Tag Archives: The Neighbors

Fall 2012 Review: The Neighbors

9 Oct

The Neighbors is about a classic sitcom family (you know the type – largely functional and loving but having about one major disagreement per episode) which moves to a suburban development that turns out to be filled with friendly but super weird aliens.  It’s important to note first, that it’s not a very good show, but second that it’s uniquely unlike any other bad show that has debuted in the past few years.  It’s a show out of it’s decade; it feels much more like something from the ‘90s or ‘80s, and I don’t mean because of a laugh track or a multi-camera format, both of which it doesn’t have.  Rather, it’s just incredibly silly and wacky, like several old alien comedies, and relies on a lot of sight gags.

Most bad sitcoms largely consist of attempts to mix and match a combination of the classic multi-camera family/workplace sitcoms from the ‘90s and ‘80s (The Cosby Show), the edge, bawdiness and pop culture references of hipper successful comedies (The Office), and the youngish-friends-hanging-out boom that started from Friends (Friends).

The Neighbors doesn’t really take much from any of these, except from the classic family sitcom, with the family dynamics (men want to be men, unruly petulant teenager, woman are tired of not being listened to and respected).  It’s not edgy.  It’s not absurdist.  It’s silly.  It’s men are like men, alien or human, while woman are like woman, alien or human.  There’s a crazy amount of physical comedy and sight gags just based on the aliens being weird and not human like.  It’s an heir to the long but largely dormant tradition of silly aliens-in-suburbia comedy, including 3rd Rock from the Sun, Coneheads, Mork and Mindy, Alf.

They’ve got lots of kooky alien quirks.  Basically, a segment of an alien civilization is trapped on earth and all collectively moved into a New Jersey housing development.  The primary alien family has humorously named themselves after American sports stars (Larry Bird, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Reggie Jackson, Dick Butkus), and speak in all sorts of different accents.  They actually look like slimy green creatures, which they turn into when they clap their hands a certain way.  They travel around in weird colored clothing on golf carts, and like most classic humorous aliens, try to imitate humans, without entirely getting it right – they all bring the new family pies to welcome them in, leaving dozens of pies.  They read instead of eating, and have sex by staring at each other and raising their hands up.  They throw dishes out the window instead of cleaning them.  Aliens are super weird, guys.

It’s not subversive.   It’s not even relevant.  There are different ways to take on aliens humorously.  Darker absurbism and biting social commentary seem like they would be obvious possibilities, but silly is tried and true.  The humor is old-timey (or timeless, if you want to take that view) – the main plot of the first episode involves the human husband being jealous that the alien husband orders around his wife, while the human wife encourages the alien wife to stand up for herself.

Note:  Though I’ve barely talked about the cast here, the human father is Zeljko Ivanek honoree Lenny Venito.

Will I watch it again?  Nah, but I’m glad I did once; it’s not a success or good but it’s a breath of different air, which, well, it’s the kind of show that’s I’ll explain the pilot to someone humorously in a couple of years, whereas there will never be any reason to remember Partners.

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Fall 2012 Previews and Predictions: ABC

13 Sep

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

ABC next.  The network sits pretty and in the middle of the pack, and has five new shows on offer this fall.

666 Park Avenue – 9/30 

An evil apartment building.  Yes, that is what the show seems to be about.  Already, the season grows less exciting.  Lost veteran Terry O’Quinn (John Locke) portrays the evil owner of the building, married to Vanessa Williams.  The series premise is set when a couple, not  presumably knowing the evil nature of this building, moves in and takes over roles as co-managers of the building.  The building is filled with a bunch of supernatural shit, and it’s goal is probably to be something like Lost meets Revenge (high class trashy soapy fun of Revenge with the supernatural aspects of Lost).

Verdict:  13- Revenge against some odds worked both critically and commercially, but I’m taking the under on lightning striking twice.  I have no idea what to expect in terms of the quality of this program, but but I don’t have a lot of faith; while hardly a crazy obvious cancellation (where are you, Allen Gregory?) some shows have got to go.

Last Resort – 9/27

The Shield’s Shawn Ryan (yes, I know I need to go back and watch The Shield – it and Dr. Who are my top 2 long term big TV projects that hopefully will happen one day) brings us this kind of cool set up about a US Navy submarine which gets an order to set off a nuclear bomb, and defies it, setting up at an island until they can figure out how to get back home without being considered traitors.  I’m calling this Crimson Tide meets Lost (yes, nearly every new ABC hour long program can be described as something meets Lost).  It starts the estimable Andre Braugher of Homicide and Men of a Certain Age and Scott Speedman of many Underworld films as the top two in command of the sub.

Verdict:  14+  I almost put renewal.  I really wanted to, but  these high concept shows have so much going against them that lower their chances of success.  Without quickly picking up both a huge amount of critical buzz (which is enough to initially give concepts juice on premium cable, but not so much on networks) and a minimum of commercial interest, grand high concept serial series (which I think this is?) have a difficult go of it (Lonestar, anybody).  I’m only picking 14+ over 13- now because of the Shawn Ryan name.  I hope it will be good though.

The Neighbors – 9/26

Classic that-guy (and Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame member) Lenny Venito and ‘80s semi-brat pack actress Jami Gertz are a couple who move into a New Jersey housing complex, and find out their neighbors are aliens who name themselves after American sports legends and have weird Conehead-like alien tendencies.  I’m honestly not sure what to think; it sounds ridiculous and cartoonish, but there’s a number of different tones the show could be going for here; out and out silly, corny, absurdist, cheeky and over the top.   It’s easy to lean towards this show being bad, but it’s hard to say for sure.

Verdict:  14+  I have no fucking clue.  This could be a classic 13-, it’s honestly one of the more obviously 13- sounding shows on this list.  However, I’ve briefly come across articles that the show is better than I expected it to be, and there’s this off and unlikely chance it could be a weird quirky success.  I’d still bet against it, but compromising here.

Nashville – 10/10

One of the shows I’m most excited about, it sounds like Country Strong the show (actually that’s not the comparison I should be making right after saying I’m excited about the show) on the surface, about a middle aged female country superstar (played by the great Tammy Taylor FNL actress Connie Britton) and an up and comer who wants the spotlight on her, played by Heroes’ Hayden Panettiere.  Plus, there’s I don’t know, a bunch of country music?  I don’t know what the natural arc of this show is, and maybe that’s a bad thing, but also maybe that’s why it’s interesting.

Verdict:  Renewal – This and Last Resort were probably the two shows that sounded most promising to me from the basic descriptions.  Last Resort, well, I’m a sucker for at least being interested in all shows like that, but few are better than mediocre, and most fail.  Nashville, however doesn’t fit that pattern.  I don’t care all that much about country music, so it’s not that angle, and I’m not sure what my good reason for interest aside the fact that it stars Connie Britton and it sounds, well, different.  I think we’ll know within a few episodes whether this show is sticking around.

Malibu Country – 11/2

Reba is back, baby.  You knew TV couldn’t be without her for too long.  Reba, a Nashville resident, naturally, and playing a character named Reba, finds her husband cheating and moves from Nashville to, you guessed it, Malibu, California.  Her mom is played by Lily Tomlin, which tells you how old Lily Tomlin is.  Oh, shocker, Reba plays a one-time country music singer, who is now trying to reignite her career.

Verdict:  13- This looks like the type of predictable utterly forgettable sitcom Then again, Reba ran for six seasons (wow, is the right answer), so who am I to say it can’t happen again.  I’ll say it though.  It’s probably not going to happen again.  This would be high up for me on the most likely 13 or less choices this year, though the relative success of Last Man Standing proves that I know nothing.