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Reality Trumps Everything

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h1A lot of people don’t think I’m going to run, and they think it’s because of The Apprentice. And I say, ‘Give me a break!’

Donald Trump

Soap operas never had a chance. Without the production values of a weekly drama or the reality of, well, reality TV, shows like All My Children and One Life To Live increasingly offer nothing to no one. Hence the lack of surprise that the soap opera is quickly going the way of the afternoon newspaper and the radio serial. We’re used to seeing a specific piece of content fail, everything from sitcoms to magazines are canceled all the time. It’s much rarer to see a whole format disappear.

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Fox News and MSNBC, reality has gotten too consumable for anyone to be satisfied getting their drama once an afternoon on ABC. Soap operas are dying less as a result of the timeworn saw “new media doesn’t kill old media, it just changes it” but more simply because “fact is stranger than fiction.”

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We have created a whole new crop of demi-stars whose main claim to fame is that they are willing to go there — shout out to the Kardashians — as well as the aspirational lesser mortals who trod from reality show to reality show until they break into the firmament themselves. From housewives in Orange County to crab fisherman and truck drivers in Alaska, everyone is lining up for their 15 minutes and an endorsement deal.

In the attention-based economy we’ve built for ourselves, extremes win out whether in entertainment or politics (is there a difference between the two anymore?). The 24 hour news cycle — be it on Fox News or in our Twitter stream — is like a lung cancer patient who just can’t put down the pack of cigarettes. For the occasional Nicorette, we have promoted Tweets and Donald Trump.

And let’s face it, for a supposed billionaire Donald Trump has more in common with the average soap heroine than a corporate titan. Trump has the same odds of being our next president as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who as you may remember would first have to get a constitutional amendment passed. But by developing the will-he-run-or-won’t-he story line served with a large dollop of birther paranoia, Trump has given us something worth chewing over for weeks.

Or at least until the finale of this season’s Celebrity Apprentice. By then, serious presidential candidates may actually be in the running and the news cycle will move on to the next extreme. Meanwhile, we will all await Glenn Beck’s next move, Charlie Sheen’s next meltdown and this summer’s sex tape from someone who really didn’t know the camera was on. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen on tomorrow’s episode.

By Andrew Anker, SVP at SAY Media and chief blogger at

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