Granted, the bumbling-politician-and-his-eccentric-staff framework generally feels like a slightly warmed-over version of “Veep,” minus nonstop swearing. There’s also a dollop of heart associated with Danson’s Neil Bremer, a retired billboard tycoon, who ran in order to impress his teenage daughter (Kyla Kenedy) — a sitcom-style subplot the show could probably have done without.
Premiering with back-to-back half-hours, the first episode dutifully sets up the concept and characters, among them Bremer’s harried chief of staff (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s” Vella Lovell), who wonders what she’s gotten herself into; and a holdover from the previous administration (“SNL” alum Bobby Moynihan), basically kept around to have someone to throw under the bus if things get bad.
Much of the conflict, meanwhile, stems from a City Hall veteran, Arpi (Holly Hunter, punching well below her acting weight), who resents having this newcomer in office.
The real hope for “Mr. Mayor” comes during the second episode, when Bremer makes a number of public appearances after an unfortunate pitstop at a pot dispensary. His altered state yields a number of laugh-out-loud moments, and that’s not just the brownies talking.
Like “30 Rock,” the jokes come fast and furious, and there’s a special L.A.-centric vibe to them, made a little less novel by their familiarity. (For starters, distinguishing between second wives and daughters can be a real challenge.)
Thankfully, Danson elevates even the more banal gags, and remains good company if nothing else. There’s also something vaguely reassuring about having him back Thursdays on NBC, which has been his periodic home since “Cheers” opened its doors in 1982.
Granted, many doubtless are less inclined to laugh at the current state of politics than cry. Yet even in the face of that, it’s oddly comforting to see Danson back in a place where everybody knows his name.
“Mr. Mayor” premieres Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.