South African news has just been too depressing for too long, so I don’t read that much of it anymore. What I have been lapping up to a possibly unhealthy degree is American politics. You’d think that with everything that’s gone on since Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the considerable amount of time I’ve spent following it, that I’d be shitting myself for the future of the world. But the fact that it is all happening over there, and not here, allows me to absorb it all with a kind of riveted detachment. It is engrossing, and full of drama and suspense. But I can switch off from it and get back to my normal life like it was nothing more than a temporary distraction, until the next instalment.

It’s a lot like a TV show, I realised. But it’s also an evolution of TV because it doesn’t just happen on TV. It happens on the internet, and on social media, and on pretty much all media. Which is a natural progression for entertainment in our times, isn’t it? Donald Trump is aware of this, and he works it hard on every medium he can. He is a showman, after all, and he knows how to draw a crowd. Even during his campaign, he apparently said it didn’t matter that Hillary was leading the polls because he was leading in the ratings.

Being a multi-medium show is only part of what makes it so successful, though. The other compelling thing about the Trump presidency is that it is also a multi-genre show. It’s clearly rooted in Reality TV (which is a genre Trump knows well from The Apprentice) in that we seem to be following “real people” doing “real things” and behaving as they “really” are, just in a somewhat unreal situation.

But the Trump Presidency Show has elements of a contradictory and, at the same time, complementary genre that we could call “Unreality TV”, because it is so full of fabrications and made up shit. You have characters using lies to defend lies, “alternative facts” to present the false as true, and fake news to accuse factual news of being fake news, all to such a far-fetched extent that you don’t know what’s actually real and what’s not.

Then there’s an additional genre that the Trump Presidency Show borrows from – that of fiction. But it is the sub-genre of fiction that pretends not to be fiction because it is “based on a true story” – a line that is usually so open to artistic license that it is basically meaningless and is only actually put there to make you think that truth is stranger than fiction, when it is pretty much 99% fiction anyway.

To be fair, the Trump Presidency Show doesn’t actually use the line “based on a true story”. But to anyone in South Africa it’s obvious that the show is based on something true and real. And that, obviously, is the South African presidency.

The Trump Presidency Show would never say that because South Africa is too far away and too insignificant to matter to an American or global audience, but the parallels are clear. Just think about the protagonists.

Donald Trump is playing the role of Jacob Zuma. They are both presidents, obviously. They both have a certain “try stop me, I don’t give a fuck” swagger about them. Both give the impression of being impossibly stupid and, at the same time, unnervingly sly, in a way that we can’t quite put our bewildered fingers on.

Kellyanne Conway is based on Baleka Mbete. One is a mouthpiece, the other is a speaker. Coincidence? I think not. And both characters have a common purpose and motivation, which is to unwaveringly defend and protect their president, and they seem to not mind being laughed at while they do it.

Then there is the man behind the president, the one who appears to be playing a supporting role, but who we suspect is actually pulling the puppet strings: Stephen Bannon, playing the you-know-whos (and if you don’t, they are the brothers whose last name starts with the seventh letter of the alphabet, and no, it’s not the Brothers Grimm).

And, of course, there’s an ensemble cast of cabinet picks who bear strong resemblances to many of our own ministers.

I imagine that you, too, have had a few conversations around which president is worse. In my experience Americans tend to say Trump and South Africans say Zuma, which is to be expected I suppose. At times I feel myself being seduced into such fun discussions, and my opinion is that while Trump is a greater threat to world peace, he doesn’t seem intent on screwing over his entire population the way Zuma has.

But then I remember that it’s a pointless and academic debate to have. The Trump Presidency isn’t even really real. So we may as well all just relax and enjoy the show.