Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Mayor 1.08: "Grey Christmas"

“Fort Grey does not have a slush fund. If they did, I’d be skiing right now.”
-Ed Gunt

It turned out, unfortunately, that the first holiday episode of “The Mayor” was also the series finale. I will definitely miss the show. It wasn’t perfect, and it was still finding its footing, but it had heart, and as a public administrator myself, it always made me think. The holidays provided the perfect backdrop for the types of stories the “Mayor” creative team likes to do. Courtney wants to do right by his city, and he eventually succeeds, although he stumbles a bit on the way. All of this takes place as part of an homage to Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s not an event-for-event remake, but it is definitely inspired by the Dickens novel. I love “A Christmas Carol,” although I do think the tributes can be kind of played out. Overall, though, if the show had to end so soon, this was a sweet note to end on.

The episode opens with a funny cold open, where Courtney and Dina are putting up their Christmas tree at their apartment. TK and Jermaine arrive on the scene, and they’re a bit upset that the tree has been mostly decorated without them. There’s still the star to put on the top of the tree, though, and there’s a funny bit where the tree falls down as Courtney is placing the star. Although, as someone who has had more than one Christmas tree fall on them (I was the designated Christmas tree decorator when I was growing up), maybe it wasn’t all that funny thinking about it!

Courtney goes to a holiday event at the local homeless shelter. He has fond memories of volunteering there as a kid, and he’s dismayed to see that the party has devolved to a fake Christmas tree, pizza, and nothing but toothbrushes for presents. Courtney makes one of his trademark big speeches and promises everyone at the shelter that he will figure out how to give them a Christmas they’ll never forget. Val likes the idea, but she doesn’t think the City can afford it. She suggests they try to get an advance on the 2018 budget, but the City Council President needs to approve it. Getting an advance on the next year’s budget seems like an odd concept to me (I guess we’d probably just have the agency book it as an unprovided for at close-out, then introduce a deficiency appropriation to pay for it the next year), but it brings in Ed Gunt, so I’m good with it. Gunt, of course, refuses to authorize the advance. To rub salt in the wound, he also says that Courtney hasn’t actually done much as Mayor so far. There aren’t scores of new jobs, for instance. Courtney starts to believe Gunt, and he wonders if maybe he hasn’t been hard enough on himself.

Despondent and wondering if his work thus far has really made a difference, Courtney falls asleep in the rain while sitting on one of his covered bus benches. When he wakes up, however, the cover is gone. Dina pulls up in a mail truck that is all decorated, and she’s wearing an angel outfit. She says she’s from the Department of Salvation, and she’s here to show Courtney what Fort Grey would be like if he hadn’t been elected. Mayor. So the episode is really kind of an “It’s a Wonderful Life”/ “A Christmas Carol” mash-up homage. In addition to uncovered bus benches, the bus driver strike is still going on. It’s been going on for months and shows no sign of ending. Ed Gunt is Mayor, of course, and he’s being super devious. He managed to create a slush fund for himself in the City budget, and he hurt himself on a ski trip paid for by said slush fund. Val works for him too, of course, and to say he doesn’t bring out the best in her would be an understatement. She’s deep into a gerrymandering plan so that Gunt will be guanranteed reelection.

On the more personal side of things, TK and Jermaine are not doing well without Courtney as a more constant presence in their lives. They started a pay phone business which is, shocker, not going well. TK has been forced to sell his car. The reason Courtney hasn’t been around much is because he’s been on tour. His whole plan to capitalize on the publicity from the election has actually been kind of working. Chatting with TK and Jermaine, our Courtney learns that in addition to the bus strike, there’s also a garbage strike, and there is also no school music program. Thanks to Gunt owning a paving company, though, the city roads are fantastic. Worst of all, the homeless shelter is closed, and families have nowhere to go for Christmas. Dina points out to Courtney that he always wants what’s best for the city, and he inspires people. Courtney has his epiphany, so Dina considers her job done and drives off.

Courtney wakes up, and he’s super excited about his bus bench cover being back. He’s so happy that he’s yelling – pretty much like Scrooge post- Ghost of Christmas Future. He goes on a news broadcast to tell everyone how happy he is. He promises that he’s going to give the homeless shelter a good Christmas after all. And then he’s going to fix all the potholes. Courtney’s staff shows up at the shelter, prepared to make snowflake decorations. Dina shows up with the Rose family Christmas tree to replace the fake one. Then a bunch of other people start showing up with presents and food. Even Gunt shows up. He’s injured in this timeline, too, but it’s because of falling down the stairs, not a City-funded ski trip. Everyone sings Joy to the World together, and it’s all warm fuzzies. And of course, because it’s Lea Michele, and she hasn’t gotten to sing on this show yet, Val has a kick-ass solo in the middle of the song.

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