black team would comprise not just dark-skinned people, but also light-skinned people. In the same way, the all-white team would've comprised blonds and, um, that's it. If you're having trouble picturing how that team would've looked, good news, we found some unreleased test footage.
After workshopping the idea with Howard Stern, Trump pitched the idea to NBC, who presumably inched out of the room very slowly, harnessing the same logic Alan Grant used against the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. This jackass idea soon found a home on CBS as the basis for a 2006 season of Survivor, which is The Apprentice created by producer and future crimes against humanity defendant, Mark Burnett. (Trump himself would famously use this idea of pitting white people against everyone else over a decade later, as the basis for his entire presidency.)
Trump Tower: The Soap Opera
By this point, it's practically a cliche to describe Trump's life as being "like a soap opera," but goddamn, if that it isn't the truth. You know who else thinks it's true? The man himself, at least judging by the fact he spent most of the 2000s trying to make a soap opera based on his own life.
In 2006, Trump hired a television writer, Gay Walch, to write a pilot of The Tower, a family drama in the vein of The West Wing and The Sopranos which would've followed the exploits of a business tycoon named "John Barron" as he and his large adult children (all of whom work for "The Barron Organization") attempt to build the tallest skyscraper in the world.
In writing the pilot, Walch borrowed scenes from Trump's book and his life, and in a way, we're almost sad this didn't get made. It would've made for great television to see Trump/Barron stiff his contractors on their pay or destroy a bunch of priceless statues or refuse to fit the tower with sprinklers. (Granted, that last one is a little dark, it would've made for a gripping season finale, though.)
After Walch completed the script, Trump approached several networks with his magnum opus, but they all rejected him because it wasn't a "compelling story." In 2008, he tried again with the same script, but this time, there was a twist -- that he, himself, would narrate the show, much like Desperate Housewives, but if Desperate Housewives was narrated by some guy who gets unreasonably horny whenever his daughter appears onscreen. (They passed.)
After The Tower, Trump's next big try came in 2012 in the form of Trump Tower -- a DARK, SCINTILLATING, RAUNCHY piece of shit novel that, according to the front cover, was written by Trump himself. It's easy to be suspicious of that claim, but having read the book (reviews that other people wrote), it's hard to say because Trump Tower is exactly what you'd expect a book by Trump to read like.
Trump Tower promises readers a peek into "the drama of the ultra rich, the ultra powerful, and the ultra beautiful who call the most glamorous address in the country their home." We know you're not going to read this book, but spoilers for the plot, a lot of people bone. That's it. There's some office politics and a murder, but they're a prelude to the boning, which in one scene, takes place on the set of Celebrity Apprentice. We'd compare Trump Tower to 2012's other famed sex novel, 50 Shades of Grey, but compared to Trump Tower, 50 Shades is a pamphlet for an abstinence clinic.
After the release of Trump Tower, Trump planned for the book to be turned into a TV show -- something he promised would happen on the book's back cover. It wasn't meant to be, however. While sales figures are hard to come by, they were reportedly so bad that his plans for an adaptation just vanished, unlike the numerous unsold copies of Trump Tower, which are probably still haunting his official gift store.
Lady or a Tramp
In 2005, a British TV station started airing Ladette to Lady -- a reality show which follows a group of "ladettes" (i.e. women who drink and swear) as they learn how to be prim, proper ladies trained in quintessentially upper-class arts like flower arranging, elocution, and incest.
Against all odds, it ran for five years -- or to put it another way, a whole 27 episodes. On hearing about this format, Trump leaped at the chance to take one for society and discipline some naughty girls, and immediately set about making his own version called, um, "Lady or a Tramp."
"We are all sick and tired of the glamorization of these out-of-control young women, so I have taken it upon myself to do something about it," said Trump (while likely jacking it under a tablecloth). "This show is all about getting a second chance and transforming for the better; the idea is genius and the show will be huge."
Spoiler: it wasn't. Despite the production setting off to find "rude and crude party girls" and young women "full of attitude," LOAT disappeared off the face of the planet -- which all things considered, was probably for the best.
A Bunch of Ideas That Were Nothing More Thinly-Veiled Excuses to Ogle Hot Ladies
There's no denying that Trump is a ladies' man, whether the ladies want him to be or not. So it was a given that as soon as he got an iota of his foot through the television door, Trump would use it to meet as many pretty ladies as he could -- which he did through beauty pageants such as Miss Universe and, um, Miss Teen USA.
These weren't his only moves, however, not by a long shot. In 1993, for instance, Trump -- fresh off his critically-acclaimed performance in Home Alone 2 -- pitched an idea to ABC for a one-off show called Donald Trump Presents the Most Beautiful Women in the World:
"This show will consist of a series of shorts and interviews with ten of the most beautiful women in the world, including Lady Di (who I know and I think will speak to me), Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Michelle Pfeiffer, etc ... This program will be done on a yearly basis and will get huge ratings. I will promote it heavily-along with everything else I do."
Wisely, ABC turned him down. They never made the reason public, but it was probably down to the fact that, quite clearly, none of these women -- a number which included a member of the royal family -- would want anything to do with this thinly-veiled carnival of flesh.
There was also "Trump Town Girls," a reality show that Trump was developing for E! as late as 2013, which would've pitted several beauty models against several hardened business women already working for Trump, to see who could make the most money selling real estate. It was basically a bustier Apprentice (and we're surprised he didn't go with that title, to be honest).
On the face of it, the show promised to be a cakewalk for the business women because, well, duh. To make up the obvious skill difference, therefore, the models were expected to use their raw sexuality to sell homes, by doing shit like flirting with clients when their wives and girlfriends aren't looking. "Trump Town Girls" also promised drama, too, thanks to the obvious rivalry between the models and the professionals "who worked their way up in the ranks, who fought to get an interview with the Trumps, and who refuse to use their looks to their advantage and find flirting for the job to be appalling."
While TTG entered production, the show was abandoned shortly afterwards because Trump felt that the show had no "interesting" characters. Fun fact! One of those characters was Ivanka Trump, who had intended to use the show to break into television. With family like that, who needs business rivals?
Top image: Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock