Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mayor 1.01: "Pilot"

“Courtney Rose is a no-nothing egomaniac whose entire campaign is a stunt. Voters won’t fall for that. Not in America.”

I’ll admit, as your garden-variety “Hamilton” fan, the involvement of Daveed Diggs was what first put “The Mayor” on my radar. He’s an executive producer of the show, and he even had a bit of a cameo in the pilot episode. Given the current political climate, especially as someone who has dedicated all of her education and career to government service, I was a little wary of the “guy runs for office as a publicity stunt and accidentally wins” premise. Unlike our current President, however, rapper Courtney Rose actually does seem to care about other people, and deep down, he does want what is best for his city. I think it’s just going to take him a little time to get good at it and stop getting distracted. There’s a memorable cast of characters, from Courtney himself, to his mom, to his best friends, to his chief of staff Valentina (Lea Michele). I think I’m going to enjoy spending time in this world and with these characters for as long as the show lasts. It’s nice to see popular culture depicting somebody actually trying to do good through government, because for many of us who work in government in real life, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re there because we really do want to make things better, and that’s partly why the past year has been so painful.

Courtney Rose is an aspiring rapper who lives in the Northern California town of Fort Grey. I get the sense that it’s supposed to kind of be like pre-gentrified Oakland. Courtney lives with his postal worker mom, Dina, and he has only had minimal success with his rap career so far. He desperately wants a gig at the 8:30 club. Early in the episode, Courtney excitedly shows his mom a news story about his candidacy. The best part of the news story is when the story shifts to his two friends TL and Jermaine, who are helping him with his campaign. The actors who play TK and Jermaine have excellent comedic timing as they riff on how they’ve been financing the campaign on credit cards and TK is using his personal phone for the campaign. Dina doesn’t quite know what to make of all this. I get the sense that she doesn’t think her son needs to engage in this kind of publicity stunt in order to eventually become a successful rapper.

Even though he doesn’t actually want to be mayor, Courtney still has to participate in a debate against his rival, a stuffy city councilman played by David Spade. Working for the councilman is Valentina, who happened to be Courtney’s tenth grade lab partner. Valentina is a go-getter to an extreme degree, and the sideshow nature of Courtney’s campaign disgusts her. Courtney struggles at first with the debate when he is asked for his stance on a school choice bill. When the councilman tries to say he’s been leading the effort to restore the Fort Grey Commons (a small park that is basically now a dump), Courtney has had it. He tells it like it is, saying there is no way the Commons has been restored – it’s still a trash heap. When the councilman vows to have it trash-free by 2020, Courtney points out that there will be a lot of trash added in 2018 and 2019. He doesn’t understand why the place can’t be cleaned up right now, and the audience applauds.

On Election Night, Courntey, his pals, and his mom are watching television, and they are shocked (Courtney perhaps most of all) when Courtney actually wins the thing. Courtney’s first instinct is that he really, really doesn’t want to be Mayor. He wants to go to City Hall and withdraw (although TK says he should be Mayor for at least a day so he can get the cool, ceremonial ribbon cutting scissors). At that, Dina screams “fire,” which means that she wants to have a serious conversation with Courtney on the fire escape. It still kind of freaks out TK and Jermaine, though. In a speech with the type of optimism about government that I have only ever seen on “The West Wing,” she reminds Courtney that in this country, putting your name on a ballot means something. It means you’re offering to help make lives better for people. And in Courtney’s case, the people said, “okay!” She also points out that Courtney is a rapper because he’s a commentator and observer of the status quo, but this might actually be a real opportunity to do something to change the status quo. Courtney’s ready to give this whole Mayor thing a shot.

Courtney wakes up the next morning to Valentina hovering over hims (he’s understandably disturbed by this). She wants to be his chief of staff – she wants to outmaneuver Kellyanne Conway one day, after all. Courtney eventually agrees. They go to City Hall where Valentina introduces Courtney to the staff she’s sired, and Courtney reveals that TK and Jermaine are going to be on staff too. Valentina wants to write out note cards to plan Courtney’s first 100 days as mayor, but Courtney has other ideas. He wants to start off by cleaning up the Commons, and he thinks he can do it for free by organizing a “Turn Up and Clean Up” party. Valentina agrees, but she warns him to get the right permits.

The clean-up party is a big success. Lots of people show up to help clean, and the after-cleaning party is rocking. Courtney even shows Valentina that he filed for the right permit. As the party is in full swing, Courtney gets a call from the 8:30 club. Their opening act dropped out at the last minute, and they want him to open for Mac Etcetera, his favorite rapper (who also happens to be none other than Daveed Diggs). Jermaine tries to convince Courtney to stick with his current responsibilities, but this is a chance he can’t pass up, so he runs off. While Courtney is having a blast rapping with Mac Etcetera, his party gets shut down by the cops because he’s the one with the permit and he isn’t there. Dina manages to get herself arrested in the process too, and the guys and Valentina have to bail him out.

Courtney is the last to show up at the police station, and everyone is pretty pissed off at him. He and his mom end up having a heart-to-heart conversation in her mail truck. She reminds Courtney how many people are counting on him as Mayor. This thing is bigger than him now. The next morning, the gang can once again not find Courtney. Valentina suggests the Commons, and Courtney is indeed there, trying to finish the clean-up. He tries to play it off like he’s been doing it all himself, but one of the neighbor kids has been helping him. Valentina says that maybe Courtney isn’t completely hopeless after all, and the next four years won’t be a complete waste. Courtney, up until that point, did not realize that being Mayor was for four years.

No comments:

Post a Comment