Two great shows ended recently, but their loss is our gain because the creators of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Tina Fey and Robert Carlock) are bringing us Mr. Mayor. And, headlining is none other than Ted Danson, free from his stint on The Good Place. Actually, now that I think about it there are at least two more orphans in this cast: Vella Lovell from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Kyla Kenedy from Speechless. Honestly, I loved all of those shows, which is why I’m extremely willing to see how this one goes.
The pilot for Mr. Mayor sets things up nicely. Our titular character (Danson as Neil Bremer) is your standard older white male who gets himself in over his head trying to impress a much younger woman. The twist? The woman is a girl, and his daughter (say hi to Orly Bremer), and it’s not some creepy southern gothic thing either – this is mined for a cute joke that made the rounds in the previews. Though, I do find the flashback explanation to why he became Mayor a little hard to believe – is it really true that millennials don’t understand the concept of retirement? On the other hand, is Orly considered a millennial? Generation titles always confuse me. At any rate, to overhear your daughter on the phone with a friend calling you “lazy” for not doing anything would probably result in you smacking the phone out of your child’s hand and giving them a good talking to (back in my day at least!). Instead, Neil opts to run for Mayor.
The Donald Trump of the whole thing is that he winds up winning to the surprise of everyone. Luckily, that’s where the comparison ends. Neil is a successful businessman who clearly cares about his family and his job. This is shown in the second episode when he complains about having to do all the meaningless press appearances rather than affecting genuine change. It’s a nice departure from what our current public figures have shown us in the last…oh…what? 30 years? If not longer.
Helping Bremer out is Mikaela Shaw (hi Vella), his chief of staff, Tommy Tomás (played by Mike Cabellon), and Jayden Kwapis (the hilarious Bobby Moynihan, who had a brief show of his own in Me, Myself, and I). Considering the creators it’s impossible not to compare this to 30 Rock with Niel being Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy, albeit more sincere in many ways (a kind of Jack/Kenneth hybrid). Jayden feels akin to Tracy Jordan what with his propensity for saying outlandish things at any moment while being much more helpful than Mr. Jordan ever was (another potential Kenneth hybrid). My guess is Tomás would be Pete Hornberger, burdened with purpose but not exactly dedicated. Then there’s Mikaela, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure where to categorize her…is she a Liz Lemon? Will she and the Mayor form an unshakeable bond that only hardened professionals develop while deep in the thick of public service? Probably. The other wildcard in the bunch is another big star – Holly Hunter – playing Arpi Meskimen, who, funnily enough, is an ambitious local politician railing against the Mayor simply because she couldn’t get enough votes to run herself. This makes me correlate her with Jenna Maroney, not because she’s vapid or Chihuahua-level high-strung (she’s definitely not), but because she’s fierce in her need to be seen and heard and given her due.
The second episode, “Mayor’s Day Out” has some classic sitcom hijinks for the A-plot, while the B-plot gives us a good idea of how government really works. The thing I really enjoy about watching Fey’s shows is that her jokes are extremely effective in highlighting nearly obscene levels of absurdity that are allowed to happen just because the status quo favors some arbitrary hierarchy between two parties (could be class, gender, race). It’s why I loved 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but I do urge audiences to be patient!
It’s been a while (over 14 years) since 30 Rock premiered, but here’s a fun fact: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip also premiered at the same, and critics were sure that Studio 60 would survive while Rock would shrivel up and die after a middling first season. Well, unsurprisingly, the critics were profoundly wrong – Studio 60 lasted only 1 season, 30 Rock? Oh, that went on for another 6! So if you’re not feeling Mr. Mayor after the first two episodes, give it some time. Parks and Rec had a famously dull first season. This show has a good cast, and good creators, I believe it has longevity potential. And besides, these two opening episodes feel pretty solid to me. Sure, they may occasionally dig up old sitcom gems, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t funny.