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Canned TV Show #16: Do Not Disturb

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Hello again readers.  I know what you’re thinking: “so soon, after he just wrote a post?  How is this possible?”  Well, it’s pretty easy to finish up a TV show when there are only three 20 minute episodes to have to watch.  Barring the one-or-two episode extravaganza, today’s subject has the shortest run of any show we’ve covered.  It even edges out Kitchen Confidential by a whole episode.  What show could be so undeserving of a full season?  Why that would be 2008’s Do Not Disturb, a hijinks-filled comedy set in a posh hotel, featuring everyone’s comedic dream team, Jerry O’Connell and Niecy Nash.  Also, Jason Bateman apparently directed the pilot, so there’s that.

featuring the other actor who was replaced by Dave Franco

Reading reviews for this show, I must say, made me even more curious and wanting to see it.  It has a metacritic score of 22/100.  It inspired so much vitriol from TV critics that they were forced to reach deep into their vaults for the most scathing of hotel-related puns.  Some critics, such as Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, called it “A program so bad that it’s not only unpleasant to watch, but it makes you fear for the future of network television.”  Wow.  I don’t even have to tell you that sounds like some bad stuff.  I had to see for myself just how bad it was, to see if it deserved the intense hatred which it received from pretty much everybody.

Here’s a quick promo.  Notice how there’s no critic testimonials in it.

So just how bad was it?  Well, I gotta say, I think Ms. Ryan and others were just a smidge too harsh.  I mean, sure, it’s pretty awful, but is it so bad that it could signal the end of quality network TV as we know it?  Not really.  The show suffers from a debilitating problem that I like to call “the unfunny sitcom syndrome.”  Now stay with me, because this is pretty complicated.  This is when a sitcom aims to be funny, but is in fact…not funny.  Are you still with me?  To make up for this, laugh tracks are put in, to try and guilt you into laughing, sort of by saying, “look this studio audience is laughing, why aren’t you?”  It’s a very common thing we’ve seen in more than one show on this blog.

The premise is as follows: it takes place at The Inn, a popular hotel in New York City, and documents all the “hilarity” going on behind the scenes.  O’Connell plays Neal, the manager of the hotel, who has a reputation as a horndog who tries to screw every hot employee working there.  Nash is his foil, Rhonda, the human resources director.  There’s also Larry (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, so funny on Modern Family, and who actually manages to get a few laughs here and there), the head of housekeeping, Nicole (Molly Stanton), the pretty, bitchy receptionist, Gus (Dave Franco, James’ tooly younger brother), a horny bellman, and Molly (Jolene Purdy), who books reservations.  They make up the main cast of stock characters who add to the standard lame sitcom wackiness.

With its disastrous reception and minuscule ratings, it was almost certain that Do Not Disturb would be cancelled before too long.  But one thing sets it apart from other short-lived series: the creators actually took a gambit and sent out a letter to various critics which essentially said, “we’re sorry we put out such a shitty product.”  Well, it wasn’t exactly that, it was more that they thought by airing an episode about work sex first instead of the actual pilot, which is, you know, supposed to go first, it didn’t accurately represent the show’s potential.  They also enclosed a DVD of another episode which they felt was better.  I’m not sure which one it was, but all three that actually aired (out of five total) none seemed to be one you’d want to show critics to make them change their minds.  Despite this bold move, Do Not Disturb was the first cancellation of the 2008 season, and has not been released on DVD.  At this point, I think it’s safe to say no one really wants it to be either.  The show has some good actors on it; like I said, Ferguson manages to be funny despite the weak writing, and Franco gets in a giggle here and there, but it’s just not fresh of funny enough to make it worth watching week after week.  At least Niecy Nash still gets to scold messy people on Clean House. O’Connell unfortunately will probably always be remembered as the fat kid from Stand By Me who’s not fat anymore.

So, should it be back on the air? not so much.  Somehow, I don’t think airing the pilot first would’ve done anything for this show, even if it were the most hilarious pilot ever made (I haven’t seen it, so I really don’t know, but somehow I doubt it).

Come back next time, when I’ll be watching a show that actually was a critical success, NBC’s Kings!  Is it as missed as everyone says it is?  We’ll see.

Canned TV Show #15: Testees

September 8, 2010 2 comments

Greetings readers, today on Canned, we’re going on a little journey.  A journey to a distant, strange, and faraway place, with strange people, strange customs, and even stranger sense of humor.  This is the land which was given the name “Canada” by the ancients, and so it remains today.

Yes dear readers, Canada, our neighbors to the north, produced today’s Canned subject, the short-lived sitcom Testees.  Created by Kenny Hotz, who is also behind the popular (I guess) series Kenny vs. Spenny, in which him and some other dude do competitions or something.  I don’t know, I’ve never really watched it, but apparently it’s a pretty popular show.  Here, he moves into a more traditional half-hour sitcom format, with decidedly mixed results.  In Canada, Testees aired on Showcase, but here in America, where it matters, it aired on FX for a single season in 2008, following a show with a similar tone, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  So why is it, then, that Sunny is entering its sixth season of following around a bunch of petulant, moronic Philadelphians, whereas this show only had one season of following around a bunch of petulant, moronic Canadians?  Is it that we hate Canada?  Maybe.  But I think there’s one principal reason: Sunny is consistently funny, whereas Testees is most assuredly not.

The show follows two slackers, Ron (Jeff Kassel) and Peter (Steve Markle), who live together in a slobbish apartment and earn money by testing various products for a company called Testico (get it?  It sounds like testicle!  And the title of the show is Testees, which is similar to testes which is short for testicle!  Are you laughing yet?)  The show always opens with them testing a new product, and then follows them as they deal with the side effects, which are never good.  They also occasionally hang with their even slobbier neighbor Nugget (Joe Pingue), and go to the bar downstairs run by cutie pie Kate (Kim Schraner).  There’s also an older testee named Larry (played by Hotz himself), who’s a wannabe ladies-man, and an attractive receptionist named Amy (Shauna MacDonald), who Ron seems to harbor feelings for, though she has some kind of handicapped fetish (weird, I know).

Testees for the most part goes for the easy jokes involving whatever symptoms the duo start to show.  There’s a lot of gross-out humor, and offensive jokes that aren’t really funny so much as, well, offensive.  The show really makes no real effort to get to know these guys, beyond just using them as a canvas for all sorts of humiliation.  To bring it back to Sunny, while the characters on that program are, when you get down to it, pretty unlovable, they’re still fun to watch every week, and are almost likable in just how unlikable they are.  The main characters on Testees are, however, just plain unlikable.  This isn’t to say that the actors are that bad, because they’re really not, the characters just aren’t interesting enough to want to spend time with.  Also, (spoiler I guess?) they kill off the most attractive actor on the show, so there isn’t even that to distract you.  What you’re left with, then, is a mostly unfunny comedy that leans too heavily on gross-out gags and offers little to no character development.  The premise isn’t bad, but it does get a little repetitive after a while, in that it’s basically the same structure for every episode.

Though despite this, I have to admit there were some gags that did make me laugh.  One episode involves the duo taking a drug that erases their memories, and then searching their apartment for clues to their identity.  They then conclude that since there’s no girl hair in the shower and nothing even resembling something a woman would use, that they must be gay.  Nugget, who wants to get back at them for getting him to unwittingly receive a lap dance from a male stripper, confirms that they’re gay, and tells them that they loved to make out in front of everybody.  The episode actually manages some pretty funny moments.  When Ron pulls a clod of hair out of the drain and points out that it’s all guy’s hair, Pete retorts, “that’s a ball of pubes, not proof!”  I don’t know why this line makes me laugh, but it does.  There are a handful of giggle-worthy bits scattered here and there, but unfortunately, the unfunny moments outweigh the funny.  But hey, if you’re thirteen and love jokes about dicks and farts and handicapped people, you might laugh more than I did.

Here’s an interview where Markle and Kassel explain who would enjoy this show, and while they might be kidding, they’re also probably right:

In truth, apart from low ratings, I’m not really sure what tanked Testees.  Maybe it’s one of those rare cases where the public decided it wasn’t really funny enough to keep watching.  Though I wonder if maybe it had something to do with the fact that it followed Sunny.  Since Sunny manages to stay on the air thanks to its devoted cult following, it’s possible that those people that stuck around to watch Testees afterwards just weren’t big enough numbers to keep it going.  Whatever the case, I can’t say I miss its presence on my TV screen very much.

So, should it be back on the air? if you couldn’t tell from the above, no.  It’s just not funny enough to warrant another season, and I really don’t think the show’s premise is enough to support it forever either.  I haven’t seen much of Canadian comedy, but I know it produced some really hilarious comic actors (John Candy and Rick Moranis spring to mind).  I’m not sure if Testees is indicative of the kind of sitcoms on TV in Canada these days, but if it is, I will not be tuning into those channels next time I visit Niagra Falls.

Come back next time, when I’ll be covering the super short-lived show Do Not Disturb!  Hey, at least the misery will be brief.