Comedy, public policy and ‘Mr. Mayor’

By Richard Lee

Mr. Mayor, the NBC comedy that completed a short nine-episode season last week, captured many of the day-to-day activities that go into the job of running a city.

Mayor Neil Bremer (played by Ted Danson) dealt with angry constituents at a Town Hall meeting, managed crises (some of them self-inflicted), cut ribbons and kissed babies.

But the show also offered clues to the problems with today’s politics.

For example, in Episode 5, Mayor Bremer has the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodger game. As he is about to step out onto the field, he receives a phone call from Mikaela Shaw, his chief of staff, informing him of a citywide lice outbreak, apparently caused by a bicycle helmet policy he championed.

Instead of taking immediate steps to address the health crisis, the mayor and his staff react to the news by devising a plan to divert public attention by having Bremer tank his pitch.

“A humiliating throw will distract the sheep for sure,” Deputy Mayor Arpi Meskimen explains.

Bremer suggests an alternative. “What if I throw the best first pitch ever? And then everyone will be talking about how cool it was.”

To which Meskimen responds with a sarcastic dose of reality.

“Right. Because that’s how the internet, local news and human nature work,” she says. “Celebrating the good will in all of us. Grow up.”

The exchange works well as a piece bit of comedy, but not so well as sound public policy.

Richard Lee, executive director of the Jandoli Institute, is a former music journalist who often writes about the intersection of entertainment and public policy. He worked in the mayor’s office in Woodbridge, New Jersey, for 10 years.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Politics, Pop Culture, Richard Lee, richleeonline


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