There are currently two cable news networks devoted to celebrating and defending Donald Trump. Both are widely watched by the most distraught elderly people in the United States, including the president himself, and Trump has made a point of involving various personalities from that network—haunted candy apple Lou Dobbs and living personification of a track fire on the Long Island Railroad Sean Hannity, among others—in not just his evenings of executive television monitoring at the White House but his actual policy decisions. Every day, all day, a rotating crew of fluffy blustering men and lacquered poreless women sit behind long desks or on couches, getting upset on Trump’s behalf and for his delectation. It would be easy to say that this is what he has always wanted, and in terms of the volume and tenor of the coverage he receives and the depth and breadth of his need to be discussed in positive terms by people on television, it probably more or less is. But this is not the entire story.
In 2010, Trump was riding the shoulder of an unlikely comeback powered by NBC’s The Apprentice. The show had been a massive hit when it premiered in 2003, but its audience had dwindled dramatically as the show bloated from and groaned under the weight of Trump’s signature unrelenting shittiness. It was at that moment that Trump finally got to make an actual TV show about himself, without the meddling of savvy super-producer Mark Burnett. It would be an opportunity for him to spread his mottled and greasy wings as not just an executive producer but a storyteller. In the years since it premiered, virtually all evidence of the show has been scrubbed from the internet, save one excruciating episode that has inexplicably hung around YouTube. You probably do not need me to tell you it sucks but buddy: wow does it ever suck.
The broader concept behind Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World of Golf, a reality show that starred Trump and his family and which aired on The Golf Channel in 2010 and 2011, was that while most people know Donald Trump as an Elite Business Master Who Also Has The Most Terrific Sex, the man himself had a secret. “Behind the suit, and away from this boardroom,” the trailer promised, “lies a man with a serious obsession.” I will spoil the series, here: the guy loves golf, and also playing golf and developing golf courses, and that is what the show is about. “I love shaping earth,” Trump honks to camera. “It’s a canvas.”
Virtually everything about that show vanished from the internet in the runup to the 2016 election, and Golf Channel declined to make it available to CNN when the network asked after it in October of 2016. “The episodes that aired did not contain anything newsworthy as it relates to this election,” the channel’s VP of Communication told CNN, “and we are unaware of any newsworthy content that did not make air.”
Given what survived, it would be interesting to see the moments that producers deemed too unremarkable to make it into the shows. The one episode available online aired on October 26, 2010, and plays like a hilariously distended 90-second item on a show like Access Hollywood. Christian recording artist Amy Grant and former New York Giants halfback Ahmad Bradshaw express their admiration of Trump in notably vague terms on the red carpet of a charity benefit at Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom; Trump gets in and out of limos multiple times; a narrator notes that Trump was asked to address “his favorable ratings in the recent Presidential polls.” (“They look at me as somebody that will not allow the world to take advantage of our great country,” he explains.) When eight major polling services asked voters who they favored in a Trump/Obama race in 2012, Obama’s edge was an average of 19.5 percent.
Watching just one episode of Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World Of Golf is as ennobling and enjoyable as eating eight ounces of styrofoam packing chips out of a large golden bowl, and I do not recommend it to anyone but the most committed masochists and/or Ahmad Bradshaw completists. It’s a window into how cosseted and dull and claustrophobic his pre-political life is, but this has always been clear; the man has spent his life striding into large, air-conditioned rooms, making some remarks, and then wandering out of those rooms to go cheat at golf, and there’s nothing especially illuminating about actually watching him do it.
But there is something revealing there, although what it reveals about the disjunction between Trump’s ambitions and capacity is by now familiar to every living soul in the United States. He has always wanted to be in pictures, and always wanted to tell his story and be celebrated for it. Donald J. Trump’s Fabulous World Of Golf is perhaps the best opportunity he’s had to tell his story the way he wants it told, and the clearest proof of how little he has to say, even about himself.
Senior Producer: Kiran Chitanvis | Creative Producer: Anders Kapur, Jorge Corona