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In "Dodger Day," Mr. Mayor dabbles in love, friendship, and having it all (and baseball)

Illustration for article titled In "Dodger Day," Mr. Mayor dabbles in love, friendship, and having it all (and baseball)
Graphic: Colleen Hayes/NBC
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“Dodger Day” is the first episode of Mr. Mayor that feels like a fully-formed new series. It’s still not a perfect version of the seriesand considering how early it is, that’s absolutely fine—but it’s a confident and competent enough episode that succeeds where Mr. Mayor’s previous episodes have really struggled. It also provides a nice little taste of what the series can look like when it’s focused, which is especially helpful when it comes to trying to figure this show out.

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I should note up top that part of “Dodger Day’s” specific focus stems from a complete lack of the Bremer family sitcom dynamic. While that was a focal point of last week’s episode, “The Sac,” Orly is not even mentioned in this episode. In fact, while watching the scene where Arpi arrives at the Mayor’s home, because of how that location has become shorthand for “family time” on this show, I found myself wondering “Dodger Day” was going to shoehorn Orly into this story. It wasn’t even so much a criticism of the character as it was criticism of the series forcing story instead of allowing it to organically exist. Sure, it makes sense that Bremer’s teenage daughter would be worried about her father embarrassing himself by throwing the first pitch at a Dodger’s game; it also makes just as much sense that Bremer’s teenage daughter would not care at all about that.

However, “Dodger Day” opts out of going with the family story here, and it’s especially refreshing when you consider the fact that this is technically the second week in a row of Bremer attempting to rage against his age. However, where “The Sac” went to the tired well of Bremer misusing slang, “Dodger Day” also follows familiar, no-spring-chicken beats… but it does so by utilizing the unbeatable “Eye Of The Tiger,” which—as tired as it also may be—is always an easy and successful comedic shorthand. (So, of course, the episode uses it again when Tommy has his new ID badge photo.)

Workplace sitcoms can obviously include the home and family lives of their characters, but ultimately, the workplace component of the sitcom still remains king. Mr. Mayor has spent its first four episodes attempting to balance both as two full entities, to middling results. But the issue in Mr. Mayor’s case isn’t simply the fact that there is a family component in addition to the workplace one. As I mentioned in a previous review, Tracey Wigfield’s Great News actually succeeded in doing this, as the mother-daughter dynamic on that series was baked into the very premise of the series. With Mr. Mayor, however, the father-daughter dynamic tastes extremely undercooked. It especially sticks out as Tina Fey and Robert Carlock even realized with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—which was more character-driven—that ultimately, a teenage character like Xan (who even fit into that show more) couldn’t be as prominent in the long run as she initially was, as it (like Mr. Mayor) was a show about adults, in the adult world. Even if and when they acted like children, which was often.

Which brings me to Mikaela and Tommy’s plot this week. With the focus solely on the series as a workplace sitcom, “Dodger Day” allows Mikaela and Tommy to get a chance to shine, which has definitely been a struggle so far. Vella Lovell has gotten somewhat of a showcase in her messarounds with Holly Hunter and Kyla Kenedy in “Mayor’s Day Out” and “Brentwood Trash,” respectively. But as I’ve mentioned before, Mike Cabellon is the most unknown quantity of the cast, and his character Tommy and his motivations have been the hardest to pin down. Both Mikaela (especially) and Tommy have also suffered from feeling like characters who simply power down (or cease to exist altogether) whenever they’re not in scenes, and this is the first episode where that’s not the case. In theory, these two should probably be more prominent,* but with Ted Danson having Hunter to spar with and Bobby Moynihan doing everything he’s doing, they can feel superfluous.

*I’m judging how prominent these characters should be by the fact that they are Bremer’s chief of staff and chief strategist, respectively, yet it’s easy to forget that they have important roles in the office at all.

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That “Dodger Day” opens on Tommy suggests that the show will finally give the character something more, and the episode goes on to make good on that promise. The workplace comedy vibes are especially strong in this plot, as Tommy wrangles Mikaela into his ID Badge Lady (aka the long-suffering Daniela) plan by explaining to her that workaholics like them are most likely to end up with someone who also works at City Hall. With Tommy’s desperation (and to be fair, he was worried about picture day back in “Brentwood Trash”) and Mikaela’s ticking relationship clock—and, eventually, Bremer’s well-timed worry about his age catching up to him—the duo are able to pull off a very lame heist. It’s great. Stupid (look no further than the speech they write for Bremer) and great. It’s also a plot that’s strong enough that it doesn’t really need the beat of their joint realization that even Jayden has found love and they haven’t: But it’s there and it’s also great. Meredith Scardino’s script for “Dodger Day” manages to capture the frantic, chaotic comedic energy that Mr. Mayor has been lacking on a consistent basis (outside of Hunter and Moynihan)—the type of energy that elevates the series from simply amusing to genuinely funny. It’s also the type of energy that manages to expand the world of City Hall and the show, which have both felt rather insular, even though every episode tends to have an adventure of sorts.

Circling back to Jayden finding love, the most interesting—and arguably refreshingpart of the short-but-sweet Jayden and Emily (Gabrielle Ruiz, sadly not interacting with her former Crazy Ex-Girlfriend cast member and fellow “Friendtopia” dictator Vella Lovell) plot is that the other shoe doesn’t actually drop. At least not when it comes to something like Jayden being told that he got his wires crossed about what Emily being nice to him meant. Jayden obviously puts the cart before the horse when he tells people he’s in a relationship (before they even meet) and stresses out about meeting the parents (or uncles), but upon meeting, there’s no twist about Emily wanting something else from him. (If there were, this would also be the second episode in a row of Jayden seeing romantic feelings where there are none.) The seeds are certainly planted, as we learn up top that Emily’s in PR and saw Jayden’s viral scooter video (so she could be working an angle), but even when he talks about their post-game plans, she doesn’t shut him down. She’s ready to watch some cartoons! Things seemingly only end because of Jayden’s less-than-cute reaction (as opposed to his reaction when he couldn’t stop a scooter) to getting a baseball to the groin. (“GET AWAY FROM ME! CALL MY PEDIATRICIAN!”)

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Maybe one day Emily will respond to Jayden’s Mark McGrath Cameos, because to quote the man himself: “When it’s over, is it really over?”

With all this in mind, it’s interesting to look back at how “Brentwood Trash” showed the downside of pairing Danson and Hunter together, leaving the rest of the cast (save for Moynihan) alone to sink or swim, because here in “Dodger Day,” everyone swims. Part of that is because both Lovell and Cabellon are actually given a cohesive plot to make a meal out of, but the other part of that is that the Danson/Hunter scenes don’t have a third-party (like Andie MacDowell) taking things off track or messing with the vibe. The only outside parties to the Bremer/Arpi plot are ID Badge Lady Daniela and Dodger’s PR Lady Emily, and they are ultimately part of the connective tissue that weaves the episode’s other plots together. That is the key to “Dodger Day”: It is easily the most cohesive episode of Mr. Mayor so far, which only highlights even more just how disjointed the show has been up to this point.

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Stray observations

  • I don’t know who wants the Gals On The Town theme song stuck in their head, but it’s stuck in mine, so here you go.
  • Tommy (to Nestor the security guard): “Are you wearing White Nirvana by the Olsen twins?” No wonder he wouldn’t give Tommy the time of day: The fragrance is called “Nirvana White.”
  • On the Mayor’s agenda: “1:00 PM: Argo reading at the Boys and Girls Club.”
  • Jayden: “You only hear about first pitches when they go really bad. And then you’re like, ‘Oh no, is 50 Cent gonna die soon?”
  • Tommy: “I love rules. No rules cause chaos. That’s why I hate Outback Steakhouse.”
  • Mayor Bremer: “Over lunch, I was watching some old Nolan Ryan videos and a Shonda Rhimes MasterClass on pitching that wasn’t what I thought it was but… Did you know she wanted Grey’s Anatomy to be called Surgeons? That wouldn’t have worked, Jayden!”
    Jayden: “Twelve seasons, tops.”
  • Bremer and Arpi’s rivalry still is only told, not shown—as we’ve so far only seen Arpi help Bremer out, even though he says she loves to see him fail—but their dynamic is captivating in its weirdness.
  • The cohesion in this episode even extends to something that seemed like it’d be a throwaway bit at first, the SafeLA initiative and subsequent lice outbreak. With the free helmet rentals—and I didn’t even expect it to be more than just an aside during the meeting, similar to the “Big SCUBA” bit later—I wrote in my notes, “This seems unhygienic?” (While I’m fine with the show existing post-pandemic and things like Bremer hoping that all the “independent thinkers” who wouldn’t wear masks will at least wear helmets, they only make certain other choices stick out. Like Jayden licking a sign or people sharing helmets.) Even without follow-up, the bit is solid, from the fact that the tagline for SafeLA is “Keeping L.A. Safe” to Bremer going on about how complicated it is—somehow not the actual death knell for this plan—to Jayden almost going into the light (“I don’t know how to do brakes! Remember me! My legacy is my kindness!”).
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.