The Watchman: Ted Danson for ‘Mayor’; Stone-Cold New Season of ‘Straight Up’ on USA

Mr. Mayor
'Mr. Mayor' (Image credit: NBC)

Mr. Mayor, with Ted Danson playing the feckless mayor of Los Angeles, premiered on NBC. Vella Lovell plays chief of staff Mikaela, who ends up in that role by virtue of her Instagram expertise. Holly Hunter portrays the deputy mayor. 

Lovell described the gig as “my dream job. To be in this cast, with this caliber of people, it’s insane.”

She discovered Cheers on Netflix and is a fan of The Good Place, and so was pumped to work with Danson. His kindness helps the younger cast members forget they’re working with a legend, she said. “He’s so effortless and confident and easeful with his comedy,” said Lovell.

Tina Fey and Robert Carlock produce. Lovell likens Mr. Mayor to “30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt meet Veep.” Like 30 Rock, “it’s so many jokes that you can’t keep up. Some lines you only have time to smile at.”

Straight Up Steve Austin

'Straight Up Steve Austin'  (Image credit: USA Network)

Season two of Straight Up Steve Austin begins on USA Network  Jan. 11. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin visits different locales with his guests and swaps stories. “A talk show without couches,” he put it. 

Austin visits Hattiesburg with Brett Favre and Nashville with Luke Combs. Comedian Bert Kreischer, WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair and actress Tiffany Haddish also turn up. “Each episode, something happens that’s a little off the wall,” said Austin. “Each guest brings a different vibe and a different ‘holy smoke’ moment.”

Austin said he was “the biggest Johnny Carson fan in the world” growing up, and digs Ellen DeGeneres (“Super-super quick on her feet, hilarious”). But he sets his own tone on Straight Up. “I enjoy talking to people and I’m naturally curious,” he said. 

Austin is pumped to share the new episodes. “I hope viewers enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it,” he said.

Secrets of Sulphur Springs

'Secrets of Sulphur Springs' (Image credit: Disney Channel)

Serialized ‘Secrets of Sulphur Springs’ Has Soapy Background 

Something new and different gets under way on Disney Channel Jan. 15: a live-action mystery with thriller elements. Secrets of Sulphur Springs follows 12-year-old Griffin, who moves into an abandoned hotel with his family, and learns the place is haunted. 

It comes from Tracey Thomson and Charles Pratt Jr., who both wrote for soap operas. Disney Channel was looking for serialized storytelling, and wanted a series that would appeal to boys who otherwise may age out. Thomson had what she watched at age 12 — Goonies, Indiana Jones — in mind when she started writing. 

“Movies and TV shows that kept you guessing and made you think,” she said. Pratt tossed in Stand By Me and Stranger Things. There’s a serialized vibe throughout. Pratt said his soap background “is an influence in everything I do.” 

Promised Thomson, “It’s a show filled with cliffhangers.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.