Ted Danson has starred in three successful TV comedies: “Cheers”, “Becker” and “The Good Place”. He’s in an elite club of 3x winners that also includes Betty White and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. But Danson’s not done yet. He now stars in the new NBC comedy series “Mr. Mayor”, which debuts with a two-episode premiere this Thursday January 7th at 8pm.
“Mr. Mayor” was originally designed as a “30 Rock” spinoff for Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy character. Co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock wanted Donaghy become the mayor of New York City. But lengthy negotiations with Baldwin fell through, so Fey and Carlock had to come-up with Plan B.
They went to Danson, who agreed to “Mr. Mayor” as his “Good Place” follow-up. BUT he didn’t want to move to NYC for the show. So that’s why it’s set in Los Angeles. (Interestingly, Baldwin recently signed on to co-star with Kelsey Grammer in an ABC that has already been greenlit to air this Fall.)
This “Mr. Mayor” backstory is much more interesting than the actual series. I screened the first two episodes… and they’re not pretty. The majority of the comedies on TV these days (network, cable or streaming platform) are flat, uninspired and unfunny. It’s difficult to find a gem. I remember laughing often during the Pilot of “The Unicorn” in Fall ’19, instantly thinking it was going to be a hit. But based on declining ratings and a smaller number of episodes in this current second season, I’m concerned CBS won’t want to take it beyond the Season 2 finale.
Hope I’m wrong. But anyway – back to “MM”. Danson’s Neil Bremer was inspired to run for L.A. Mayor because he wanted his 15 year old daughter to see him do something important (wife/mom passed away several years ago). Danson, who just turned 73, having a teen daughter makes for some awkward scenes considering she could (and should) be his granddaughter.
Academy Award winner Holly Hunter has dragged herself into this mess too. She plays Arpi, who opposes what Neil stands for but *mild spoiler* ends-up on his staff, which also includes some stereotypical twentysomethings and an over-the-top Bobby Moynihan. His character should be reeled in… but he probably won’t be.
“Mr. Mayor” gives off major “Veep” vibes, and in my book that’s not a complement. It’s a fast-talking, pop culture reference obsessed ensemble series set in an office and around a city, in this case the very spread-out and laid-back Los Angeles.
The second episode feels longer than the first – more ridiculous, outrageous and uncomfortable as Danson & Moynihan venture out to a bunch of different events. Fey and Carlock have backed themselves into a corner by trying to force situational comedy out of a city that doesn’t offer the kind of sharp, relatable material that The Big Apple does.
Under normal circumstances, I’d see NBC dropping the axe on “Mr. Mayor” after this first season. Maybe ratings will dictate that. But do networks really want to start up a ton of scripted shows from scratch these days under COVID restrictions? No. So this could stick around for a while… even if hardly anyone watches.