Tom Goes to the Mayor and all the images you see in this recap are owned Warner Bros and Adult Swim
Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim
We’re back with another episode of Mayor as Folk where Tim & Eric introduce their first explicatly queer character in the series; though after watching it becomes pretty clear why GLAAD didn’t throw a Media Award their way. The episode begins with a sweeping view of Jefferton’s pier district where we get a nice snapshot of people going about their daily lives (which mostly consists of them standing around), all set to the third sexiest saxophone song of all time; first and second being Careless Whisper by George Michael and Runaway by SunStroke Project & Olia Tira respectively. But wait! These mellifluous melodies are not merely an audio track layered on top of this idyllic scene during the editing process! This lovely tune is coming from The Saxman (Tom Kenny); a homeless dude with great musical talent but is about to lose his home on the pier. Why is that? Well a Mattress Mogul known as Captain Lew Peterson (Robert Loggia) is gentrifying the area with a new outlet store and so the homeless in the area are basically getting muscled out. At least that’s what I THINK is happening as we only have Saxman’s word on any of this, and as we’ll soon learn he’s not the most reliable of sources.
Tom is moved by The Saxman’s plight while also seeing dollar signs in his music, so he agrees to let Saxman stay in a tent on his front yard (his family is off visiting one of Joy’s ex-husbands), in exchange for being his manager! Saxman obviously agrees and is ready to take full advantage of Tom’s generosity (which will SURELY not bite him in the ass) while he goes to The Mayor to see if he can strike up some sort of deal for a live performance. The Mayor is in the middle of a meeting with Lew which includes an absolutely adorable heart shape water bed being installed in his office, and after hearing the beautiful tones from The Saxman’s self-released album, he proposes that the talented musician perform for the grand opening of Lew’s Waterbed Galleria! WOW! A STORE OPENING! Tom has FINALLY made it to the big leagues by booking THAT sweet gig! Oh wait, it looks like Lew isn’t a fan of the music with all the honka-honka and toota-tooota, so Tom has to work with Saxman to shoot a music video and write a new song that will convince Lew to let them have that gig! That’s basically it for the rest of the episode as Tom is working his ass off to make this new partnership work, but it’s obvious right away that Saxman’s heart is not in the music; rather it’s aimed at something else!
I find this episode interesting in terms of how Tom and The Saxman interact, but it’s hard to avoid the problematic aspects of this story which basically involves Saxman slowly manipulating Tom into accepting his sexual advances and the guy being too oblivious to really notice. You can tell that he’s sincerely invested in making Saxman a successful musician so this is one of the few times that he doesn’t come across like a halfhearted dweeb, but his complete unawareness of the situation makes a lot of the scenes rather uncomfortable to watch. Saxman never comes out and says he wants to have sex with Tom or at least has an attraction to him; instead he plays mind games and pretends that his sexual advances are innocent parts of his creative process. Now that’s not to say there’s NO humor to be had here, especially with Tom Kenny doing such a great job with this character, but gay-baiting jokes that border on sexual assault certainly haven’t aged well in the decade since this series came out, and there’s just no way to make the VICTIM of this kind of manipulation the butt of the joke without crossing a line; even if the victim is Tom Peters and ESPECIALLY when said jokes imply that he’s being drugged.
Now the episode does pull back a bit on this scene specifically (which is appreciated) by implying that Saxman didn’t do anything to Tom when he was asleep, rather him and a bunch of other homeless musicians had a party and ended up stealing some stuff instead, but the uncomfortable implications are still there. Tom wakes up the next morning only having a vague recollection of what happened with Saxman playing innocent about the whole thing by claiming he stayed in his tent all night, and so Tom pushes it aside and they get back to work on their song. Saxman however cannot keep going like this and informs Tom that his lips are just too darned chapped for him to keep playing, and that the best way to get them back to working shape is to kiss another man. At this point I’m not sure exactly what Tim & Eric are trying to do here as Tom is either oblivious enough to fall for this (which is not funny because again, Saxman is manipulating Tom) or that Tom is ACTUALLY interested in Saxman to a certain degree which would mean this is an excuse for him to work those feelings out. If it’s the latter though, the show doesn’t play it with any degree of sincerity as it’s just an excuse to tell the old joke of someone walking in at a very inopportune moment; namely his wife and children walking through the door just as they lock lips. I don’t doubt that Tom has a multitude of insecurities and toxic expectations about his masculinity (his obsession with being an entrepreneur and making it BIG instead of merely putting food on the table is a very “Alpha” attitude), but I think if you’re gonna approach it from THIS angle, that maybe Tom is closeted to a degree, you can’t be as flippant about it as they are here. Granted, flippancy is this show’s bread and butter (and it works for the eleven minute runtime they have each episode) but if that’s the constraints you’re working with then maybe this is a subject you shouldn’t be tackling.
After getting busted kissing a homeless Jazz musician, we cut to sometime later where Tom is talking to The Mayor on the phone; essentially catching us up on what’s happened between this scene and the last one. Tom’s been grounded by Joy for some time which is why he’s only able to talk to The Mayor on the phone instead of in person, and it turns out that Saxman did indeed get the gig playing at the grand opening; even managing to sell a few CDs in the process. The Mayor is happy for Tom’s success being the guy’s manager and all, but it looks like Joy also made Tom quit as his manager so he’ll see no percentage of the forty bucks or so Saxman was able to get. Oh well. At least Tom can rest easy knowing that his hard work did pay off even if it wasn’t for him! After all, it’s about the MUSIC, right!?
The fact that I’m reviewing this episode during Pride Month and just days after finishing Detroit Become Human is both fortuitous and a little bit depressing because to a VERY small degree this feels like an LGBT version of the discussion surrounding that game. Okay, it’s a bit of stretch but stick with me! I don’t think that Tim & Eric are homophobic, nor do I think David Cage is racist based on these two respective works (though the reports about working conditions at Quantic Dreams are pretty damning) but in both cases neither one really knows how to tackle the subjects their dealing with because, to be frank, they’re all REALLY distant from the subject matter their working with. I can’t claim to know either man’s sexuality, but Tim & Eric have never said about being part of the LGBT community, so you get the sense while watching this episode that gay jokes are just another tool in the belt for them to attack Tom with (same with how HOT BUTTON RACIAL ISSUES are tools for David Cage to tell a “DEEP AND MEANINGFUL” story), and while I’ll almost always support Tom continually getting beat down by life due to his poor decisions, the episode ends up indulging in homophobic stereotypes about gay men being predators and trying to have their way with straight men. It’s all ultimately at Tom’s expense as the show never really judges Saxman for taking advantage of him (even letting him off scot-free at the end), but this is not the kind of subject matter that should be used in that way especially with the horrible implications involved with it. An episode where Tom questions his sexuality would have been interesting, but that’s not what we got here and in looking for more meaning that what’s there I end up giving them more credit than they deserve. With all that working against it, it certainly isn’t one of the highlights of the series even with Tom Kenny’s solid performance.
The Recap Recap!!
- Tom Kenny is the mysterious Saxman who is more than happy to let Tom be his manager in exchange for a place to sleep and a chance to steal Tom’s heart… along with his possessions.
- Robert Loggia plays the eccentric Water Bed tycoon Lew Peterson who opens a new shop in Jefferton and is good buddies with The Mayor!
- Bob Odenkirk is the announcer in a commercial for Lew’s Waterbed Galleria!
Tom Who Now?
- Tom hands Saxman one of the business cards he printed up back in Rebirth where his name is spelt Tom Petres.
Fun Facts from the Commentary!
(NOTE: Since Tim & Eric are… well Tim & Eric, anything said on the DVD commentaries should PROBABLY be taken with a grain of salt)
- Robert Loggia was an unexpected get for the series as they didn’t expect him to ever want to be part of the show, but sure enough he agreed to do it and was just as wildly eccentric as his character in this episode!
- The Saxman was inspired by someone Doug Lussenhop (series editor) and Eric Wareheim saw on Venice Beach playing a saxophone with a stack of homemade CDs next to him ready to sell.
- It was a conscious decision to keep Saxman from being an overt gay stereotype so that his intentions would remain ambiguous throughout.
- An early version of the script had Tom with a guide book about how to be a manager, but it was cut from the final version of the episode.
- An early version of the script also expanded on the scene where Joy walks in on Tom and Saxman where we see the argument instead of just cutting to after Tom got grounded.
The Bonus Screenshot