1 9 9 8 (USA)
4 (9) x 30 minute episodes
Accompanied by his ineffectual manservant, Niblet (Max Baker), black English nobleman Desmond Pfeiffer (Chi McBride) – the “P” isn’t silent so it’s pronounced “Puh-feiffer”- is chased out of his native country after racking up excessive gambling debts.
Upon arrival in Civil War America, he finds work as the butler for President Abraham Lincoln (Dann Florek), a fool, and his wife, Mary Todd (Christine Estabrook), a horny shrew. A drunken General Grant (Kelly Connell) lurched about.
Desmond’s diary provided the material for the series.
The series seemed preoccupied with sex. Most of the jokes were loosely based on problems real-life President Bill Clinton was having at the time over his extramarital dallying.
In one episode, Lincoln was having “telegraph sex” in the Oval Office (it turned out his secret lover was Mary) while paying little attention to the war effort. Desmond accused him of acting no better than a hillbilly from Arkansas.
Some of the best comedy is mined from painful truths – and American slavery is one of the most painful of all – but it requires intelligence and wit, neither of which were in abundant supply on this short-lived show.
This UPN sitcom was beset by problems even before it aired. The pilot episode – which included at least one joke about slavery, a blackface sequence and a cotton-picking gag – was pulled in favour of a later episode.
Several African American activist groups protested the premise outside Paramount Studios, leading to UPN pulling the plug after airing four episodes.
This amateurish swill is certainly a clear candidate for Worst Sitcom Ever.
Mary Todd Lincoln
Ulysses S. Grant