Donald Trump's campaign-slash-publicity stunt is getting complicated. Karl Rove has called the man a "joke candidate," and it seems like NBC executives agree. According to a New York Times article today, the network doesn't really believe Trump will run. One unnamed source said well: "This is Donald being Donald."

If they're wrong, though, they may very well have a very successful but suddenly impotent series on their hands. Currently pulling in about 8 million viewers every week, Celebrity Apprentice is one of NBC's most-watched shows, but despite the "virtual certainty" of the show's renewal, the network would likely be forced to cancel it due to the federal election laws which would turn it into a political campaign ad. The Times points out that NBC's news division--and Meredith Vieira specifically--is also taking fire for not challenging Trump more assertively in a recent interview that featured his now well-rehearsed rant about Obama's birth certificate.

The truth is everybody's a little bit guilty of granting Trump more attention than he deserves. National Journal columnist Charlie Cook joined Karl Rove in calling Trump a joke last week and quoted a Republican lawmaker describing the fiasco around his candidacy "downright embarrassing." Politico reports that Trump is making the "types of moves that one makes if they’re actually running" like interviewing campaign managers. Talking Points Memo spots Trump taking shots at fellow Republican Eric Cantor for not paying more attention to the birther issue. If Trump indeed announces his candidacy, pundits will have to take Trump seriously, as embarrassing as he may be to his party. In the meantime, The Donald is great for traffic.

And so despite executives doubting Trump's intentions to run, the network has to consider its options about what to do if he actually does it--including a truly awful sounding idea to let Trump's three children host the show.  But if the issue is equal airtime for other candidates, why doesn't NBC just give them shows too? Imagine the possibilities:

  • Sittin' With Mitt - An hourlong talk show featuring the former governor of Massachusetts talking to famous people.
  • Barack's Bakery - A cooking show that would let both Obamas share their visions for America with hope and whole grains.
  • Making Tea With Michele Bachmann - Like The View, only with more gun enthusiasts
  • T-Paw Draws - Tim Pawlenty's weekly tribute to Bob Ross and "happy little tax reliefs."