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NBC Just Might Bring Back Must-See TV with Ted Danson and 'Mr. Mayor'
January 7, 2021  | By Mike Hughes
 


Neil Bremer has all the key qualifications to be mayor.

He's tall and silver-haired, with an agreeable countenance and an affable manner. He has everything except, well, plans, proposals, projects, and such. Maybe he'll think of some later.

He's the central character in Mr. Mayor, which debuts at 8 and 8:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, on NBC. It has all of NBC's key Thursday people: Ted Danson stars while Tina Fey and Robert Carlock produce.

You may remember NBC Thursdays. It used to be "must-see TV"; then it became "might-see TV" and then sort of "whatever."

That all started when The Cosby Show arrived in 1984, beefing up a night that already had Danson's Cheers and more. The network soared until 1992 when Cosby ended, and Danson told Warren Littlefield (NBC's new programming chief) he was only doing one more year.

As Littlefield wrote in Top of the Rock (Doubleday, 2012): "Ahead lay barren ground."

Or not. Coming quickly were Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier, Mad About You, and more, with ER following them. "We beat three other networks combined," Littlefield wrote. Thursdays "generated more revenue for NBC than the other six nights combined."

Gradually, the comedies slowed, Littlefield was ousted, and Jeff Zucker took over, grabbing the new reality-show emphasis. As Bob Broder, an agent, groaned in Littlefield's book: "The best night of television and you put The Apprentice on? . . . After 20 years of being No. 1, that ended."

Added Tom Werner, a comedy producer: "We've gone from Must See TV to The Apprentice and The Biggest Loser."

CBS would eventually move The Big Bang Theory to Thursday and seize the comedy audience. NBC later began trying out its best comedies there, including the Fey/Carlock 30 Rock and Danson's The Good Place, which voluntarily quit after four brilliant seasons.

And now those three people combine, adding Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan in support.

This mayor is perfectly likable and electable, but he doesn't really stand for anything. In the opening episode, he proposes banning plastic straws then is willing to drop it because his teen daughter is using that issue to run for class president.

It's a funny episode, and the second one is even funnier when the mayor accidentally gets high during a day of community appearances.

OK, that one almost always works. Bob Newhart has said the accidental-drunk episode was one of his favorites in his first situation comedy; he did another in his George and Leo sitcom. Similar episodes have worked for John Ritter, Lucille Ball, and Fey on 30 Rock.

So maybe we shouldn't be too surprised that this one is funny. Maybe we should point out that CBS still has terrific Thursday comedies – Young Sheldon, B Positive, Mom – and that NBC switches abruptly at 9 p.m. to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

But for now, we'll celebrate. For an hour this Thursday, NBC has a comedy that's sort of must-see.

 
 
 
 
 
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