Mr. Mayor review – can Ted Danson save Los Angeles? probably not, no

January 8, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
TV Reviews, Weekly TV
2.5

Summary

NBC’s new Mr. Mayor is part workplace comedy, part political satire, but doesn’t stand out as an above-average example of either — at least not in its first two episodes.

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2.5

Summary

NBC’s new Mr. Mayor is part workplace comedy, part political satire, but doesn’t stand out as an above-average example of either — at least not in its first two episodes.

Ted Danson is one of those TV actors who has been around so long and has been attached to such a litany of great projects – Cheers! The Good Place! – that his presence alone is simply worth taking notice of. It would have been enough on its own, I think, to attract some eyeballs to the new NBC sitcom Mr. Mayor, in which he plays Neil Bremer, a widowed multi-millionaire who decides to run for the mayor of Los Angeles basically on a whim and ends up getting elected and having no clue what to do in the position. But Danson evidently wasn’t enough for Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who created the show and write it, giving away its original genesis as a 30 Rock spin-off. I mean, Holly Hunter is in this! You’d think with so much talent involved it’d be better.

This isn’t to say it’s bad – I actually thought the first two episodes were pretty funny. But they’re also very familiar, splicing the workplace comedy with a kind-of edgy political satire that, unlike most network sitcoms, isn’t afraid to make good-natured fun of woke liberalism, although it’d be rather charitable to say Mr. Mayor has any kind of firm stance on such things. Most of the framework is borrowed from elsewhere, and most of the offensive-but-not-really banter is too toothless to work as real critique. It’s funny but isn’t lasting or really impactful.

The characters are better. The first two episodes can’t seem to decide if Neil is just ill-suited to office or a complete moron, but his relationship with his daughter, Orly (Kyla Kennedy), adds some contours to what is otherwise just Ted Danson being affably hapless. She’s an outspoken feminist activist in her own right, running for class president on the strength of a plastic straw ban that Neil also makes his first official ruling, much to her chagrin. But he ran for mayor in large part to impress her since she thinks he’s just a moneyed idle layabout, which admittedly he has been since his wife’s death.

You get the sense L.A. would probably be better off without him. Having basically solved the Covid-19 problem thanks to Dolly Parton, of all people, Neil’s main obstacle is himself, and district councilwoman Arpi Meskimen (Hunter), a determined uber-liberal and Neil’s immediate arch-nemesis who is quickly promoted to his deputy mayor in an age-old “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” maneuver that is sure to backfire. Vella Lovell is fun as Neil’s wannabe-influencer chief-of-staff Mikaela, Bobby Moynihan plays braindead as communications manager Jayden, one assumes to counterbalance Neil’s own idiocy, and Mike Cabellon’s sole personality as strategist Tommy seems to be no-selling Neil’s own, often ridiculous attempts at strategizing for himself.

It’s hard to say whether the current socio-political climate, with most of the Western world but America in particular under the sway of an undeserving wealthy white narcissist, will be an advantage to Mr. Mayor or an insurmountable obstacle. The characters in the show happily moving past a global pandemic, rather than trying to comment on it, might be exactly what’s needed, and making a caricature of the type of leadership that undoubtedly worsened its real-world effects might be welcome catharsis too. Or, of course, not.

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