On Tuesday night, ABC premiered its new series, The Mayor, and it was well worth the wait. The new comedy seems to have checked off all the boxes for the perfect 2017 content package: millennial underachievement, a person of colour as the lead, a healthy amount of pop-culture references, and an acute awareness of what Trump has done to our political landscape. To the latter point, it became clear to me while watching The Mayor that Trump’s victory in the 2016 election is what makes the show possible and entertaining.
Courtney Rose (Brandon Michael Hall) is a struggling rapper with an acute awareness of what it takes to have a big break in the music industry. He is not above a gimmick, and to prove it, he has put himself on the ballot as a mayoral candidate in his California hometown. He is hoping that the boost in local publicity will help promote his mixtape. Like many a struggling rapper before him, his two best friends T.K. (Marcel Spears) and Jermaine (Bernard David Jones) are his biggest fans. They have labeled themselves his secretary and fundraising chair for his “campaign,” respectively. Courtney’s mother Dina (Yvette Nicole Brown), on the other hand, disapproves but doesn’t intervene. None of them think Courtney is capable of winning the election, even after he dominates the mayoral debate against a more seasoned politician. And yet, he does.
This nonsensical storyline, which could have worked for a comedy even before Trump was elected, packs a more painful punch because we watched it happen in real life less than a year ago. Trump’s career as a caricature of himself on reality television is often the straw that breaks the camel’s back for qualifying his competence, or lack thereof. That a reality TV personality has been elected to run the country is as much an indictment of voters as it is Trump. And this was reflected in The Mayor as well. At one point during the premiere, Valentina (Lea Michele) — Courtney’s former classmate turned aspiring political power player — blatantly says that his run for mayor is a stunt that voters will never fall for. “Not in America,” she adds. This self-deprecating joke from The Mayor’s writing room is obviously a commentary on whom Americans are willing to trust as their leaders.
For the fictional residents of a northern California town, they put their trust in a someone who is a polar opposite of Trump. Courtney is the son of a single working mother and a native who knows the city inside out. He has been observing the ways it needs to be improved for over two decades. Courtney had put those observations into rhymes for most of his life, but with his new role, he is doing something about it. In one of the first actions as mayor, he cleans up an area known as the City Commons, which had been filled with waste. And here The Mayor offers a promise that the Trump administration has not: Courtney’s inexperience will not hinder his ability to make things better.
Just last week, the New York Post wrote an op-ed naming Oprah as Democrats' best hope of defeating Trump in 2020. She matches Trump’s lack of political experience but trumps (no pun intended, I don’t think) his star power and ability to inspire others. And as I read it, I didn’t find it outrageous that we were discussing the possibility of another celebrity being president. In fact, I felt pretty sure that she would get my vote. I think that her values would culminate into policies that would improve the lives of those who need it most and help America live up to a promise that it has yet to fulfil.
The Mayor is a fresh, relevant, and funny new show. And it’s a silver lining in our new America. If Trump can do it, someone better can do it, too.