Mr. Mayor





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Being a politician ain’t easy.

Just ask—well, any politician these days. You run for office and then you might just run from office—pursued by angry voters or enraged special interest groups or (fill in the blank with the politically charged joke of your choice).

One might well wonder why Neil Bremer, a wealthy retired business owner, would’ve ever wanted to be mayor, especially of the crazy, cash-strapped city of Los Angeles. He could’ve spent his days golfing, for goodness’ sake. Instead, he ran for the office during a special election and won the thing—garnering 68% of the vote.

Well, 68% of the 8% who voted, an aide admits. But who’s counting?

Politics Makes Strange Sitcoms

From the very first day, Neil realizes that he’s got his hands full, and he doesn’t make it any easier on himself by appointing Arpi Meskimen—a rabid progressive and Bremer’s arch-nemesis—as his deputy mayor. The folks who helped Neil get into office—social media guru Mikaela Shaw and strategist Tommy Tomás—have no faith that he can stay there. And his communications director, Jayden Kwapis, looks like the sort of guy who would’ve constantly gotten stuffed in his locker in middle school.

But Neil’s biggest challenge may not come from work, but at home. His teenage daughter, Orly, has long been mortified that her father is so woefully uncool and filthy rich. Now he’s mayor, too?

Little does Orly know that Neil ran not to improve the city, but to impress his daughter. He just wanted to be a little less uncool.

Tippecanoe and Tawdry, Too!

Mr. Mayor? Call its star Mr. TV. In a competitive landscape where appearing in one popular show is bucking the odds, Ted Danson has previously fronted three: Cheers, CSI and The Good Place. Spanning nearly four decades, I might add. Now he’s gunning for a fourth, and he just might hit paydirt again—depending on viewers’ tolerance for silly political shenanigans, that is.

NBC’s Mr. Mayor rolls out as the real political sphere is roiling—premiering days after protestors stormed the U.S. Capitol. In a supercharged atmosphere of deep political divisions, Mr. Mayor seeks to make fun of those very divisions (if not the issues) while striving to remind us in its gentler moments that there’s still more that unites us than divides us.

But like real life politics, Mr. Mayor can get pretty messy.

While rated TV-PG, this NBC sitcom still makes plenty of feints toward sexually charged jokes—some of which fly by almost unnoticed, given the show’s hurry to get to the next punch line. Word play can lean toward the ribald at times, even if the language itself rarely goes beyond a mild curse or two. And while the show rarely gets explicitly violent, many a mild joke can be predicated on blood and chaos. (The previous mayor resigns, for instance, when he learns that the city’s “murder hornets” are, in fact, “tiny North Korean fighter jets.”)

Given the show’s premise, there’s always a chance that Mr. Mayor will offend some viewers’ sociopolitical sensibilities, too. But so far, the show uses its own silly issues to not grind axes but to squeeze whoopie cushions. While pretty funny at times, Mr. Mayor’s platform will be a difficult one for many families to support. But it’s still asking for your vote.

Episode Reviews

Jan. 7, 2020: “Pilot”

On his first day as Los Angeles’ mayor, Neil Bremer decides to take on an issue he figures everyone can get behind: the elimination of plastic straws from the city. But liberal arch-enemy Arpi Meskimen tells him that banning bendable plastic straws discriminates against paraplegics, while other activists say that it could (somehow) lead to an explosion in the coyote population. (Arpi argues that the term “coyote” is cultural appropriation—favoring instead the term “mini-wolf”; and she argues that the city should pay for the animals’ birth control.) Worse yet, Neil’s daughter, Orly, was trying to ban straws from her school during her own election drive. So she accuses her father of stealing her issue.

Given the centrality of straws to the episode, little surprise that a number of jokes involve the word “suck.” Orly argues that straws are a phallic symbol that contributes to patriarchal domination and makes an apparent, unknowing reference to oral sex. A reporter asks Neil how people will do cocaine without straws. (“Don’t do cocaine,” he says. “You’ll go broke, and it’ll give you the runs.”) We hear the previous administration accidentally used malware that might be “filming your kids on the toilet.” Neil says his old girlfriend was killed by the Night Stalker serial killer. He also says that he was so poor as a child that he used to sleep in the same bed as his grandfathers. “One of them had erotic dementia,” he adds.

We hear references to sex, vaginas, dog rears, wiping “tushies” and where Orly was conceived. One of Neil’s rivals for the mayoral office was apparently a porn star. (Arpi thinks that “Miss Bazinga” would’ve been a fine mayor, because she demonstrates the ability to multitask.) Arpi wants to ban “Big Boy” statues, arguing that they “whitewash the labor force and give me sexual nightmares.”

There’s a reference to Neil’s champagne-filled pool. (He says it’s a lie, because the champagne would damage the grout.) Neil tells his daughter never to take “no for an answer. Except for with sex.”

We see a glass of wine in passing. We hear references to natural disasters. The words “h—” and “a–” are used, once each.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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