Commentary

'SNL' Plays Its Trump Card

The choice of “Saturday Night Live” to have Donald Trump host on Nov. 7 was as inevitable as the righteous voices protesting his appearance. How could it be otherwise? The surreal White House race has so far played into “SNL’s” sweet spot. With Jon Stewart bailing out of “The Daily Show,” is “SNL” in the political season catbird seat? “You betcha!” is how Tina Fey as Sarah Palin would answer.

Last week’s belly-laugh-inducing send-up of the Dems debate, staring a devastatingly spot-on Larry David as Bernie Sanders, was the perfect prelude to The Donald taking center stage in Studio 8H. Ratings concerns, not ethics, rule, and “SNL” czar Lorne Michaels and crew know Trump is proven ratings gold. It’s no surprise that Trump’s “Live from New York” star turn is slotted for the November sweeps, when local TV station ad rates are set.

I strive to be a First Amendment absolutist, and generally counsel viewers who don’t like what they see on the air to vote with their remotes. Still, I sympathize with the voices decrying this “SNL” move. It’s unseemly to use the show as a platform for Trump to humanize his image before millions of viewers a few days before the fourth GOP debate. Protesters have a compelling argument: by giving The Donald the “Live From New York” treatment, the landmark show is aiding and abetting a demagogue candidate with a track record for spewing racist tripe.

NBC and “SNL” may have a face-saving out, but it’s unlikely they will take it. The “SNL stunt-casting could cross the FCC’s equal time regulations. With Trump hosting the show — where he will presumably have 20 minutes or more of airtime — his rivals from both sides of the aisle could petition for the same treatment.

Standard operating procedure has been that “SNL” limits presidential candidates to brief appearances, such as Hillary Clinton’s barkeep cameo in a three-minute skit on Oct. 3. This could be a potential out for NBC-parent Comcast-Universal if the voices of protest start looking as if they will impact revenue.

Most likely, that’s magical thinking on my part. I’m afraid those opposed to Trump’s scheduled “SNL” gig will not succeed by petitions alone, no matter how many millions sign on with Latino groups and Moveon.org. The only thing that may work, and that’s a long shot, is if protesters threaten to boycott advertisers who buy in to “Saturday Night Live: Trump Edition.” But even if those threats, backed with millions of signatures, were aided by a bunch of A-list stars who were willing to boycott “SNL,” keeping The Donald behemoth out of the studio is at best long odds.

I can’t believe I’m saying it, but there is one area where Trump and I have the same opinion. The Donald is probably right when he says NBC is unlikely to “dump” him, and that all the controversy surrounding his appearance will only drive up ratings — a honey-to-a-bee scenario for a man who boasts much more loudly about polls than what he’ll do if he wins. The tsunami-haired one knows that in the minds of those who booked him, there’s simply too much humor and money to be mined.

Still, the coming “SNL” iteration of “Trumpvision” is no laughing matter. To me, there’s nothing funny about The Donald caterwauling his way toward the Oval Office.

5 comments about "'SNL' Plays Its Trump Card".
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  1. Gary Press from MBTV, October 21, 2015 at 3:37 p.m.

    If Trump takes center stage in Studio 3B, he'll be alone and no one will see him.
    "SNL" comes from Studio 8H.

    You betcha!

  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 21, 2015 at 3:55 p.m.

    Hillary broke a Federal law with regard to her illegal email server, an act that would have landed you or me in a jail cell for ten years. Yes, Bernie Sanders is sick of hearing about it, too, but the FBI has to do their job, right? Her crime is a serious offense and allowing her time in a skit on SNL "humanizes" her, too. At least Trump didn't commit any Federal crimes. Yes, he's an affront to common decency and definitely not "my guy" -- but he still has Hispanic supporters, like the lady in the viral video two weeks ago.

  3. Larry Grossman from Media Encounters, October 21, 2015 at 4:16 p.m.

    I believe Trump's appearance on this and other NBC properties is merely the result of the negotiated settlement between the parties. Editorial ethics left the building decades ago. So did broadcasting in the public interest...

  4. Jonathan Iafeliece from JOMO LLC, October 21, 2015 at 4:39 p.m.

    I have watched SNL since it started in 1975. If Trump hosts, you can be assured of two things: Lorne Michaels is a whore and I will never watch SNL again.   

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 21, 2015 at 6:35 p.m.

    Wonder who that South American woman from Columbia or Venezeula voted for when she lived there and why she voted the way she did ?

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