The Trump Files: That One Time Trump Wanted to Make An Awful TV Show About Himself

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on August 29, 2016.

Before his presidential run, Donald Trump was probably best known over the last few years for his role on The Apprentice. The smashing success of that show apparently gave Trump even bigger dreams of TV stardom. So during the two years after the reality competition first aired in 2004, the Washington Post discovered, Trump hired a television writer named Gay Walch to write the pilot of The Tower, a drama series based on Trump’s life.

The Tower would have told the story of real estate mogul John Barron, which was also the name of the fake spokesman Trump invented to plant stories about himself in the press. The use of the Barron name for the main character was Trump’s only demand of Walch, according to Washington Post reporters Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher in their new book, Trump Revealed. The show would follow Barron and his Barron Organization (another subtle nod, this time to the Trump Organization) in their quest to build the world’s tallest building. Sadly, as Kranish and Fisher wrote, “it just wasn’t great, network executives said.”

We don’t have to take their word for it. In February, the Post got a copy of one of the scenes from the pilot and decided to film the wooden dialogue and fake Queens accents for all the world to see.

The Tower never got the green light, but Trump told Kranish and Fisher earlier this year that he’d like to revive the project. “Depending on what happened with this thing [the presidential election], I’d like to do that,” he said. “Of course if this goes all the way, I can’t do it. I won’t have the time. And it wouldn’t be appropriate.” (That apparently doesn’t apply to The Apprentice, though. According to Vanity Fair, before he launched his presidential bid, Trump discussed continuing to host the show while in office if he won the election.)

Whatever its artistic value, the script does get one important fact wrong. “A project of this scope comes along maybe once in a lifetime,” says the mulleted actor who plays Barron, talking about his dream to build the world’s biggest skyscraper. In fact, the real-life Trump tried at least three times to do just that—and failed every time.

 

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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