'Circus' Producers Dub 2016 Election "Fundamentally Different" Because of Trump

"Win or lose, I think people will write Ph.D. dissertations about it one day."
Courtesy of Showtime
The Circus

Showtime's political docuseries The Circus premieres Sunday, but the first episode is hardly in the can. Producers plan to make the weekly series as current as possible while documenting the road to the 2016 presidential election, and they took only a short break from work on Tuesday to talk about their intentions and, of course, Donald Trump.

Showtime chief David Nevins said at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour earlier in the afternoon that the intention of The Circus, which will air through November, is to offer a unique take on the week's campaign trail events in a form of "real-time vérité documentary." Refined as that sounds, it did not keep reporters from endlessly pressing the panel of Mark Halperin, John Heilemann and Mark McKinnon on Trump.

"The big difference is Donald Trump," Halperin said when asked how 2016 compares to the last few races. "It's dominating bow people think about the cycle. He's done very little paid media, and a lot of traditional media. But in terms of social media and late-night, there's [only] incremental differences. The only thing that's fundamentally different is what Trump has done. Win or lose, I think people will write Ph.D. dissertations about it one day."

Trump, as well as Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, will be one of the focal points of the Jan. 17 debut. "We're shooting in episode one, still," added Halperin. "We woke up in New Hampshire today and spent time with Bernie Sanders and his wife. We shot some stuff with Ted Cruz."

None of the three men was keen to assess the long-term viability of any of the candidates, but Heilemann admitted he thought Trump has the most charisma.

"It's not clear that there is anybody in this race, except maybe Trump, who has the media skill of President Barack Obama," said Heilemann, though he did not agree that Trump was driving much interest beyond the record-breaking debates. "People are interested in the future of this country. They're going to be interested whether Donald Trump is on stage until next week, next month or November."

Beyond the day-to-day of the trail, McKinnon noted that the overall status of the GOP will figure prominently into The Circus, saying, "There's a big arc about where the Republican party is going or could be going."