As is the case for all of ABC’s pantheon of remarkably fresh sitcoms, “The Mayor” has a self-assured quality right from the get-go. In this charming pilot, an up-and-coming rapper named Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) runs for public office as a publicity stunt — and then wins, throwing him into the executive branch of Fort Grey, Calif. (population 32,184).
It’s a fish-out-of-water story that would maybe feel a little less relevant under any other president, but Courtney, at least, is an engaging, lovable protagonist. Hall, who viewers might remember from TBS’ “Search Party,” has an infectious grin and impeccable comic timing. He’s a passable rapper, too — he’d have to be, for a show executive produced by Tony-winner Daveed Diggs, who makes a brief cameo in the pilot. What Courtney discovers, with some not-so-subtle prodding from his mother, Dina (Yvette Nicole Brown), is that having something to say in hip-hop can translate to having something to say in politics, too. Maybe his mayorship started as a publicity stunt, but as Dina urges him, it doesn’t have to be.
Of course, Courtney isn’t going to be a staid mayor anytime soon, and much of the joy of the series comes from he and his two best friends’ enthusiastic embrace of civic responsibilities. In the pilot, T.K. (Marcel Spears) urges him to be mayor, if only for the office-mandated huge scissors; later, Courtney does a dance when he gets his first public assembly permit. Along with Jermaine (Bernard David Jones), the three make for a really hilarious comic trio. Playing the long-suffering straight woman is Courtney’s high-school classmate Valentina (Lea Michele) — a driven aide who appoints herself to his staff after his victory, and tasks herself with getting Courtney to do things like other politicians. (Her attempt to get the guys to embrace her color-coded index card system fails pretty early on.)
On one hand, “The Mayor” is a heated little send-up of the American attitude towards politics, which seems to treasure participatory democracy and civic pride up until the moment where it involves leaving the house. On the other, it is a dig at Courtney’s generation of attention-seeking millennials, who will do anything if it can be said to promote their #brand. And yet the show treats both its candidate and its voters with a lot of love. And the pace is so reassuringly snappy — the supporting characters, so clearly in sync — that newcomer “The Mayor,” like its fictional mayor, walks into its place on the schedule with self-assured swagger. The pilot snaps through the premise in such short order that there’s no effort involved from the viewer except to sit back and enjoy the hijinks.