Trump to Self: ‘You’re Fired!’

The Donald ends Presidential charade at NBC upfront

Donald Trump on Monday hopped out of the clown car and onto the stage at NBC’s 2011-12 upfront presentation, ending his curious flirtation with the GOP in front of a crowd of media buyers and advertisers.

“I will not be running for president,” Trump announced, sending the capacity crowd inside the ballroom of New York’s Hilton Hotel into a tweeting, hooting, applauding frenzy. Trump uttered a string of words immediately after the declarative sentence, but they were lost in all the hubbub.

In aborting his phantom bid for the White House at NBC’s annual sales pitch, Trump destroyed whatever vestige of credibility he might have had with voters. After all, nothing says, “My bid for the presidency was totally serious, you guys!” quite like bowing out at an upfront.

While Trump pulled the same stunt in 1988 and 2000, his choice of venue this time around was unique. By comparison, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Saturday relied on a far more traditional platform from which to announce that he’d be sitting out the 2012 campaign, breaking the news on his Fox News Channel program.

His hair perched atop his dome like some sort of sickly meringue, Trump told media buyers that scrapping his political ambitions would clear the way for him to come back for another season of NBC’s Sunday night competition series. And while that decision comes as welcome news to new NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, the fate of the network’s lone juggernaut remains up in the air.

NBC did all it could to prime the pump for this fall’s NFL campaign, but as Greenblatt acknowledged, no one can really say when or if pro football will return, given the ongoing player lockout. Hazarding a best guess, Greenblatt said he thought Sunday Night Football would be delayed a few weeks at the most and that NBC will air a slate of  “nonscripted events and specials” as replacement fare.

With just six scripted projects in the hopper for the fall, NBC seemed to have erred on the side of caution. The holes in the network’s schedule call for comprehensive change; instead, clients were pitched a few iffy comedies and only one sure-fire hit, the Katharine McPhee vehicle Smash.

Along with Smash, the other projects that look promising are The Playboy Club, a period piece set in Hugh Hefner’s Chicago night club; Up All Night, a new parents comedy starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett; and Whitney, a traditional sitcom based on Whitney Cummings’ stand-up act.

Oddest choice: The Friday night drama Grimm, a Frankenstein monster cobbled from bits and pieces of police procedurals and fairy tales. 

Greenblatt uttered the sort of blandishments one might expect from a network in last place, assuring clients that Monday marked NBC’s “road to recovery.” And while that may be true in a literal sense—there will be no more Zuckeresque talk of “managing for margins”—NBC’s road doesn’t take anywhere near the adventurous twists and turns we were hoping for.