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Ted Danson Delivers in 'Mr. Mayor,' of Course, but the Show Falls a Bit Short
January 7, 2021  | By David Hinckley
 


That long-awaited 30 Rock spinoff, after a few detours, has finally gyrated its way to television.

Mr. Mayor, a clever, zany, semi-absurdist sitcom starring Ted Danson, premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

Danson plays Neil Bremer, the unlikely new mayor of Los Angeles. He's a retired businessman who made billions in the billboard biz and has spent the last eight years lounging around the pool at his Bel Air mansion.

He's remarkably unqualified to be mayor, except the last mayor up and quit one day, and no one else seemed to want the job.

So Bremer is swept into office after an election with an 8% turnout, and he starts his term by saying things like, "We're hosting the Olympics?"

He starts his first press conference by explaining that he came to L.A. in 1976 because his girlfriend wanted to become an actress. After the Night Stalker killed her, he went into billboards to give the people of Los Angeles something to see while they were sitting on freeways going nowhere.

As this might suggest, Mr. Mayor works both sides of the not-terribly-fine line between satiric and cartoonish.

Like most zany sitcoms, Mr. Mayor also has a deeply sentimental side. In this case, Bremer admits to his staff that the real reason he ran for mayor was to impress his teenage daughter, Orly (Kyla Kenedy).

After his wife died eight years ago, he retired to spend more time with Orly. Only it seems her takeaway was that her father never did anything, so he figures being mayor would give him the cred of an actual occupation.

Makes sense.

The other glitch in his plan is that Neil Bremer is really Jack Donaghy, the character Alec Baldwin played on 30 Rock. He's deceptively smart. He's also self-absorbed and, therefore, largely oblivious to the world around him.

The original plan was for the spinoff to follow Donaghy's political career in New York, only Baldwin dropped out, and Danson didn't want to leave L.A., which is how we got to where we are.

With a mayor who, in the words of his campaign manager Mikaela (Vella Lovell), "thinks Santa Monica is part of L.A."

Mikaela thinks about quitting until she finds that working in Bremer's office will give her health benefits, so she can finally dump her boyfriend.

The rest of the office staff includes strategist Tommy (Mike Cabellon), whose sensible advice flies right past Bremer, and Jayden (Bobby Moynihan), the perpetually hungry press secretary who is almost as tone-deaf as the mayor himself.

Jayden tends to steal scenes, like at Bremer's first press conference where he stands to the side stuffing down food so fast he has to give himself the Heimlich maneuver and then wipe his mouth on the state flag before he resumes eating.

The outsider in this cozy family is Councilwoman Arpi (Holly Hunter), an all-in progressive who aggressively promotes causes like free coyote birth control.

Arpi takes Bremer's offer to become deputy mayor, figuring he will implode any minute and she can step into his office.

Created and written by the 30 Rock team of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Mr. Mayor rewards fast talking except for brief pauses to get sentimental. Almost every line is a joke or a setup for a joke, with the references pinballing among politics, pop culture, imagined injustices, absurd crises, and wacky relationships.

You could almost make a game show out of it. Okay, kids, how many of those last 20 references did you get?

In the end, Mr. Mayor feels more like escapism than parody. It does all go down smoothly, thanks to Danson's world-class deadpan and the admirable support of his colleagues.

 
 
 
 
 
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