The Neighbors | TV review
When science fiction meets comedy, it often means one thing: wacky aliens. Whether it's 3rd Rock From the Sun, Mork & Mindy or ALF, the hilarity of visitors from another planet negotiating everyday life has been tapped for humor many times. So, what does The Neighbors, the latest entry into this comic subgenre, bring to this well-worn territory? The answer, unfortunately, is nothing of note.
Ten years ago, a group of aliens from the planet Zabvron came to Earth and bought out a subdivision full of townhomes. Due to technical complications, they have been unable to contact their home planet since then. When a pair of the Zabvronians decides to return home on their own, they sell their house to the human Weaver family, thus paving the way for wacky comic high jinks. Despite having lived on Earth for a decade, the aliens have sequestered themselves in their quiet subdivision and managed to avoid any contact with the rest of the humanity, and it isn't long before their cover is blown and they are forced to reveal their identity to the Weavers. Of course, there were signs that something was off about these new neighbors to begin with. For starters, they all carry the full names of sports figures. The leader calls himself Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) and his wife his Jackie Joyner Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), with children Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) and Dick Butkus (Ian Patrick). Everyone in the community wears a similar uniform of polo shirts and khakis. No one eats food and their attempts to provide it for the Weavers are incredibly awkward. It's clear that the Zabvronians have a lot to learn about humanity.
As goofy as the concept of a community filled with extraterrestrials is, there are interesting opportunities for satire about the alienating qualities of suburban subdivision life. But The Neighbors isn't interested in anything so sophisticated. The humor here is all lowbrow, much of it involving snickering over the name Dick Butkus (and that's done by the humans). It's a script that sounds as if it was written by a five-year-old who just discovered the hilarity of genitals and bodily functions. Nothing interesting is done with the alien characters, they're merely there to be pointed and laughed at for being strange. Much of the qualities that define the Zabvronians exist purely to serve punchlines, not to build them as characters. The humans face a different fate, seemingly plucked from a box of stale family sitcom archetypes. There's the doltish husband (Lenny Venito), the nagging wife (Jami Gertz), whiny teenager (Clara Mamet) and precocious children (Max Charles and Isabella Cramp). All of these characters have been driven into the ground in countless other sitcoms and, if possible, some of them might even be more vapid and annoying in The Neighbors.
The combination of old sitcom tropes and unfunny lowbrow humor makes The Neighbors one of the most abysmal new shows of the fall.
The Neighbors airs Wednesdays 8:30pm on ABC.