Critic's Notebook: Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump Kiss and Make Up in Her Primetime Special
Kelly's mano-a-mano encounter with the presumptive Republican presidential nominee was the main event in her show, which also featured interviews with Laverne Cox, Robert Shapiro and Michael Douglas.
For her first network special, Megyn Kelly interviewed Donald Trump, transgender actress Laverne Cox, Oscar-winner Michael Douglas and O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro. But who are we kidding? You only want to know about Trump.
Yes, our long national nightmare is over, a painful nine months since it began, when the Fox News personality dared to ask Trump a tough question during the first presidential debate. It sparked a feud that played out in the media and on Twitter, with Trump making endless disparaging comments while Kelly mostly kept her mouth shut. So watching their long-awaited one-on-one meeting on Fox's Megyn Kelly Presents was akin to seeing your separated parents thrash things out during a couple's therapy session.
That the interview was not going to be a hard-hitting interrogation about the vital issues facing the country was evident from the beginning. (To her credit, Kelly didn't toy with the audience by saving Trump for the end of the broadcast. Instead, she announced, "Let's dive right in," before breathlessly informing us, "Nothing is off limits!")
The Trump segment, which consumed fully half of the broadcast, began with Kelly delivering a recap of their tortured relationship, as if Trump's presidential campaign had been entirely about her. She maintained a professional demeanor, although when she described him as "the presumptive Republican nominee" it sounded suspiciously like a cat with a hairball in its throat.
Kelly went into full Barbara Walters mode on her subject, although presumably she's smart enough to know there was little chance of getting him to cry. Still, she gave it her all, asking the Donald not once but twice if anyone had ever hurt him emotionally.
"The hardest thing was the death of my brother," he replied, before quickly segueing into a lecture about the dangers of alcoholism. Asked about whether he regrets any of the things he's said or done during his campaign, Trump offered the opinion that it's "not healthy" to contemplate past mistakes. In response to a question about whether he had ever been wounded, he proclaimed that he would "unwound" himself by "going after people hard."
"I'm a counter-puncher," Trump explained, with an innocent "Who, me?" look on his face. So much for introspection.
"Let's talk about us!" Kelly commanded after the break, sounding like someone in a relationship looking for their significant other to finally make a commitment. Asked about her treatment of him during the debates, Trump graciously told her, "I don't really blame you, because you're doing your thing."
"You know, it's not a cocktail party," she reminded him.
He complimented her for reaching out to him for the interview, subtly reminding the viewers in the process that he was the alpha male in the relationship. Among Trump's other statements during the surreal proceedings were, "I have a big heart," "I'm fighting for survival" and even "I'm the messenger," apparently confusing the word with "Messiah."
All in all, it was a veritable lovefest, with Trump telling Kelly, "I like our relationship right now." You could feel the nation breathing a collective sigh of relief. But the most telling moment came at the end of the interview, when she asked him how he would feel if he wound up losing the election.
"I feel it will have been a total and complete waste of time, energy and money," Trump said.
At last, something we can all agree on.
Aping Walters' signature television specials, Kelly went on to interview Cox, plugging the upcoming Fox broadcast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show along the way. She asked the acclaimed star of Orange is the New Black about her suicide attempt at age 11, prompting Cox to react sharply.
"I didn't think you'd go there," she told her questioner. Undeterred, Kelly later asked her if she had ever been worried that her mother didn't love her.
"Megyn?" Cox replied incredulously.
During his brief segment, Shapiro actually managed to be more obnoxious than John Travolta's portrayal of him in The People vs. O.J. Simpson. He claimed that he won the case because he "outmaneuvered" the prosecution; said that more than one killer was probably involved in the double murder; and finally revealed the words that Simpson was seen whispering to him just after the verdict was announced.
"You told me this would be the result from the beginning. You were right," Simpson supposedly said. Shapiro went on to say that "legal justice," if not "moral justice," had been achieved. But when asked to elaborate on the latter, he answered, "I haven't discussed it with anyone, including my wife." Or, it might be assumed, himself.
After a brief and harmless chat with Douglas that mainly concentrated on the actor's constantly being issued death notices by the tabloids, there was a final "lightning round" segment with Trump in which he was asked such things as what is his favorite movie. His answer, Citizen Kane, explains a lot … a whole lot. Now if we could only find out what his "Rosebud" is.
As the show was ending, Kelly delivered a shameless plug for her upcoming book, set to be published in November, just in time for the holiday season. Its title, Settle for More, is advice that her audience should well heed.