The brilliance of 30 Rock, Tina Fey’s critically adored if criminally under-watched office sitcom, was not simply in its breathlessly quick procession of creative one-liners however in its total composition, a community comedy that moved like no different. It was that rarest of issues – a real authentic – Fey thrillingly rewriting the foundations of what we’d grown to count on from the style and offering a brand new template for the way jokes must be structured and carried out, giving herself and her many gifted co-writers a wholly separate area carved out removed from her extra conventionally minded friends.
When it ended, this template was quickly resurrected for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, created by Fey and her 30 Rock writer-producer Robert Carlock, after which once more for Nice Information, from one other 30 Rock alum, Tracey Wigfield. Each had their moments however the fizz of the present that birthed them was turning into flat, accompanied by a creeping realisation that maybe this courageous new format wasn’t destined for versatility. It’s a worry that’s now absolutely proved by Mr Mayor, Fey and Carlock’s newest and flashiest try and conjure up the identical previous magic, a removed from disastrous but removed from important new comedy kicking off what’s set to be an uncommon, and maybe underwhelming, 12 months of tv.
Its journey to the small display screen has been troublesome not simply due to the plain (like many new reveals, it’s suffered a stop-start manufacturing course of because of the pandemic) however due to its shift from being a New York-based 30 Rock spin-off starring Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy to being an LA-based nothing-to-do-with-3o-Rock collection starring Ted Danson. The Frankensitcom that’s emerged, which additionally tries to be the primary official piece of fiction set after the coronavirus, is predictably a little bit of a multitude, no less than as evidenced by the primary two episodes made out there to critics – however not one with out the odd glimmer of one thing, no matter which may find yourself being. The story sees Danson, graduating from lately departed The Good Place, play Neil Bremer, a rich businessman who’s stumbled into the position of mayor of Los Angeles. Apparent comparisons to the soon-to-be-dethroned US president finish there, as Bremer is extra clueless than conniving. It’s due to this fact as much as these round him to form what sort of politician he’s, together with Loopy Ex-Girlfriend’s Vella Lovell as a skeptical Insta-obsessed adviser, the hitherto underused ex-SNL-er Bobby Moynihan as an oafish aide and, most excitingly, Holly Hunter as an activist who turns into Bremer’s deputy.
Considered one of my rising points with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a present I discovered principally very humorous, was the shortsightedness of its cartoonish silliness. Whereas its array of outsized characters and outlandish conditions had been amusing for some time (and well wrapped up with a suitably goofy interactive particular), by the third and fourth seasons, it was turning into unattainable to muster up even the smallest shred of funding; it was a collage of zany moments somewhat than a cohesive collection. In 30 Rock, despite the fact that the humour was typically as surreal, Liz Lemon was somebody we rooted for, romantically and professionally, a completely shaped protagonist offered with all of her many flaws, and it’s one of many key explanations for its seven-season run. With the primary two episodes of Mr Mayor, Fey and Carlock have gone for Kimmy-ish extra however in such a scattered means that it’s exhausting to even take it as throwaway enjoyable, the present’s focus shifting each jiffy, creating a sense of whiplash for even probably the most devoted 30 Rock followers.
The supporting characters, of significant significance to a present reminiscent of this, aren’t fairly magnetic sufficient to make us crave greater than what we’ve seen, with no Tracy or Jenna or perhaps a Titus or a Lillian standing out simply but. That’s an issue provided that the present’s NBC dwelling will make it closely reliant on rankings (a streaming binge would have allowed for a extra forgiving viewers). There’s little right here we haven’t seen Danson do earlier than and there’s extra enjoyable available from watching an unusually playful Hunter, an ideal match for the Fey/Carlock fashion of joke supply, and Moynihan, who lands a few of the largest laughs. However the largest laughs aren’t fairly sufficiently big, and whereas the watered-down 30 Rock system is perhaps preferable to a few of the different heinously unfunny community sitcoms on the market, it principally serves as a miserable reminder of what got here earlier than.
Whereas its last sans-Baldwin iteration was introduced in 2019, Mr Mayor was shot, and promptly rewritten, through the pandemic, with the motion set in a time post-Covid. It’s an fascinating choice, however very like the present’s many makes an attempt to skewer “woke” tradition (that are too confused to make any actual influence, good or dangerous, though most do lean towards the latter), it’s in the end only a means of attempting to mud off what’s basically a somewhat generic sitcom from a crew who ought to know, and might do, higher. New canine, previous methods.