The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer (// pə-FY-fər) is an American sitcom that aired on UPN in 1998. Before it was even debuted, the series set off a storm of controversy because of a perceived light-hearted take on the issue of American slavery.
|The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer|
|Directed by||Matthew Diamond|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||9 (5 unaired)|
|Cinematography||George La Fountaine Sr.|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
Paramount Network Television
|Original release||October 5– October 28, 1998|
A black English nobleman named Desmond Pfeiffer, chased out of England due to gambling debts, becomes President Abraham Lincoln's valet. In the show, he serves as the intelligent and erudite backbone of a Civil War-era White House populated by louts and drunkards.
- Chi McBride as Desmond Pfeiffer, Black English gentleman serving as President Lincoln's butler
- Dann Florek as Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
- Christine Estabrook as Mary Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln's wife
- Max Baker as Nibblet, Pfeiffer's assistant
- Kelly Connell as Ulysses S. Grant, General of the United States Army
Before the series' premiere, several African American activist groups, including the Los Angeles area NAACP, protested against the premise of the series. On September 24, 1998, a protest against the series was held outside Paramount Studios. Five days later, UPN released a statement regarding the controversy and stated that the network planned on delaying the controversial pilot episode (which never aired) and would instead air an alternate episode in its place. The first episode of the series aired on October 5, 1998, ranking 116th out of 125 television programs for that week. Desmond Pfeiffer was removed from UPN's schedule on October 24 and, after airing one episode two days after being removed from UPN's lineup, was canceled.
In 2002, TV Guide listed the show as the eleventh-worst TV series ever, and in 2010 TV Guide Network listed the show at #15 on their list of 25 Biggest TV Blunders. Film Threat's Phil Hall gave the show a positive review, writing, "Today, the show is remembered (barely) as a bizarre flop – but after watching a pair of episodes that are currently available for YouTube viewing, I would be bold enough to declare that "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" deserves a new consideration. [...] If you have the patience for crass, innuendo-laced, no-taste bawdy comedy, you will certainly find yourself laughing out loud over this series."
The series was alluded to multiple times in the unaired pilot episode of Clerks: The Animated Series, "Leonardo Leonardo Returns and Dante Has an Important Decision to Make", which featured Dante and Randal drawing inspiration from a non-existent episode of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, which Randal describes as "classic Pfeiffer".
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1||"A.O.L.: Abe On-Line"||October 5, 1998|
|Lincoln engages in "telegraph sex" with a woman he's never seen.|
|2||"Up, Up and Away"||October 12, 1998|
Desmond, Nibblet and the President wind up trapped behind enemy lines after a freak accident with an observation balloon, and President Lincoln must dress in drag to escape Southern territory. Meanwhile, General Grant tries sobriety.Guest stars: Curtis Armstrong and Sherman Hemsley
|3||"Saving Mr. Lincoln"||October 19, 1998|
|When Lincoln falls ill before a meeting with Queen Victoria, Mary Todd decides to hire a body double to impersonate the president. Little does the body double know that she's got another use in mind for him.|
|4||"Once Upon a Mistress"||October 26, 1998|
|When foreign dignitaries bring their mistresses to visit, President Lincoln finds temptation in a gift from a foreign dignitary. Meanwhile, Nibblet concocts a tonic for Mary's migraines.|
|After managing to get himself hired as President Lincoln's butler, Desmond Pfeiffer schemes to return to his native England.|
|When Confederate soldiers kidnap Mrs. Lincoln, Grant retaliates by kidnapping Robert E. Lee's wife.|
|9||"Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"||Unaired|
- Millner, Denene (1998-09-20). "A Racial TV Battle: Blacks Rip Sitcom About Lincoln Butler That Find Humor in Slavery". nydailynews.com. Archived from the original on 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "Q & A: The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, Whodunnit?". tvobscurities.com. 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 181. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
- "Breaking News - TV Guide Network's "25 Biggest TV Blunders" Special Delivers 3.3 Million Viewers". thefutoncritic.com. 2010-03-02. Retrieved 2010-03-10.