What is the worst reality show you can imagine? This week, Jezebel unearthed exclusive clips of Trump Town Girls, a Donald Trump production that showcased Trump beauty-pageant winners who went on to work for the Republican presidential candidate in the hallowed halls of Trump International Realty. (Lucky them.) The series, which was developed for E! three years ago, never made it to air, but the clips and pitch materials Jezebel discovered paint a clear picture of Trump’s idea for the show: attractive women competing to be of service to his empire.
Under Trump’s benevolent direction, the pitch went, pageant winners would duke it out with real-estate brokers to “win the week’s payday,” which “could mean anything from a chartered plane to Monaco to a seven-figure commission.” Would the minimally experienced beauty queens best the seasoned professionals? They would certainly all be mean to each other. And Trump would watch, gleefully, as they fought for his approval.
The pilot Jezebel obtained introduces two major characters who play their roles perfectly: a former Miss New York who openly flirts with male clients to sell condos and a civilian (but still beautiful) real-estate broker who cuts down the pageant women at every turn. (In one talking-head interview, she blithely recalls what happened to a beauty queen who didn’t make it: “She’s now a hostess at Serafina.”) To round out the cast, there are a handful of other pageant winners and brokers who snipe about new recruits behind their backs (“Well that’s a slutty dress”). And, of course, producers showcased Trump’s prized daughter Ivanka, to make everybody else look worse.
It is a shame that America never got to see the finished project, if only to witness how Trump treats women in the workplace. It is also amazing that the show never made it to air, given how popular this kind of concept is on reality TV.
Pitting women against each other is a reality-show tactic that is as old as the medium itself, and many workplace-oriented shows have used it to great success. On The Hills, Lauren Conrad and Emily the “Super Intern” battled for supremacy at Teen Vogue. On The Hills’ spinoff The City, socialite villain Olivia Palermo terrorized Whitney Port in the PR department at Diane von Fursternberg. This form of entertainment pleased Fursternberg herself; she went on to develop her own reality series for E! with a more straightforward “catty workplace” concept. On House of DVF, attractive and otherwise underemployed fashionistas compete to become Fursternberg’s “global brand ambassador.” If reality TV is a funhouse mirror to society, plenty of people think women are constantly bitching at each other and using their attractiveness to get ahead at the office.
So Trump Town Girls would have fit nicely on E! and within the workplace reality-show genre as a whole. In part, it would have been a more explicit version of what Trump was already doing with Celebrity Apprentice: casting women (like Real Housewives) destined to fight with each other.
What makes Trump Town Girls seem more degrading than any of these shows, however, is the fact that the Trump women were catty to each other all in service of one man. (A man who calls pregnancy an inconvenience to employers, a man who brags about groping women, a man who calls the women who have accused him of assault unnattractive liars.) At least on The City and House of DVF, women were working their way up the chain in a female-led company. (One of them could become the next Diane Von Fursternberg!) On Trump Town Girls, the only thing waiting at the the finish line was a pat on the head from “Mr. Trump” or a “chartered plane to Monaco,” which is not money.
In the end, Jezebel reported, Trump decided to cancel the whole production, apparently because he thought his employees’ cattiness wasn’t so entertaining. Sources told the site that the Trumps “felt like their team was too small and they didn’t have enough characters who were interesting enough to follow.” This is just one more example of Trump’s myopia: the problem with the show was not the women, it was him.