How Fox's 'Bordertown' Predicted a Donald Trump Controversy
If timing is everything, Fox’s Bordertown has truly lucked out.
The animated series, which debuts Jan. 3, takes place at the Texas/Mexico border and centers on a Border Patrol agent who hasn’t adjusting well to the cultural changes around him. In one episode, a massive wall is erected at the border. Sound familiar?
Donald Trump has made the construction of a border wall the hallmark of his presidential campaign. For Bordertown creator Mark Hentemann, Trump’s platform is pure happenstance. The episode was written two years ago, long before his campaign began. “I thought we were pushing reality when we did our border wall episode,” Hentemann says. “But the things that Trump is proposing and what he’s saying are more exaggerated than what we thought was exaggeration in the first place.”
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Bordertown had been in development at Fox since the late 2000s. “When I was figuring out the show, George W. Bush was president, immigration was an issue and there was a lot of talk about border walls. When Fox didn't pick it up, I put it on a shelf,” Hentemann says. “I thought maybe this issue would be addressed and fade away, and the show would no longer be relevant.”
Instead, Fox ordered Bordertown to series in 2013, and the show was supposed to air last season.“We were supposed to be on a year ago, and then we got pushed, and it worked in our favor,” Hentemann says. It was eventually moved to a January 2016 launch–and, serendipitously, right in the middle of election season.
“This is proof that God is actually a Mexican,” says consulting producer Gustavo Arellano. “By the time the show airs, the scripts we wrote will be two years old. And yet the topics we’re going to be tackling, it’s going to seem like we lifted them straight out of the headlines. That’s both a testament to how smart the writers are, but also a testament to how messed up this country’s immigration policy is. Frankly, we could have put this show on five years ago, now or five years into the future, and all of these topics would be relevant.”
Could Hentemann go back and make some adjustments to the show and sprinkle in a few Trump references? The show’s final on-air edit has been locked since last June, and Hentemann has since returned to work on Family Guy, so it's unlikely. (Both shows are executive produced by Seth MacFarlane.) But the series creator says he’d love to find a way to sneak a few new voice-overs in.
“With our premiere approaching, I started looking at our cuts with fresh eyes,” he says. “We should give Trump a writing credit on the episode for making it relevant and topical again.”
The Bordertown producers have been promoting the show via grassroots screenings across the country. “We went wherever we could get someone to host us,” Hentemann says. “Because it’s so politically topical, a lot of colleges will be interested in the subject matter. And host Q&As after.I was expecting more apprehension over the show or the subject matter, but it’s been great. People want to laugh. There’s so much tensions in these issues that it’s almost cathartic to watch something that lets you laugh at these serious issues.”
Bordertown, Series premiere, Sunday, Jan. 3, 9:30/8:30c, FOX