Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Mayor 1.03: "Buyer's Remorse"

“Lying. Dishonest media. Sad.”

The third episode of “The Mayor” wasn’t bad per se, but it was the first episode of the show to really make me question if I want to keep watching long-term. I like the characters and the tone, but it feels like the creative team is a bit out of their depth with a show about politics and government administration. As much as I loved that last week’s episode highlighted the importance of the government budget process/budget office (I’m a budgeteer in my day job myself), this episode missed the mark for me. I also didn’t love the resolution to Courtney’s dilemma of the week. Yes, I’d love to see a bit of a return to (outward, at least) civility in our politics, but politics has always been a bit dirty. I have personally had multiple lessons in that. There are obviously exceptions, but to be a politician, you’ve got to have the ego to think you should be representing your neighbors in government. Courtney’s going to just get eaten alive if he keeps going the way he’s going. We need more compromise in our politics (bring back earmarks – then our politicians would actually have tangible things to bargain with!), but Courtney takes it too far to the point of killing his political career before it even starts.

Overall, I thought the episode relied way too much on Trump humor, and as I’ve said already, while he’s still in office, it’s too soon for me to find his utterly degrading to our country antics funny. There were three Trump references even before the opening titles. First, TK and Jermaine hang a “congratulations” banner in Courtney’s office because they want to stay in his inner circle and correctly believe he thrives on meaningless praise. Then Courtney, the guys, Val, and Dina watch a very distressing news report. Courtney has a 23% approval rating, and the people of Fort Grey have buyer’s remorse. For Trump references two and three, Council President Gunt speculates that voter fraud lead to Courtney’s election, and TK gives the Quote of the Episode above when the news report shows him saying something unflattering about Courtney. It was just way too much all at once, even though the parallels between the premise of this show and the current Liar in Chief are obvious.

Val encourages Courtney to try and get a small win for the people to get the momentum going in the right direction. Courtney is inspired by his press secretary, who was drenched while waiting for the bus and is trying to blot herself off with a tissue. Fort Grey has no covered bus benches, and Courtney thinks it’s time they get some. The idea sounds even better when Val says she thinks that somewhere between 61-64% of Fort Grey residents use public transit. She warns Courtney, however, that he can’t just make this happen on his own. He needs to get approval from the City Council. At Courtney’s direction, she sets up a meeting with Gunt. The meeting, as you’d guess is a disaster. Gunt makes it clear that because he thinks it’s a good idea, he’s going to block the bus shelter plan. In fact, he plans to block anything Courtney wants to do so that there will hopefully be a recall election by the end of the year. Val is conspicuously silent through all this, only managing some stammering at the end. It doesn’t make sense to me that she’d be so intimidated by a slimeball like Gunt, and it doesn’t make sense to Courntey, either. He’s pretty pissed about it, actually.

There’s a little side plot where Jermaine and TK are supposed to be hiring a receptionist, but they fail because they’re using it as an occasion to one-up each other. Then they move on to trying to buy Courtney gifts. Dina puts a stop to that pretty quickly, though, reminding Jermain and TK that the three boys have been friends for years, and they’re pretty much family now. Plus, Courtney’s not going anywhere as long as he still lives with his mama and rides a bike. Courtney asks their advice on whether they think Valentina has one foot out of the door (we’re talking about someone who can’t even take the protective film off of her cell phone), and they agree that of course she does. This gets problematic when Valentina actually has a good idea for making the bus shelters happen. She’s got some contacts at the transportation department who told her that they could sidestep the Council if they declare the bus shelters a safety issue.

After Courtney thinks about it, though, he doesn’t trust Val, so he passes up the meeting with the transportation director to instead try and make his case on a local political talk show called “The Grey Area” hosted by none other than Parks and Rec’s (and Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party’s) Jim O’Heir. Val thinks this is a bad idea, but Courtney thinks he can handle it. Of course Courtney gets eaten alive. The host starts right in on Courtney’s terrible approval rating. The worst part is when Gunt calls in and gets the transportation director on the line to say that bus shelters would cause a safety issue, not solve one. Courtney is so completely embarrassed by all of this that he basically runs off the show He runs home to his mama, who was watching the Bachelor, but can clearly tell something is wrong. She takes him out for a hamburger and doles out some of her famous advice. Courtney’s not built for conflict. He’s gotten things in life by compromising and collaborating with his adversaries.

Courtney takes this advice and surprises Val with a new plan. He marches straight into Gunt’s office, and he raises the window shades. Outside is a billboard with both their pictures on it and a picture of a new bus shelter. He’s very willing to publicly share credit for the bush shelters if that’s what it takes to get Gunt to approve. Gunt takes the bait, and the bus shelters are a go. In real life, though, it’s not so easy, and somebody like Courtney would indeed get eaten alive. That’s why I’m not an aspiring politician myself. It’s way less soul-crushing to wield power from behind the scenes! Anyway, Val seems to approve of Courtney’s move. After a long evening of answering constituent phone calls (his boys still haven’t managed to hire a receptionist), Courtney sees that Val has finally actually unpacked her new office. The public isn’t so impressed though. One particular lady is grateful for the bus shelter until she falls in a pothole. Then she just wants the pot hole fixed. Welcome to government! There’s always something new brewing.

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