In the US: Tuesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC. Starts October 3
For much of the past year, there’s been an ongoing race to see which TV show will be the undoubted first of ‘the Trump era’. Did The Good Fight get there first with its inclusion of the Trump inauguration, alt-right characters and people being discriminated against for voting Trump? Arguably not, as it wasn’t really about Trump.
How about any of the legion of forthcoming military shows due on US screens within the month? Are they going to claim the title by arguing that they speak to conservative concerns?
If they do, they’ll be too late because we now have The Mayor. On the face of it, it’s an unlikely winner, given it’s about a small-time Californian rapper (Search Party‘s Brandon Micheal Hall) hoping to hit the big time. However, Hall decides to boost his career by entering his city’s mayoral elections. His ignorance of policy shines through at debates, much to the disgust of his opponent’s totally clued in and competent manager (Glee‘s Lea Michele).
But his appeal to ‘the common man’ nevertheless means that when election day rolls round, he actually wins the contest he had no intention of winning and has to become mayor.
“Did the Russians hack the voting machines?” asks his best friend and campaign manager.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. The Mayor is ‘Trump Show: The First’.
Young rapper Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) needs his big break. For years, he’s toiled away in a small inner-city apartment, making music in his junk-filled bedroom closet. Tired of waiting for opportunity, Courtney cooks up the publicity stunt of the century: Running for mayor of his hometown in California to generate buzz for his music career. Unfortunately for Courtney, his master plan goes wildly awry, ending in the most terrifying of outcomes: An election victory. With the help of his mother (Yvette Nicole Brown, Community) and friends, including Valentina (Glee‘s Lea Michele), Courtney will have to overcome his hubris if he wants to transform the struggling city he loves.
Fortunately, that’s where the Trump metaphor dissipates and we end up with something slightly closer to Mr Smith Goes To Washington after that, as we realise what Trump might have been like if his mother had been Community‘s Yvette Nicole Brown and she’d taught him how to be a responsible politician. And if Hillary Clinton were his policy adviser.
Hall and his pals quickly start encouraging volunteer action to clean up their local park and the worst thing Hall does is to unknowingly leave a party too soon. But postwoman Brown’s there to give a stirring speech about the importance of duty and the political process, and before you know it, Hall’s back on track with Michele on his team to make sure things are organised properly.
Hall is amiable, but Michele’s policy nerd is a more interesting character: she may be slightly anal and unhip but she’s a smart, likeable and self-possessed manager. When Hall’s friends remove all her policy index cards from a planning board and replace them with their own index-card mural, her reaction is merely to be impressed with their artistry, rather than to a throw an OCD fit.
The show’s not exactly full of messages: ‘let’s have nice parks’ isn’t exactly a call to arms. But if it has one, it’s that politics needs both head and heart – Hall is the guy who knows what life’s really like for the hardest hit, wants to change it but doesn’t quite know how; Michele’s the girl who knows how to make lovely ideas happen, even if she doesn’t necessarily know what she wants to make happen herself.
What it doesn’t have though is much by way of laughs. The Mayor‘s genial for sure. Everyone’s likeable, even guest star David Spade – something never previously thought scientifically possible. But except when Brown’s really going for it, the show’s a reasonably consistent set of wry smiles, rather than anything guffaw-worthy.
A nice cast, a potentially fun idea, but one without any real political edge or humour.