Friday 23 March 2018

TV Guide: Top Trump?

Most of us know Donald Trump for his wives. But a new Channel 4 documentary claims to show "the man behind the brand"

Model behaviour: Donald Trump with his wife, jewellery designer and former model, Melania Knauss. Photo: Getty Images.
Model behaviour: Donald Trump with his wife, jewellery designer and former model, Melania Knauss. Photo: Getty Images.

Emily Hourican

From sideshow to main event, Donald Trump's political posturings have begun to dictate the terms of the American presidential campaign to an extent that no one would have believed possible a year ago. At first, everything about him seemed destined for short-term ridicule followed by long- term political oblivion - his hair, his nickname, his celebrity status, three marriages and 'crazy' fixes for 'Making America Great Again', including a wall between Mexico and the US to keep the immigrants out. Really, he should have been a nine-day wonder in the warm-up stages, followed by relegation to the role of buffoon and an ignominious exit.

But something has kept him coming back, kept him advancing, to the point where what was the lunatic fringe is now somewhere in the almost credible middle. Partly, it's his own sense of conviction, but, more worrying by far, is the resonance his extreme and inward-looking views are finding among American voters. For every aggressive and obnoxious statement by Trump, there are suddenly way too many cheers from supporters on the sidelines.

Clearly, it's time to find out a whole lot more about a man most of us in this country know for his wives - the inimitable Ivana, originally a Czech model, followed by actress and presenter Marla Maples, and finally Melania Knauss, model and jewellery designer - his role in The Apprentice, the bad hair and the fact that he bought Doonbeg resort.

Which is where Channel4's documentary, The Mad World of Donald Trump comes in. This, it claims, will show us "the man behind the brand", covering the divorces, the bankruptcies, the bullying claims, the unashamedly sexist remarks and general hectoring of anyone who doesn't agree with him.

Presented by Matt Frei, former Washington correspondent for Channel 4 News and now Europe Editor, the documentary also takes to the campaign trail in Trump's wake, meeting those who oppose him as well as the fervent supporters who believe that he, with his billionaire's fortune, is the poster boy for the American success story and someone who will deliver on his promises. The fundamental question, of course, is - can 'The Donald' actually do it?

From a resounding 'never!', those questions have now gathered a cautious, reluctant 'maybe . . .' meaning now is the time to get to know the man behind the outrageous quotes, including, "You know, it really doesn't matter what the media write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass," and "If I were running The View, I'd fire Rosie [O'Donnell]. I'd look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers and I'd say, 'Rosie, you're fired!'". Not to mention the succinct, "The beauty of me is that I'm very rich".

Now, documentaries about Trump don't always proceed according to plan - in 2011, You've Been Trumped, made by Anthony Baxter for the BBC about the construction of the golf course at Aberdeenshire - was harried by Trump's lawyers, claiming it was "defamatory" and "misleading".

Then there was the 1988 documentary, Trump: What's The Deal? commissioned by Leonard Stern as part of a series on prominent businessmen. That documentary was shown just twice - in back-to-back screenings at a US community centre, apparently because, due to Trump's legal threats, no broadcaster would show it.

So this is an opportunity to get up close with the man who, although many commentators still don't believe him to be more than a gimmick, is topping the Republican polls. A man who has set the pace of this stage of the election with the beat of his own drum.

The Mad World of Donald Trump, January 26 at 9pm on Channel 4

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