There are bad sitcoms, and then there are bad sitcoms that simply depress. They're like a nauseating Disney ride called Existential Railroad that runs through the dark heart of American emptiness. Scripted versions of "The Jerry Springer Show," they are sound and fury signifying a headache.
Fox's "Do Not Disturb," which premieres tonight at 9:30 on Channel 25, is a sitcom that bombards you with a whole mess of loud, stupid, obvious, politically incorrect material, hoping it will make you forget about the pervasive pointlessness. It doesn't. Basically, the writers came up with 22 minutes of fat jokes, skinny jokes, Asian jokes, black jokes, boob jokes, and gay jokes, and then, lest they be accused of heartlessness and not plotting, tack on a moral at the end, a little pet after all the slapping.
The show is set at a New York hotel called The Inn, and it revolves around the staff's zany high jinks - always inauspicious. The people who work upstairs, notably Jerry O'Connell's general manager, are in constant conflict with the people who work downstairs, led by Niecy Nash's human-resources director. The class-warfare workplace setup has the feel of "Less Than Perfect," but this show makes me almost nostalgic for that 2002-06 sitcom.
The "Do Not Disturb" characters are stereotypes, of course. The gay guy makes gay jokes ("Why can't I be the wife," he moans after a tense phone call with his boyfriend), the anorexic blonde makes food jokes, and Nash's Rhonda gets all up in people's faces and threatens with such lines as, "Don't make a black woman take off her earrings." Nash, from "Reno 911," is a comic force to be reckoned with, but on this show she's undermined by the material.
The most nonstereotypical character is O'Connell's Neal. I couldn't figure out who Neal was supposed to be, and I wondered if O'Connell was having the same problem. Neal is a bizarre mixture of the persnickety and the womanizing, the brash and the uptight.
At one point, in conflict with Nash's Rhonda, he mocks her head-wagging "oh-no-you-didn't" attitude, although he seems to have a crush on her, too. Go figure. Or, rather, don't.