October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

UPN (Mondays, 9 p.m. ET)

We must label this new show “controversial” because African-American groups have condemned it for using the slavery era as sitcom fodder. But controversial does not imply thought-provoking. Desmond Pfeiffer is unabashedly dumb, farcical, tasteless and sophomoric (fresh-manic, in fact). The title character (Chi McBride), a black nobleman booted out of England along with his numskull manservant (Max Baker), becomes the butler-confidant of President Abraham Lincoln (Dann Florek), portrayed as having a clearly Clintonian obsession with sex. Need we add that Mary Todd Lincoln (Christine Estabrook) is a nutcase and Ulysses S. Grant (Kelly Connell) is a stumbling lush? Mel Brooks in his prime might have turned this concept into deliciously low comedy, but the laughs here are greatly outnumbered by groans.

Bottom Line: Another White House mess

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