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September 21, 2014

Do Not Disturb -- An early look

by Jason Hughes, posted Sep 10th 2008 11:02AM
Do Not Disturb
In the behind-the-scenes interviews the network sent along with the pilot, the entire cast and the creator described Do Not Disturb, premiering tonight at 9:30/8:30 Central, as an "upstairs-downstairs" workplace comedy. Creator Abraham Higginbotham (Arrested Development) based the show on his time at the Paramount Hotel in the '90s. "It's Freaks and Geeks in a hotel," he said. "You've got your upstairs crowd where you have to basically turn in a photo to be approved to work where you come into face contact with guests. And then downstairs, anybody can work there because they're the people doing all the real work."

Unfortunately, if this is going to be the major thrust of the series going forward, they picked a pretty poor episode to establish that for the pilot. "Work Sex" tackled sex and promiscuity, which are such powerful subjects in this country they tend to overwhelm everything. And since the show is trying to introduce its premise, characters, relationships and the dynamics of its ensemble at the same time, it may have been better to launch with a subject a little less dominating. In fact, I didn't really get the struggle between the two groups at all.

The show was built around Niecy Nash, known mostly for her improvised comedic brilliance on Reno 911!. The idea was to surround her character Rhonda, the HR head, with twenty-something kids at their first or second jobs, making those early life mistakes so that she can play the role of their flawed mother figure. Instead, in the pilot we got a battle of the sexes over ... sex. Sex in the workplace is nothing new for a workplace comedy, and Do Not Disturb didn't really take it anyplace new or groundbreaking either.

Her counterpart is Jerry O'Connell, (Sliders, Crossing Jordan) as the general manager, Neal. He's the king of the "upstairs" castle and comes complete with the arrogance and swagger to go with it. The pilot focused mostly on his womanizing nature, which makes his performance markedly similar to his role on Carpoolers. Here, however, he has some insecurities underneath his macho facade, indicating there may be a chance at some real character development in this series.

Molly Stanton is best known for her role as Charity Standish on the soap opera Passions. Here she plays an "upstairs" worker and aspiring model. She said of this show "I've never seen anything like it, so I don't know what it's capable of ... It's un-PC and daring and edgy and dark ... I think it's got all the elements to make a great show." While I'll admit that there were some dark aspects to it, including the modeling gig that Nicole ultimately gets, but I'd hardly call anything I saw un-PC.

In fact, despite the subject matter being mostly about sex, it was an incredibly tame show for FOX. Of course, when I think un-PC anymore in comedy I'm thinking of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia which obliterates any lines of good taste and sensibilities. But Do Not Disturb (premiering Wednesday at 9:30 PM ET) didn't even dance dangerously close to any of them. So if this is what we get, I'd say I do know what this show is capable of. And it's pretty tame.

Other cast members include James Franco's brother, Dave, who plays a character that I couldn't really figure out from the episode they sent. He's cocky and arrogant in a way that even O'Connell's Neal isn't, and yet I couldn't really get a gauge of his motivations or what he wants. Jolene Purdy revealed that her character, Molly, is an aspiring singer though the pilot did not reveal this aspect of her. By the end, it did establish her character as one of the most well-rounded and down-to-earth on the show.

And maybe it's just me, but I was a little disappointed that they went the most obviously politically correct route in revealing the true subject of the sex article. I'm not saying that I didn't like the reveal, because I like what it added to that character, but rather that it was just too obvious. While I see the value in not following stereotypes, there's such a thing now as the politically correct stereotype and too much of modern television falls victim to it by trying to not offend anyone. And the first casualty of political correctness is "the funny."

Like Carpoolers, though, I found my first peek at Do Not Disturb to be nothing groundbreaking or spectacular, but entertaining nonetheless. Just from the pilot, the show is on that bubble where it could slide either way as we go forward. I'm rooting for it to find its legs and potential greatness. Higginbotham was joined by Arrested Development's Jason Bateman as director on the pilot, so the pedigree is in for true sitcom genius, even if it seems a long shot. After all, AD was firing on all cylinders from the pilot and this one just didn't have that magic.

The kindling is there for a great workplace comedy. The ensemble is solid and diverse enough that I already see the potential to achieve a Just Shoot Me! or Night Court level of quality right out of the gate. Now to aim for a Taxi, Cheers or Mary Tyler Moore, it's going to have to really raise its game. Otherwise, it'll be just another Welcome to the Captain.

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StillBash

This show is worse than Carpoolers. Much worse. I turned it off after about three minutes. All the characters are annoying. All of them.

And the stage looks so extremely fake it makes the stage of "Suddenly Susan" look as if Susan has been shot in a real newsroom...

September 11 2008 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phish

HAHAHAHAHA higginbottom! i'm sure that was his original surname, before he altered it.

that poor guy must have been pummelled daily in school!

September 10 2008 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chadwick hansford

I always try to watch all pilots unless a show has zero interest for me. However, the reviews are not as nice as past shows. I bet Jerry O'connell wishes carpoolers were still running. That show was below average but stupid humor is refreshing once in a while.

September 10 2008 at 2:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fowak

I'm mainly giving this show a chance for Jesse Tyler Ferguson from CBS' "The Class." I loved his character on that show. You didn't mention him anywhere that I noticed in this article. Does that mean he didn't play a big role? Or just that he wasn't worth mentioning?

September 10 2008 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fowak's comment
John Stewart

I didn't know that he was in this until watching it tonight, and I loved "The Class" and watching this show just makes me wish it was still on the air.

September 10 2008 at 10:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Susan

I saw both the first episode they intended as the pilot and then also the episode that they are actually going to be showing as the pilot. This is one show I definitely won't be watching. It's just not good, not at all. I'm usually pretty good at giving a show a chance to build up, but this show needs so much work, it's just not going to happen. This will definitely be cancelled early on in the season.

September 10 2008 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DavidMac

Arrested Development never should have been on fox, it shoud have been on FX, the fact is most Americans did not like the show and did not watch it. It sucks for you fans but that is life, maybe this show will be a more mainstream success, I don't know.

September 10 2008 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Comparing your own show to Freaks and Geeks is ballsy, but I'll cut the guy some slack because of his association with Arrested Development. I just don't know if I'll be able to take Jerry O'Connell.

September 10 2008 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Edd

(Saw the screener). To think Fox wasted money on this when we could have had more of the perfect Arrested Development. I always wish great things for the AD alum but this better pick up sharply in the next few episodes.

September 10 2008 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Edd's comment
charli

Yeah, saw the screener and I don't understand how the FOX managed to make real comedy and by that I mean Arrested Development and no bullshit sitcom overacted with recorded laughs like til death or do not siturb...
I hope nobody is gonna watch this thing

September 10 2008 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim

Did FOX give you the pilot or the episode they are going to air first - because they are not one and the same.

FOX has decided to air the pilot - which establishes the characters and basic storyline - at a later time, instead substituting a 'better' episode to hook the viewers.

If FOX can't be bothered to show the episodes in order, I'm not going to bother watching them at all.

September 10 2008 at 11:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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