Do Not Resuscitate

Fox’s comedy Do Not Disturb looks like one of the biggest bombs of the season so far, and when it is taken off the air (which it will be in five, four, three, two…) no one will miss it much, including me. But I said in a previous post that I thought it had potential, and after seeing this week’s episode I still think that, so let me explain what I mean, just to embarrass myself even further.

This show, about the two classes of employees at a fancy New York hotel (the pretty people who work “upstairs” and the outsiders who work downstairs out of the view of the guests), was created by Abraham Higginbotham, a writer for Arrested Development, and it’s basically Arrested Development with a studio audience — Jason Bateman directed the pilot, and it stars Jerry O’Connell, who has been winning Jason Bateman Look-Alike Contests since the ’80s, and once seemed destined to have a better career than Bateman. (Not any more; starring in Do Not Disturb kills your career way worse than directing it.) The character of Nicole (Molly Stanton), a self-obsessed blonde with an eating disorder and self-esteem problems, is Lindsay Bluth, book 2; her plot in this week’s episode — being furious that she’s not being sexually objectified by being asked to dance in a giant go-go birdcage — recalled Lindsay being upset that prisoners weren’t whistling at her. Then you’ve got the gay guy, the clueless handsome young Woody Boyd-type guy, the Sassy Black Lady (Niecy Nash) — well, by the description, you can see why it bombed.

Still, I found myself enjoying it more than the show it replaced, Back to You; Fox probably made a mistake canceling that show in favour of this new flop, but unlike BTY, which seemed enervated and tired, this one had a certain energy that could eventually have gone somewhere. I think it was the open venality and selfishness of most of the characters — Arrested Development style — that made it somewhat tolerable. Usually when there’s a character who’s a jerk on a comedy (or a dramedy) he’s not really that much of a jerk, just a lovable blowhard like Jack Donaghy (on a show that’s so much better than Do Not Disturb I’m ashamed to even mention it in the same sentence) or Michael Scott (ditto) Kelsey Grammer’s character on Back to You. But O’Connell was playing a really venal, creepy, sexist power-abusing boss like a taller version of Louie DePalma, the kind of guy who is really a complete jerk until the very last minute when things have to be wrapped up. And that gave the thing a certain potential, because there hasn’t been a really good comic villain on TV in a while. When Do Not Disturb ends, which it will very soon, maybe someone else will take up the idea and come up with another take on that kind of character. People are way too nice on TV today. (The closest thing we have to that character is Holland Taylor’s terrifying mother character on Two and a Half Men, but she’s not really a full-fledged regular.)