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NBC has a winner on its hands with “Mr. Mayor.”
The sitcom, written and created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, premieres with back-to-back episodes Thursday at 8 p.m. and stars Ted Danson and Holly Hunter, supported by a fun cast equally adept at firing off snappy one-liners and topical references which keep the series grounded in its own off-kilter reality.
Danson, fresh off “The Good Place” — for which he received three Emmy nods — plays Neil Bremer, a fabulously wealthy outdoor billboard magnate and political neophyte who’s elected mayor of LA in a special election after his predecessor suffered a public meltdown amidst the chaos of 2020. (OK, so he won 68 percent of the 8 percent of people who voted, but still.) Fey and Carlock set the freewheeling tone early in Thursday’s premiere episode when, in his first press conference, the cheery, chipper Bremer reminisces about following a girlfriend to LA in 1976: “She wanted to be an actress, but, hey, she didn’t make it — she was killed by the Night Stalker.”
Before long we’re introduced to Bremer’s staffers: bearded, awkward, press secretary Jayden Kwapis (Bobby Moynihan), who wears flip-flops for his “podiatric claustrophobia”; nervous chief-of-staff Mikaela Shaw (Vella Lovell); Bremer’s fired-up 15-year-old daughter, Orly (Kyla Kennedy); and by-the-book chief strategist Tommy Tomas (Mike Cabellon).
Hunter makes her sitcom debut as Arpi Meskimen, a savvy LA councilwoman with an agenda and a strong dislike of Bremer — who appoints her his sole Deputy Mayor in a bid to rein her in. You can guess how that goes.
There are topical references galore in the first two episodes — #MeToo; “bi-racial Twitter”; “it was a different time one second ago”; legalizing pot; cultural appropriation (Arpi wants coyotes referred to as “mini wolves”); memes; and even, as per Jayden, “the Oscar host situation. God, that group thing does not work.” (Inside joke; Fey herself referred to this when she appeared on the host-less Oscars in 2019.)
Danson, the ostensible star of “Mr. Mayor” carries the ball nicely; he doesn’t overdo the clueless politician act, has a nice rapport with his co-stars and certainly knows his way around a sitcom script (timing, emphasis, etc). Moynihan, who spent nine years on “Saturday Night Live,” and appeared on Fey’s NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” is good at effortlessly portraying off-beat characters like Jayden, while Shaw, Cabellon and Kennedy (ABC’s “Speechless”) all fit nicely into the show’s universe.
Hunter is new to the scripted comedy game; the two-time Emmy winner, who snared a Best Actress Oscar in 1994 (for “The Piano”), will hopefully find her sitcom rhythm, given her illustrious track record. (To whit: a little goes a long way.) She makes a nice foil for Danson.
This one’s got my vote.
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