Television

Mr. Mayor Makes a Much-Deserved Mockery of Urban Politics

The spiritual successor of 30 Rock keeps its edge.

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  • Mr. Mayor. NBC. Thursday, January 7, 7 p.m.
  • Call Me Kat. Fox. Thursday, January 7, 7 p.m.

Recycling may be garbage when it comes to your kitchen. But your television may be another matter. NBC's Mr. Mayor, which reworks 30 Rock as a cluster bomb directed against politics instead of TV itself, is gourmet recycling. Then again, there's Fox's Call Me Kat, which transforms the nerd-comedy masterpiece The Big Bang Theory into—well, garbage.

30 Rock was one of the most brutally funny sitcoms in all TV history, not just biting but swallowing whole the television hand that fed it. (Some of the shows its fictional TV network aired, like Bitch Hunter and MILF Island, probably came thiiiiiiiiiis close to making the actual NBC schedule.) Written and starring Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey, there hasn't been anything quite like 30 Rock since it left the air in 2013.

Not at all coincidentally, that's precisely the length of Mr. Mayor's prolonged and painful gestation. Created by Fey and her SNL and 30 Rock writing partner Robert Carlock (among many others, he authored the SNL Schweddy Balls sketches) It was originally planned as a spinoff of 30 Rock, with network boss Alec Baldwin deciding to run for mayor of New York. Baldwin dropped out; Ted Danson said he would take the role, but only if the show moved to Los Angeles. Production finally began, only to fall victim to the coronavirus—twice.

So, it's a minor miracle that Mr. Mayor made it to the air, and you should be appropriately thankful. The two episodes I saw were utterly pee-your-pants hilarious, mercilessly lashing out in all political directions. Danson plays Neil Bremer, a retired billboard zillionaire swept into office after the previous mayor, crushed by 2020, retired without warning. (Final blow: Murder hornets showed up in Los Angeles and turned out to be miniaturized North Korean fighter jets.) Though he didn't tell voters, Bremer had no real political agenda; he only wanted to impress his teenaged daughter, who thought of him—not inaccurately—only as a doddering old unemployed techno-blockhead who has trouble figuring out how to turn his TV off and on.

Now that he's mayor, though, Bremer's awesome lack of political instinct is killing him. He tries to ban plastic drinking straws (an idea he stole from his acerbic lefty daughter, who's running for president of her sophomore class, though he doesn't include her ringing slogan: "Drinking through straws is a phallic lie!") yet has no comeback when L.A.'s nutball progressives accuse him of genocide against quadriplegics who will die without bendy straws. He gets wrecked on the merchandise as he presides over a ceremony honoring the opening of the city's 10,000th marijuana dispensary. His policy initiatives ("I'm very open to the idea of an all-robot police force") are even more clueless than most—well, many—of those you near coming out of real-life Washington.

Picking on the idiocy of politicians, though nearly always amusing, is an ancient Hollywood trope that probably couldn't support a TV series for long. Mr. Mayor goes much further, attacking the very process of politics. Bremer's aides are as lunkheaded as he is—they try to order him a police escort to a political event and wind up with strippers—and his progressive opponents are clearly even more so: Their leader, played by Holly Hunter, is demanding the demolition of statues of Big Boy on the grounds that "it whitewashes the labor force and gives me sexual nightmares." The entire city hall is a nest of avaricious vipers, each of them demanding a political payoff even for a roll of Scotch tape from the supply closet. Even the journalists get scathing treatment. When Bremer announces his ban on straws, a reporter—I'm looking at you, Jim Acosta—self-righteously demands, "How will people do cocaine?"

The characters are all well-drawn and hysterical, but they are by no means the whole show. Like 30 Rock, the air on Mr. Mayor crackles with hilarity. Every throwaway line is subversively funny. Even the diseases are funny, apologies in advance to the many victims of "erotic dementia" and "podiatric claustrophobia" among my readers.

And apologies to literally everybody for my mention of Call Me Kat, in which Mayim Bialik plays a relentlessy unfunny version of the sexually frustrated nerd Amy, her character on The Big Bang Theory. Bialik and Jim Parsons, the uber-nerd Sheldon of Big Bang, are both producers of Kat, but they don't seem to have picked up many tips from their former employer.

Kat, unfulfilled by her life as a mathematician, decides to leave academia and open one of those trendy cat cafes, which allows her more time to come up with slogans like "It's purrrr-fect!" (if reading that once here makes you want to murder somebody, you'll be a legendary serial killer by the end of the first episode of Kat), brood about her perpetual lack of a boyfriend, mug a lot, and perform pratfalls.  As for laughs, well, at UCLA, Bialik wrote a thesis for a doctorate in neuroscience called "Hypothalamic regulation in releation to maladaptive, obsessive -compulsive and satiety behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome." You'll find more of them in there.

 

NEXT: Congress Targets Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google for Being Popular

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  1. “It’s purrrr-fect!” (if reading that once here makes you want to murder somebody, you’ll be a legendary serial killer by the end of the first episode of Kat)…”

    I turned it off after ten minutes. I am sure doing so saved many lives.

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    2. Judging from the commercials, I assumed Call Me Kat was a middle-aged reboot of Blossom.

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    5. I made it 6 minutes. It was the worst sitcom I can remember. Its not likely to last more than a few episodes and was probably made as part of a production deal/money laundering gift to Jim Parsons.

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    7. It’s painfully obvious this writer only loves the show because hes a scalding conservative.

  2. Mr Mayor sounds a lot like Spin City from the POV of the Barry Bostwick character.

  3. Is this the first criticism of Jim Acosta in Reason?

    1. They’re just joking around, trying to see if he’ll be a good fit before they bring him on staff.

      1. He would be a pretty good replacement for shreeka.

  4. And the moral of the show is that straws should be banned. Because as witty as the writers are, they won’t challenge progressive Hollywood orthodoxy. They know who their audience is and don’t want to get branded as Trumpists for not falling in line.

    Shows like this need to film all episodes in advance and have a secret bunker for the writers.

    1. I should have read your comment first, but I’m still glad I made mine.

    2. Shows like this need to film all episodes in advance and have a secret bunker for the writers.

      Disagree. The shows need to be filmed openly and the writers issued licenses to kill. Tell a joke so offensive that someone shows up on your doorstep to kill you and you shoot them dead? Give the dude a medal. He’s not the hero America deserves, but the hero it needs right now.

      1. You people are always so dramatic. A “hero” for talking about straws? Go storm the capitol and scream about getting peppered.

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  6. apologies in advance to the many victims of “erotic dementia”…

    It’s moments like this that I kind of miss SugarFree.

  7. And the moral of the show is that straws should be banned. Because as witty as the writers are, they won’t challenge progressive Hollywood orthodoxy. They know who their audience is and don’t want to get branded as Trumpists for not falling in line.

    1. So blanket acceptance of the “unproven” and “unsubstantiated” claim that Americans use and improperly discard 500 million plastic straws every day.

      1. It is run by Tina Fey. Did you really expect anything else?

        1. Not to mention Ted Danson, that long-time stooge of the Left.

      2. I don’t think I’ve ever used more than two straws on any one day.

  8. I’m looking at you, Jim Acosta—self-righteously demands, “How will people do cocaine?”

    I have to wonder if this straw-bit could be re-worked to show the progressive establishment and journalists supporting his straw ban, using a slightly more wit-infused version of their real arguments. It would be more art-imitating-life.

    While I admit Garvin’s description does seem funny, I’m having trouble seeing past the fictional interest groups fighting against his plastic straw ban– it just feels too far-removed from reality. Like someone is telling me, “It’s funny because it’s not true.”

    1. Look, Garvin laid out his paid advertisement for the new line up. Take your cue, hit your mark, and toss shows like Parks and Recreation and Veep down the memory hole. It’s Ted Danson’s turn. He’s earned it.

  9. Side thought: I wonder how many yet-to-be-released political movies and shows which are already in the can or post-production feature a Trump-like tyrant which will feel completely irrelevant in the next 15 to 20 minutes.

    1. After they’re all dropped for lack of interest, NYT will opine that it’s “too soon” and the wound from his reign of tyranny is still too fresh. Remember, The Producers wasn’t made until two decades after WWII.

      1. Yeah, but unlike Trump, Hitler actually was Hitler.

        1. The Democrats say he’s Hitler, and the Democrats are the party of science. Therefore, it is scientific fact that Trump is Hitler.

          1. Trump Republicans loves fascists so its apples to apples im sure

      2. Yeah, but the original “To Be or Not to Be” was made *during* WWII. Just proving, I suppose, that Carole Lombard had bigger cojones than the entire current staff of the NYT combined.

  10. The writers for Mr. Mayor must be using WA Gov Jay Inslee for source material.
    This guy decided to take apples homegrown at the governor’s mansion to the *apple-producing side of the state* as gifts for those who were devastated by a wildfire, breaking apple maggot quarantine in the process. All this was after he spent months lecturing the people of Washington about science.

    1. Except again, the media in the show are portrayed of being skeptical of the Mayor’s plan. If it were really a show about Jay Inslee (or any other straw-banning politician) the media and progressive establishment would be falling all over itself, slobbering on the proposal, while bitching that it didn’t go far enough.

  11. Every throwaway line is subversively funny.

    Bullshit. I watched the commercial. The only funny part was the old lady on the bus with a mouth full of food who shouts “Mayor Fight!”. Everything else was stupidly predictable and unfunny.

    Leela: I just don’t get it. Who was this Ted Danson, and why would you pay $10,000 for his skeleton?

    Fry: I have an idea for a sitcom.

    It’s funny to think of Glenn Garving being charmed by the comedic brilliance of Phillip J. Fry.

  12. It’s painfully obvious this writer only loves the show because hes a scalding conservative.

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