NBC’s “Mr. Mayor” (premiering with back-to-back episodes Thursday starting at 8 p.m.) plays it safe and simple.
That strategy has worked for many a real-life politician.
For a phony one in prime time?
Not so much.
In this new comedy from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”), Ted Danson (“The Good Place,” “Cheers”) stars as newly elected Los Angeles Mayor Neil Bremer, a businessman who got rich selling billboard space (“For Your Consideration: ‘Nurse Jackie'”) and comes out of retirement to lead the City of Angels in its darkest moment – but mostly to impress his teenage daughter.
In the opener, Neil tries to do something important on his first day at city hall: He bans plastic straws.
“How will people do cocaine?” one reporter wonders.
His move draws the wrath of city councilwoman Arpi Meskimen (Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter).
“Like underwear bought in a drugstore, you’re not going to last two months,” she vows.
The ban also triggers Neil’s 15-year-old daughter Orly (Kyla Kenedy, “The Walking Dead”), running for sophomore class president at her elite private school.
“Drinking through a straw is a phallic lie,” she tells her classmates.
In the second episode, “Mayor’s Day Out,” Neil has a day of photo ops ahead of him, but gets buzzed on edibles from a pot dispensary.
Back at city hall, Chief of Staff Mikaela Shaw (Vella Lovell) tries to keep Arpi distracted so she can’t embarrass her boss.
The mayor’s interim director of communications Jayden Kwapis (Bobby Moynihan, “Saturday Night Live”) and chief strategist Tommy Tomas (Mike Cabellon) try in vain to keep the mayor from doing anything that would end up on social media – like when he beats up a mascot or knocks over a disabled construction worker with the unfortunate name of Manny Petty.
Important lessons are shared in both episodes. Has no one learned nothing from “Seinfeld”? No one should be learning anything in a comedy.
Moynihan is a stand-out in the cast as the well-meaning but socially inept aide who shows up for a function in a business suit and prescription flip-flops. The other parts seem underwritten.
“Mr. Mayor” is “VEEP” without teeth, “Spin City” short a few loons.
In this brutal election season, viewers may well elect another choice.