If you had told me when I was in high school that Roseanne and Tom Arnold, who at the time were married and working on Roseanne’s eponymous #1 sitcom, would one day represent opposing sides in the battle for the soul of America — and on top of that, that I would be a million percent on Tom’s side — I would have thought you were tripping.
And yet, here we are: Roseanne, who in the ‘90s was a stalwart liberal constantly praised for bringing attention to racial and LGBT issues with her top-rated show, has since become such a vocal Donald Trump supporter (and Obama hater) that she lost her show after some, shall we say, ill-considered tweets, while her ex-husband, who at the time was best known as the human manifestation of Coke Sweat, has been a vocal Twitter detractor of Trump’s since he announced his presidential campaign.
On Twitter, Arnold has been haranguing producer Mark Burnett to release the hours of Apprentice outtakes where, Arnold promises, Trump can be heard using all manner of racist, misogynist, and all-around abusive language; he has fanned the flames of rumors about a security tape that that purportedly shows the president abusing his wife in an elevator; and of course he has been totally credulous about the legendary “pee tape,” supposedly captured by Russian intelligence in a Moscow hotel room, of Trump goading some local sex workers into defiling the bed where the the Obamas once slept.
In The Hunt for the Trump Tapes, which premiered last week on Viceland, Arnold puts his money where his mouth is, assuming the role of citizen TV journalist and calling on his considerable celebrity network, amassed over 30 years of B-list celebrity, for help. In the first two episodes, Arnold visits Howard Stern on the air to ask for the 30+ hours of Trump interviews that Stern did over the years, ambushes his True Lies costar Arnold Schwarzenegger, who took over The Apprentice when Trump was fired from the show over remarks he made on the campaign trail, and sits with magician Penn Jillette, a two-time veteran of The Celebrity Apprentice, for a first-hand (if a bit vague) recounting of the toxic atmosphere Trump created on set.
The show wisely leans hard into the obvious fact that the stammering, manic Tom Arnold is, at best, an imperfect vessel for this quest by including outtakes and plenty of skepticism on the part of his celebrity quarry, all of whom reasonably ask, Let’s say you find these tapes — then what? Arnold’s answer is endearing: I don’t know, but I can’t just sit back and do nothing!
It’s obviously unlikely that Arnold uncovers much of anything, though he does manage to find a partial archive of Stern recordings in the first episode. It’s the destination, not the journey, and there is something charming about Arnold’s earnest, openly scattershot approach, and the obvious affection his celebrity friends have for him. Not bad for a human manifestation of Coke Sweat!
New episodes of The Hunt for the Trump Tapes with Tom Arnold premiere Tuesdays at 10:30pm ET on Viceland, and are available next day on demand.