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Series / The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer

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"The Civil War defined America.
Both the good and the bad.
It was the crossroads of our being,
and it was a hell of a crossroads."
Shelby Foote

"Who would have thought there was a comedy in all that?
Well, we did.
We were fortunate to acquire an extraordinary historical document.
The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeifferthe "P" isn't silent—chronicles the life and times of a member of President Lincoln's staff at the height of the Civil War.
Pfeiffer, an English nobleman, claimed that he and his trusted man-servant were forced by rival noblemen to flee to America due to a dispute over the queen... All 5 of them.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Everything that follows actually happened... You can't prove that it didn't."
— The opening preamble to the series

The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer was a very short-lived and controversial sitcom on UPN that only aired four episodes, all of which were in October 1998. Starred Chi McBride as the titular character, a Servile Snarker Black English nobleman and butler who is kidnapped and sent to America on a slave ship, then becomes a valet in Abraham Lincoln's White House. He then becomes more competent than everyone else, who are depicted as being comparatively stupider. Think Benson set in the Civil War era.

The series is extremely rare, never having been released on home video or in reruns, due to its extremely controversial nature. The NAACP led a protest against the show, citing its arguably light-hearted portrayal of the enslavement of African-Americans, and forced the pilot episode to be pulled. The now-defunct cable network Trio was set to rerun the show during the Turn of the Millennium as part of its "Flops" block (which also reran Cop Rock, Pink Lady and Jeff and My Mother the Car), but backed out due to the show's Unfortunate Implications. Appropriately enough, for a show that was both critically panned and low rated (the reason it was cancelled), it was proudly advertised with the tagline "Critics hate it."


The series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Historical Downgrade: This show turns Honest Abe into a perverted buffoon, likely as a parody of Bill Clinton.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Desmond Pfeiffer's surname is pronounced "Puh-feiffer" because the P isn't silent.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: As Desmond enters America, he seems to lose his English accent.
  • Secret History: The series' main idea is that the Lincoln administration was much more stupid than history wishes to remember it.
  • Servile Snarker: Desmond Pfeiffer.
  • Straight Man: Desmond.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Not something spoken in the show, but when Desmond Pfeiffer enters the White House, it is exactly what he is when surrounded by President Lincoln's staff.
  • Take That!: One to the Clinton administration in light of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in the first episode, "AOL: Abe Online".
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  • Your Cheating Heart: The episode "AOL: Abe Online" has Abraham Lincoln of all people using the new technology of telegrams to have a long-distance affair with another woman and then arrange a meeting in a bar with her. Hilarity Ensues when it turns out that the woman was Abe's own wife who was using a pseudonym and she thought she was having an affair with another man.


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