The best thing we can say about “The Neighbors”
is that ABC’s new alien sitcom isn’t as offensive as last season’s “Work It” (about unemployed men dressing as women to find jobs).
But the fact that the network greenlit this project and giving it a special premiere tonight (Sept. 26) after “Modern Family” — one of network TV’s smartest comedies — is a slap in the face to television audiences.
Even more baffling is that “The Neighbors” comes from Dan Fogelman, writer of the wonderful “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Cars.”
When asked how he made the transition from sophisticated to stupid (maybe not in those exact words), Fogelman said he’s wanted to make a show that “an entire family could watch together.”
Fair enough, but “Modern Family” manages to do the same without canned laughs and appealing to the lowest common denominator: in this case, 6-year-olds. And honestly, there are some gags, like aliens having their version of sex in front of their neighbors, that really aren’t appropriate for youngsters — sure, there isn’t physical contact, but their orgasms are very real.
Fogelman also describes “Neighbors” as “very contemporary in its humor,” although we think its expiration date passed long before good alien-integration family sitcoms like “Alf” and “3rd Rock From the Sun” took to the airwaves.
Unless you count the children, which we won’t, the actors do the best with the scripts they’re given. Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito ham it up as the Weavers, the first Earthlings to move into a gated community previously inhabited by aliens, all named after sports icons — a conceit that gets old faster than Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Which happens to be the name of their next door neighbor (Toks Olagundoye ), married to Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). After a lot of screaming, the foursome and their kids quickly become besties, and predictable hijinks and cultural misunderstandings ensue.
And if you like screaming, be sure to tune into the second episode, which we’ve screened as well (remember, so you don’t have to): The Weavers’ young daughter arbitrarily screams to annoy her brother. Well done, young miss: it sure annoys us!
Fogelman said “the hope of the show is that it’s timeless” — but if you value your time, you’ll change the channel after “Modern Family.”
“The Neighbors” premieres tonight (Sept. 26) at 9:30 p.m. on ABC. (Next week, Oct. 3, it moves to its regular time, 8:30, following “The Middle.”)