The All-Pilot Project

The All-Pilot Project: Do Not Disturb (Sept 18)

You know, the opening salvo of pilots hasn’t really been a salvo at all. More of a trickle. But regardless of whether it’s a torrent, a dribble, or a “two shakes and done” situation, we’re here to scoop up those pilots and take a good hard look at them in the light of day. That brings us to our newest pilot: Do Not Disturb

Do Not Disturb

Wednesday, 9:30 FOX

The Premise: The wacky hijinx of the dysfunctional staff at a famous hotel. Please don’t ask why the hotel is famous – they don’t really get into that.

The Personnel: This is the first release from Jason Bateman’s production company, and he directs the pilot himself. (Quite well, I might add. He’s clearly learned a lot from spending his entire youth starring in sitcoms.) The series is created by Abraham Higginbotham, an Arrested Development writer and story editor, who also played Gary the Poof in two episodes. Jerry O’Connell and Niecy “Deputy Raineesha Williams” Nash star, and both have been consistently funny in other places.

The Poop: Oy.

First off, I do have a bias here, as I despise laugh tracks. Frankly, I’m not really that sold on the continued viability of the four-camera sitcom, but add a laugh track to that aging format, and it’s going to be very hard for me to enjoy myself. Laugh tracks make Baby Jesus cry and other than How I Met Your Mother, my viewing schedule has been purged of the synthetic laughter of the damned.

However, my love for anybody involved with Arrested Development trumps almost any other bias that I have. Throw in O’Connell and Nash, and I was more than willing to give DND a shot. And it pains me to say that despite my affection for all parties involved, Do Not Disturb is really not good.

The first episode is largely about a tell-all that a mysterious member of the staff wrote about their sexual escapades. Why anybody would publish a book about the sex lives of people who nobody has ever heard of is left unexplored. Further, the characters are apparently unable to determine whether the secret author is male or female, but I would think that should be fairly easy to determine from context in a halfway decent sex biography.

I’ll just say that this episode did not seem like a pilot – I think it might have been intended for later in the run, because it doesn’t really introduce the characters or the premise. Presumably there’s an episode in the hopper that tells us why this hotel is significant enough to warrant the publication of an anonymous boner diary. (“Anonymous Boner Diary” is the name of the first single off my new album, by the way.) As it is, the first episode just left us with several vague characters in a hazy setting.

There’s very little here that’s any different from any random episode of any short-lived sitcom. Niecy Nash has the kind of delivery that makes things funnier than they’re written, which is sorely needed here. Jerry O’Connell seems to be doing a Jason Bateman impression for the entire episode, which is weird and off-putting. Maybe it’s because Bateman directed it, or maybe O’Connell realized how funny the guy is, but it’s really not necessary. Frankly, it just reminds us that Jason Bateman really should be headlining a sitcom right at this very moment. O’Connell can be funny on his own, but here he’s adopting Bateman’s speech patterns and mannerisms, leaving very little room for his own style.

I wish I could go into specifics as to what disappointed me, but the episode was so forgettable. The jokes are generic, consisting primarily of sassy comebacks. Remember the old episode of The Simpsons where Homer and Marge can’t decide whether to watch Don’t Go There or Talk to the Hand? Do Not Disturb would fit perfectly into that programming block.

There are a lot of talented people who’ve done funny work involved with this show. And a hotel makes a fine setting for a series. You have guests coming in and out, you have a location that while spacious (and handy for separating the characters when necessary) also has clearly defined boundaries (so it’s easy to keep the action centralized when the plot requires it), and you have people who work together but all have different jobs. Sadly, all of this goes to waste in the service of something entirely forgettable.

The Prognosis: I can’t do it. Despite my loyalty to the creative team, I’m not interested in watching sub-standard work. I don’t know how it went so wrong, but it did. I’ll just wait for Bateman and Higginbotham to move on to something better, and for Niecy to return for the next season of Reno 911!

That said, if any Arrested Development cast members show up for a guest appearance, I’m pretty much obligated to watch that episode. But I won’t be happy about it.

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