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The Mayor - Pilot - Review: "I'm with Rose" + POLL




When it comes to broadcast comedies, ABC is at the top of its game.With award winning shows like Black-ish and Modern Family, to fan favorites such as Fresh off The Boat, The Goldbergs and Speechless, there’s no shortage of quality, half-hour comedies for viewers this fall.

What makes ABC comedies great are their relatable characters and topical commentaries that are informed and balanced, while still being entertaining to watch. They're comedies full of heart with their themes of family, tolerance, and social conscience. They Mayor is no exception to these rules and is at the top of the ballot paper for best comedy this season.

The Mayor is centered around struggling rapper Courtney Rose, who decides to promote his new album by running for Mayor in his hometown of Fort Grey, CA. However, in a “shocking” turn of events, he ends up winning. With the help of his mother Dina Rose, best friends T.K Clifton and Jermaine Leforge, and his chief of staff Valentina Barella, Courtney learns to grow as not only a politician and an artist, but as a person. 

Our leading man, Courtney Rose is played by newcomer Brandon Micheal Hall and if I'm allowed only one word to describe him, it'd be charismatic! I tend to agree with the popular opinion that he is the breakout star of the fall season.

Dina at one point in the show says, “Lord, thank you making him cute, because otherwise we’d be in big trouble” and that without a doubt describes Hall’s careful casting in this series. Courtney’s foolishness and naivety while campaigning for mayor should be bothersome and even annoying, but it's Brandon’s endearing acting that turns these acts irritating acts of immaturity and insolence, into a charming story of millennial optimism. It's very hard not to like this guy as a result!

Courtney Rose is not all charm and swagger, he proves that his experience as a life long local and freestyle rapper could make him (somewhat) qualified for the position of mayor. The defining moment came during the debate, when his competitor attempts to claim success in cleaning up the City Commons, a place we see in the beginning of the episode as a decrepit wasteland. 

Courtney's rebuttal shows a man who is deeply passionate about his community and a deep social consciousness that even he is unaware of until his mother points it out to him. His honesty mixed with his unconventional tactic of adding comedy into a mayoral debate elicits a raw and enthusiastic response from the crowd. 

This was unlike his political opponent Ed Gunt who receives a polite smatter of applause for his generic and coached speech. The night and day approach of these two men highlights the fact that Courtney has the potential to be an influential leader and that he truly is an outsider in the political arena.

Despite Courtney's notable shortcomings, I still find myself rallying behind Courtney much like his family and friends do. Unlike the other characters on the show, he's pretty undefinable because I don't think even Courtney himself knows who he is and where he fits into this predicament he's found himself in. His journey of self discovery while finding his feet as mayor fits into the show theme of grassroots change. To quote Socrates: "Let him who would move the world first move himself.” I'm looking forward to seeing the man Courtney becomes by the end of the season.

Dina Rose is the ever supportive mother of Courtney and everything you'd expect from a character played by Yvette Nicole Brown. Being the perfect balance of sincerity and life experience, Dina is the heart and motivator of the group.

Her interactions with Courtney are warm, sincere and heartfelt, so much so you forget that this is the first time we've seen these two characters. They are the mother/child relationship that everyone wishes they had which is a delight to watch. I find myself grinning from ear to ear every time they're on screen together. 

Dina is proud and highly supportive of everything Courtney does. While her words of praise seem endless, Dina is just as read to give Courtney a heavy dose of reality when it's required to shepherd him on the right path. It's a balance that Brown plays perfectly.

Side Note: Can we get more details about Dina's job at the postal service? I mean her son may be the mayor, but her snooping into other people's private lives by reading their mail makes me question who really has the power here?! It's clear that rule bending doesn't fall far from the tree with Dina and Courtney. 

T.K Clifton and Jermaine Leforge (played by Marcel Spears and Bernard David respectively) are Courtney’s best friends turned political aides and the perfect duo to have as a supporting cast. They competently carry most of the episode's comedic weight, so that the other characters can focus on driving the plot throughout the pilot. Their hilarious banter and unwavering support are moments I look forward to in the coming episodes.

Although they seem to be a part and parcel duo, the show already denotes some differences between the two. Jermaine is the smooth talker of the pair, always hustling Courtney's ideas both on the campaign trail and in office and always seems to have and answer to every problem raised. He's also seen trying to talk Courtney around to his own ideas, namely when he tries to sneak out to perform at a rap concert over staying at his own clean up party. Jermaine tries (but fails) to convince him to stay despite echoing Courtney's own sentiments about staying committed to his constituents. 

TK is the more of sensitive of the two. He seems to be more concerned about everyone's emotional well being and is quick to point out when others feelings are being hurt. Our of the pair, TK seems to have the closer relationship with Dina, referring to her as his own mother.
There is an off color queer joke in the pilot made between T.K and Jermaine which, (while well intentioned) was a negative I didn't expect from the show. While perfectly executed by Spears and David, the joke lacked any sort of character relevance or social conscience that I believe the show is striving for. Hopefully these sorts of jokes aren't relied upon too often in the future as both these characters are so much better than than low hitting humor. 

The pilot doesn’t delve too far into the history of T.K or Jermaine, but from what we do see, we know that they both have a close connection to Courtney having grown up together and played in the once great Fort Grey Commons. Hopefully the show doesn’t leave them in the background for long. I’d like to hear more about their lives growing up in Fort Grey and the backstory to their tight knit relationship to Courtney and his mother. With the essential theme of the show being community, I'm sure this story will come sooner rather than later.

Described as no-nonsense and straight laced, Valentina Barella is Courtney Rose’s former high school lab partner and political adversary. Upon Courtney’s election win, Valentina switches teams and steps into Courtney’s administration as his Chief of Staff. 

People who are curious about whether Lea Michele can create a name for herself outside the Ryan Murphy brand will be surprised by her role as Valentina. The Mayor makes no effort to hide this curiosity from its audience with their subtle jab at Michele’s former Glee character, with Valentina herself joking about how she is intimidated by other women’s success, a joke I indeed find hilarious and relevant. 

On the surface, Valentina appears very Berry-esque with her driven ambition and strong desire to control Courtney’s political career via index cards and pushpins. However, it’s her other qualities such as patience and honesty that make Valentina nothing like Rachel Berry. 

She's a character who has no desire to take the spotlight from Courtney. She is confident in her own ability to guide Courtney behind the scenes as exhibited in the way she allows him to enact his "Turn Up and Clean Up" initiative, no matter how impractical or unconventional she finds the idea to be. But when the plan inevitably goes awry with Courtney leaving the party with the council permit, she's not afraid to pull him back into line but does so from a place of concern for Courtney rather that conceit. There's little to no clash of any kind between Valentina and Courtney which I found to be refreshing. It's clear that Courtney trusts that Valentina has his back because after all, she's not willing to settle for anything less than perfect.

Valentina suffered (ever so slightly) from the quick pacing of the episode, She lacked character cohesion between the election scenes and the first day in office. I'd like to think of this as an example of duality in politics, sometimes the ability to change your attitude on the drop of a dime is essential. Her drive and snark in the first half of the episode can also be seen as a glimpse at the ferocity she'll bring to the political stage as Courtney's right hand woman.

The pilot is centered around two story lines, Courtney’s election win, and his first day in office. I found the election half of the episode to be mostly uneventful from a thematic point of view. The plot is essentially a hastily paced regurgitation of the series premise which is outlined and solved within the first 10 minutes of the pilot.

The lack of interest or any surprises in this time is actually a blessing in disguise as it allows us to really focus in on the characters and their dynamics in respect to each other and their community. It's clear that even when the the writing is bland, this cast can still hold the show together and amuse the audience once again highlighting the talent and undeniable charisma this cast has.

The second half of the episode is all about Courtney's first day in office. His first official mandate? Cleaning up the Fort Grey Commons in an attempt to prove that his administration is more than just lip service which the citizens of the city have been used to hearing for the past 25 years.

It was a great idea to center Courtney's first political act as mayor around the Fort Grey Commons. With a show that's not trying to be too wrapped up in political negativity, we don't get too much of an overview about the political landscape or the issues of Fort Grey. The City Commons provides us with just enough understanding of the urban decay that's plaguing the city without feeling completely overwhelmed by the totality of problems right in the first episode. The stories Courtney told about rapping and playing in the area gives the setting an emotional and nostalgic anchor making the audience actually care about making The Commons great again! 

The centralized focus also drove home the show's recurring themes of change and community. We see a city rally together to revitalize a small part of their city with very incentive other than a free beer. We start to see a city that's willing to be active and engaged in changing their community, and Courtney Rose was the man who lights that fire after 25 years.

I loved the metaphor of Courtney's newly planted tree falling as Team Courtney leave The Commons. A subtle yet hilarious way to set the tone for how Courtney's administration will run in his first 100 days.

I’ll admit that the split between the two storylines made the pilot feel like it should have been two episodes and as a result, the episode feels rushed. The pacing did effect some of the storylines, in respect to how Valentina went from being Gunt’s adviser, to showing up in Courtney’s bedroom and the time between Dina being locked up to Courtney racing over to see her leave. We also never really get to see much of why or how Courtney managed to sway 52% of voters to his cause. Surely one clap back at a town debate wasn’t the one and only defining moment that made the city vote for him?

Moving forward, it’s a question of whether the pacing was merely a tactic to get all the need to know info out to the audience or a genuine writing issue. Personally, I believe it is the former so I’ll let it slide for now. It’s the pilot and this sort of expositional narrating is a necessary evil.


FUN TIDBITS AND FAVORITE QUOTES
- I enjoyed the blink and you’ll miss it cameo from executive producer Daveed Diggs. I'm a huge fan so it was a welcomed surprise.

- While not a fan, David Spade’s appearance as Courtney’s political rival will be appreciated by those who are. Unlike Diggs, I doubt it’s the last time we’ll see Spade as Edward Gunt this season.

- “Yeeza, it’s Yeezy’s visa”

- Any sort of compliment Dina gave Courtney was noteworthy. Especially "HEY! Is he a bundle from heaven or what?" 

- Can we please have credit skits with TK and Jermaine ala Troy and Abed from Community? I can't get enough of these two!


FINAL THOUGHTS
Overall, the series shows a lot of potential. While keeping to all the traditional elements of an ABC comedy, it separates itself form its competitors with its direct message that to start a revolution, you need to start in your own backyard. 

Instead of leaning into political fear and hopelessness as many in the genre do, The Mayor encourages viewers to reach out to your neighbor, and trust unlikely people to enact social change and it's not hard! You can being with something as small as (literally) picking up a shovel. It's a concept that has truly been lost in society today.

Instead being weighed down by the negativity of political and societal discourse, this show is one of hope, heart and unity, which is why Courtney Rose and The Mayor has my vote this fall!

"The Mayor” officially premieres TUESDAY, OCTOBER 3 9:30/10, on ABC

I now open the floor to you! Let me know in the comments what are your thoughts, hope and dreams for the series and be sure to cast your vote in our poll

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