Hallucination TV

September 08, 2004

HE'S BACK, unfortunately.

With his bouffant as billowy as his braggadocio, Donald J. Trump returns to prime-time TV this week for another season of cut-throat competition among would-be "apprentices" striving to be granted a big-bucks gig working for the nation's most self-proclaimed business genius. Among all the nightmares parading as actual life on so-called reality TV shows, the icon of The Donald has got to be among the leading hallucinations.

Only on television could a real-estate mogul - with major properties now in bankruptcy for the second time in 12 years - be held up as a kind of modern-day philosopher-king. It's sort of scary that millions of Americans apparently are entertained as he weekly utters supposed pearls of wisdom right before summarily taking off the head of one of his aspirants with "You're Fired."

Or is it, "You're Fired!"

Or, "Your (sic) Fired The Donald."

Or, "You're Fired Donald J. Trump."

Nothing if not a round-the-clock marketer of himself as a persona-brand, Mr. Trump recently was rejected by the Patent Office when he tried to register these four variations of his show's punchline. Trademark examiners were worried consumers would confuse "You're Fired" with "You're Hired!" - the name of a board game used in middle schools to teach students how to hunt for a job.

We've never played that game but it has to be more in synch with the actual world of work than the lemonade-stand trials animated by Mr. Trump's seekers. Similarly, Mr. Trump's supposed business acumen sharply contrasts with the recently announced bankruptcy of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, his three Atlantic City properties. That's right: He's failed twice in the highly lucrative gambling business.

Don't feel sorry for Mr. Trump, though. He's reportedly going to lose control of his casinos but somehow retain a $2 million-a-year salary. And he's got his new book, and a new board game, and paid college speeches - reportedly to the tune of $200,000 from the University of Buffalo. Buffalo, indeed. We'd suggest his TV show ought to be more accurately renamed after the 1961 pool-shark movie, The Hustler - except that he might run into more legal trouble.

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