Starring: Brandon Michael Hall, Yvette Nicole Brown, Lea Michele, Marcel Spears, Bernard David Jones
Plot: A young rapper (Hall) runs for Mayor of his town in hopes that it will boost his visibility and increase sales of his mixtape. He never expected to actually win.
What Works: The supporting cast here is stronger than the lead. Hall is OK, but he’s not carrying this show. He’s obnoxious at times, and I definitely needed more than one episode to “fall in love with” him. I didn’t need more time for Yvette Nicole Brown, who is always welcome in whatever capacity. I love her on Community. I love her when she comes on Talking Dead. She’s a solid utility player, and she does some great stuff in the pilot. Also, because of narrow casting, Lea Michele is quite good in the pilot. She’s basically stuck in that “overachiever” mode that made her characters work in Glee and Scream Queens. She’s definitely typecast here, but it almost helps because of familiarity. We’ve seen Michele be good at this before, and we know she can do it again. The two more “unknown” quantities, Spears and Jones, are surprisingly effective too as the best friends helping the campaign who are also in way over their heads.
What Doesn’t Work: Just, wow. I have to say that. I was amazed at how much they crammed into 23 minutes. I had to remind myself that I was watching one episode, and not two. They got so much coverage, that part of me was impressed. But also… not. Like, you’re doing this show and hoping it goes “long term”. You only have one shot at the origin story, because once he’s “The Mayor”, that’s it. So, for them to rush through his origin, just so we can get him to “The Mayor”, ruined their chances at a compelling backstory (or at least an interesting one). If they had started with him as The Mayor, with a little explanation, we would have always had the opportunity for a “flashback” episode. But instead, we’re rushed through the process so halfway through he can get to being a Mayor. Then he hires some staff super quick, and we’re onto our first big project. Slow down. Breathe. Let your characters marinate. You basically took what should have been episodes 1 and 2 and crammed it all into one episode and hoped people would care enough about these people to come back for more.
Final Word: While I don’t think the show itself had a good pilot, I think the cast gives me pause when I’m trying to decide whether or not to come back. As far as pilots go, it didn’t work for me, but I also really enjoyed four out of the five main performers. I might come back for more, even though the pilot didn’t do anything to really warrant my return.
Final Grade: C+