Preview: Do Not Disturb

Comedy isn't in

In the US: Fox, Wednesdays, 9.30pm ET/PT. Starts September 10th

There is a strange astral body that orbits the Fox network in the US. It’s called the "Galactic Ball of Sitcom Suckiness". It purges any Fox sitcom of even the slightest trace of comedy and makes you wish for the cold release of death as you watch it.

Look at Back To You or Til Death. They’re just awful. Even The Loop, which almost managed to achieve single-camera escape velocity in its first season, got pulled back into purgatory for its second.

Now we have Do Not Disturb, which while initially sounding like a comedy about an intrepid working party looking at the small print of the Lisbon Treaty, is actually set in a hotel. Starring Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire, Sliders, Carpoolers), one of the funny ones from The Class and no one else of real interest, it is exactly the same as every other offensively poor Fox sitcom you’ve ever seen.

DO NOT DISTURB (working title) is a hilarious workplace comedy set at one of New York City’s hottest and hippest hotels: The Inn. Named one of the Big Apple’s "10 Best Places to Stay," The Inn is just that – the "in" place to be, with its chic decor, stylish staff and celebrity clientele. Behind the scenes, however, the upstairs/downstairs dynamic tells quite a different story.

The hotel’s top-notch reputation and sophisticated look is due in large part to NEAL (Jerry O’Connell, "Crossing Jordan") – at least in his opinion. Although The Inn’s charismatic owner R.J. (guest star Robert Wagner) takes all the credit, Neal is the egotistical, hyper-stylish, detail-oriented general manager who will do whatever it takes to keep the hotel and its employees up to his standards.

RHONDA (Niecy Nash, "Reno 911!") is the head of Human Resources who also keeps Neal’s demands in check. She’s brash, fabulous and brutally honest and runs the HR department from her bullpen downstairs with a set of rules that are all her own. Rhonda does her best to keep the back of the house in line and the front of the house out of trouble.

At the front desk handling check-in while wearing 6-inch Manolos is NICOLE (Molly Stanton, "Twins"), an aging model who is svelte, cynical and slightly starving. Fresh from Nebraska is JASON (Brando Eaton, "Zoey 101"), the naive bellman who would prefer to work behind-the-scenes but was hired to show off his chiseled face and perfect pecs at the front of the hotel.

The downstairs staff includes MOLLY (Jolene Purdy, "Donnie Darko"), a reservations clerk who dreams of pop-singer stardom as much as she craves to be part of the action upstairs; and LARRY (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, "The Class"), the head of housekeeping who spends more time on the phone cleaning up his messes at home, than he does cleaning up after the guests upstairs.

DO NOT DISTURB, a 20th Century Fox Television production in association with Reveille, LLC and Principato-Young Productions, is written by Abraham Higginbotham ("Arrested Development") and executive-produced by Howard Owens ("30 Days," "Nashville Star"), Carolyn Bernstein, Paul Young ("Reno 911!"), Peter Principato ("Reno 911!") and Brian Dobbins ("Adopted"). Jason Bateman serves as director of the pilot.

Is it any good?
Tell me you weren’t instantly awed by how poor that sounded. Because it is poor. It’s very, very poor indeed.

Filmed in front of the kind of studio audience/canned laughter machine that would probably whoop with hysterical laughter if Angolan mercenaries shot half of them then threatened to blowtorch the nether regions of everyone else, Do Not Disturb is the same multi-camera, studio sitcom that you’ve seen a zillion times before.

We have a stock range of stereotypes (the black woman, the gay guy, the dumb pretty woman, the fat woman, the dumb pretty guy) and then tries to be funny by making politically incorrect jokes. The pretty woman is only mean because she doesn’t eat anything; the gay guy is always on the phone to his boyfriend, saying things like "I wish I wasn’t the wife";  the black woman is always being sassy and waving her finger – and everyone’s always saying "Oh, you’re being sassy and waving your finger. Is it because you is black?"; and the fat woman is really nice and just wants to sing, but can’t because no one likes a fatty.

It’s only funny because it’s true! Oh wait, I’m getting a message. Apparently, it’s not. True or funny, that is.

Most of the show’s problems can be firmly levelled at the script, rather than the cast who are largely wasted. O’Connell has shown plenty of comic talent elsewhere, but here he’s playing his sexually harrassing, (fat) woman hating, tyrant boss as camp for some reason. But he’s not awful and neither is anyone else. It’s just they have nothing to work with.

Unless Fox decides to have the entire pilot re-written and the cast given characters to work with that couldn’t have been randomly generated from every other failed sitcom the US has ever produced, this is going to be something to avoid like a crazed monkey who’s just been dipped in the Ebola tank.

Here’s a video clip or two (UPDATE: Or four). You’ll see what I mean.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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