There's an undeniable sense of political and social commentary to the premise of ABC's The Mayor
. The comedy sees a charismatic entertainer, with no experience in politics, getting suddenly elected to office. (There's even a joke about Russia tampering with voting machines.) This might turn off some viewers immediately but to do so would be missing out on the most promising new comedies (and shows period) of the upcoming Fall 2017 TV season.
Hope for the Future
The pilot focuses heavily on setting up the premise of the series and it's therefore pretty light on jokes. The first episode of ABC's The Mayor, which can be streamed online ahead of its October premiere
, recounts how 27-year-old rapper, Courtney Rose is elected as mayor of his city much to his shock. Courtney enters the race for mayor in order to get attention for his rapping career but when he does well at the debate, the city votes for him over more experienced candidates.
The Mayor feels the need to explain how this could possibly happen and establish that Courtney is woefully unprepared for his new job. The time that would usually be devoted to jokes is spent on exposition. Ultimately though it doesn't matter because there is an immediate sense of chemistry, charm and fun among the cast, especially it's three main stars. Yvette Nicole Brown as Courtney's mother Dina, Lea Michele as Courtney's Chief of Staff Valentina "Val" Barella and Brandon Micheal Hall as Courtney, himself, all shine in The Mayor.
Brown and Michele aren't playing radically different roles than they have in their comedy careers. Michele's Val is as high-strung and driven as Rachel Berry on Glee and Brown's Dina is not too dissimilar to Community's fierce mama bear, Shirley Bennett. The actresses are so good at playing these conventional roles that it hardly matters. They both deliver some of the biggest laughs while still managing to show more depth than just the first impressions. Val is not nearly as cold as she first appears and Dina is much more than than the "sassy black lady" archetype.
It's Brandon Micheal Hall who really makes ABC's The Mayor fire on all cylinders. Hall is a relatively unknown actor but if there's any justice The Mayor will be the role that makes him into a star. It would be very easy for Courtney to be a deeply unlikable and selfish character. He enters the mayoral race as a lark and once elected he immediately tries to back out of it. Yet Hall imbues Courtney with so much charisma and humor, even when he's acting as the straight man. Very early on in The Mayor Courtney is set up as someone you want to see succeed even when he makes stupid mistakes.
Slightly Shaky Foundations
The Mayor has a lot of promise but it doesn't come out of the gate running. As enjoyable as Courtney, Dina and Val are the rest of the cast is iffy. The main culprits are Courtney's friends, T.K. and Jermaine. The actors do a fine job with what they're given but they are pigeonholed in the doofy buddy roles. The same goes for Courtney's eccentric staff outside Val. All of them are a bit too broad for the clever tone The Mayor tries to be striking at time. It could just be an effort to stuff the pilot with jokes as much as possible but T.K. and Jermaine could become grating.
It's the tone of the series that is another big question mark. While The Mayor isn't overtly political or preachy, it does have very clear point of view. Courtney, urged by his mother, wants to make his unexpected mayoral run mean something. The pilot does a great job of balancing goofy antics with serious issues but that balance could become uneven as the series forges ahead.
The Mayor does put a strong step forward. ABC has a proven track record with quality sitcoms with unique voices. All signs point towards The Mayor shooting up to the upper echelon of them. There's a chance that the show could fizzle out but the possibility is far higher that it will stand with Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat and The Goldbergs as the best that ABC has to offer.
Will you be tuning into The Mayor? Are you interested in the show or does the political angle turn you off to it?
(Image courtesy of ABC)