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“The Fall of Donald Trump” is the fantasy we deserve, if not the one we may want

A President Show Documentary: The Fall of Donald Trump is not here to make you feel good before the midterms.

“The Fall of Donald Trump” is the fantasy we deserve, if not the one we may want
Anthony Atamanuik as Donald J. Trump in The President Show [Photo: courtesy of Gavin Bond/Comedy Central]

Releasing a mockumentary called The Fall of Donald Trump just before the 2018 midterms seems like nothing short of a Krassensteinian call to arms for #Resistance Twitter. In that sense, the crew who brought you The President Show have honored their namesake by delivering a classic bait-and-switch.

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Anthony Atamanuik’s The Fall of Donald Trump does deliver its titular promise, but not in a way that will satisfy many who are Still With Her. There’s no moment where Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller marches into the Oval Office, slaps Trump’s shadow-subpoenaed tax returns on his empty desk and says, “You, sir, are fired.” Trace amounts of delicious liberal fantasy are here, to be sure, but this special is mostly the fantasy we deserve, rather than the one we may want.

Even viewers who never saw one snippet of The President Show should be familiar with Atamnuik’s Trump. (Alec Baldwin’s way more famous version feels like an inferior riff on it.) Comedy Central started airing his weekly evisceration of the commander in chief roughly 100 days into Trump’s term. The show spent 22 episodes interpreting each week’s events and accurately predicting the future, without ever officially being canceled.

Peter Grosz (left) as Mike Pence and Anthony Atamanuik (right) as Donald J. Trump [Photo: courtesy of Brad Barket/Comedy Central]
As funny as the show was, however, it couldn’t keep going in perpetuity as a weekly series. Traditional forms of political comedy feel redundant in the Trump era, and while The President Show could rehash the news with the best of them, there is scarcely a gaping need now to immediately relive each fresh tragedy. (This is where Saturday Night Live, too, often goes wrong.) Atamnuik is so damn funny in the role, though, and he and the writers are so deft at calling Trump’s shots before he makes them, Comedy Central is smart to revive the show for occasional specials.

The premise of A President Show Documentary: The Fall of Donald Trump is right there in the title. It ostensibly takes place in October and November of 2030, a future in which Trump has been mercifully missing from public life for years, and harkens back to when things first started to fall apart.

By the time the weekly show ended its run, Atamnuik had put together a rock-solid comedic ensemble, with co-creator Peter Grosz as Mike Pence, Adam Pally as Donald Trump Jr., Mario Cantone as Anthony Scaramucci, John Gemberling as Steve Bannon, and Kathy Griffin as Kellyanne Conway. The gang’s all here for this special, even if we need not ask why the Mooch is still relevant in 2030. (It’s a wonder some think he remains so in 2018.) While the future setting provides a chance to reveal what this murderer’s row looks like in 12 years (Gemberling’s Steve Bannon has basically become a disease-ridden subway-flasher from 1980s New York), it’s the past–or rather our present–that will be of most interest to many. Here is where the fantasy kicks in.

Anthony Atamanuik as Donald J. Trump [Photo: courtesy of Mark Bracamonte/Comedy Central]
In the world of the show, the 2018 midterms bring about that much-anticipated blue wave after all. The Democrats take back the House and install Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as speaker. If that sounds like too Left an outcome, you will not like what comes next. The Democrats, in the show’s telling, also give Ocasio-Cortez many other positions, the implication being that nobody currently in office is competent to fill them. The masterstroke of the special, though, and indeed its most bitingly cynical idea, is that following the midterms, the eventual Democratic nominee for 2020 ends up being . . . Donald Trump.

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The show uses actual circa-2016 footage of Mitch McConnell and various CNN anchors inveighing against Trump the candidate, back when he was an unlikely sideshow, as though they were weighing in on Trump running against himself in 2020. It’s a stark reminder of how ridiculous the prospect of him being president at all once seemed. Could Trump actually, conceivably, secure the Democratic nomination in 2020 due to a lack of credible challengers? Of course not. However, the bold joke of suggesting as much is a face-slap any complacent member of the electorate could maybe use right now. No matter how the midterms shake out, it’s going to take more than what congressional Democrats have done in the past two years to win in 2020. The sooner this idea is internalized, the better for us all.

I won’t spoil exactly how the show’s version of the 2020 election ends, but it should suffice to say that the outcome will serve as the peanut butter that makes the medicine of the previous paragraph go down smoother. The final third of the special tracks what all the key members of Trump’s administration get up to after leaving office, and it’s mostly a riot. (Save for one tired joke about Mike Pence’s lifestyle, which you can probably guess.)

Overall, The Fall of Donald Trump is a worthy addition to The President Show’s catalogue, and a nice way to whet the public appetite for Atamnuik’s imminent Trump book and for any future specials.

If there are no future specials to come, though, this one ends on a fitting grace note. It’s a perfect callback to the show’s most famous catchphrase come to life: “I was the President. Can you believe it?”

You can watch The Fall of Donald Trump in its entirety here.

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