Monday, 14 June 2021

‘Mr. Mayor’ at least funnier than what happens in L.A.




‘MR. MAYOR’ ON NBC

The tag line for the new NBC comedy series “Mr. Mayor” is “L.A. called. Neil answered.”

Neil would be Ted Danson’s Neil Bremer, a retired billboard mogul who runs for mayor of Los Angeles to prove he’s “still got it.”

Back in 1993, voters in the city of Los Angeles did, in fact, elect businessman Richard Riordan as its leader, though it seems he did not have much to prove with a successful career that included a partnership in a top law firm and ownership of a popular downtown eatery.

As things stand right now in California’s largest city, it seems incomprehensible that anyone would want the task of being mayor. For one thing, the current occupant of the post is under attack for a homeless population that was growing exponentially even before the pandemic.

The NBC press notes describes Los Angeles as America’s “second weirdest city.” That may be true but it begs the question of what city is the weirdest. Could it be Portland, Oregon, where the designation seems most likely appropriate? Or is San Francisco in the running?

All that matters is whether “Mr. Mayor” might be worth watching. There’s potential for optimism for a sitcom that has been shaped by the same creative forces of Tina Fey and Robert Carlock that brought the surreal humor of “30 Rock” to prominence on the NBC schedule.

Voter turnout in city elections is already low, so when the current mayor announces his resignation because he was broken by the year 2020 due to the pandemic and supposedly murder hornets, among other things, a special election draws Bremer into the race.

A mayoral aide lets it be known that Bremer is not qualified for the office and yet won 68 percent of the vote of the 8 percent of voters who bothered to show up when the competition consisted of a libertarian porn star and Gary Coleman’s ghost.

That Bremer’s opponents were gadflies is a bit of humor that jogs one’s memory of candidates during the 2003 Grey Davis gubernatorial recall election in which Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged victorious. How many people will remember or catch that particular joke?

What propelled Bremer into the political arena was no high-minded purpose of crafting public policy and solutions, but rather to prove his worth to his politically engaged teenage daughter Orly (Kyla Kennedy).

Within moments of taking office, Bremer bumbles his way through advocating a ban on plastic straws to the chagrin of his daughter only because she’s running for sophomore class president on the same issue and feels co-opted by her father’s action.

A television screen captures a clip from the mayor’s press conference which notes his openness to the idea of a robot police force. Apparently, potential initiatives will be randomly tossed out and almost immediately forgotten.

Bremer’s campaign manager and social influencer Mikaela Shaw (Vella Lovell) comes on board as the “first woman of color without a master’s degree to be chief of staff,” and yet wonders how she can work for a politician who thinks Santa Monica is part of the City of Los Angeles.

A more eccentric member of the mayor’s staff is the awkward Jayden Kwapis (Bobby Moynihan), the holdover communications director who wears prescription flip-flops for his “podiatric claustrophobia” condition.

Meanwhile, Mikaela and the mayor’s strategist Tommy Tomas (Mike Cabellon), more of a bureaucratic functionary whose role remains mostly undefined, think it best to keep the oddball Jayden on staff as the person to throw under the bus when it becomes convenient.

Bremer’s primary nemesis is veteran council member Arpi Meskimen (Holly Hunter), a caricature of an agenda-driven progressive, who quickly attacks the mayor’s straw ban as an attack on disabled persons.

In a Machiavellian move, Bremer, who at first eschewed having any deputy mayors, brings Arpi into his inner circle in that position on the timeworn concept of “keep your enemies closer.”

Will this arrangement work? Arpi is definitely out in left field. She takes the stance that it is cultural appropriation to call coyotes anything other than “mini wolves” who should also get government funded birth control.

As Bremer gets dragged around town by his staff, the mayor soon realizes that his job is “90% photo ops and animal funerals” and he proves clueless and widely inept even in ceremonial situations.

After visiting a weed dispensary where he ingests proffered edible products, the mayor becomes so increasingly loopy on his city tour that he knocks out the beloved mascot for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team.

With only two episodes offered for critical judgment, “Mr. Mayor” is congenial and amusing enough as a conventional sitcom with its political issues tending so far to innocuous topics and that may be a good thing after a contentious election year.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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