By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
7:11 PM CDT, September 25, 2012
Don't be afraid, "The Neighbors" means you no harm. ABC's new aliens-among-us sitcom traveled to our TVs simply to be silly.
Created by Dan Fogelman (the "Cars" movies), "The Neighbors" (8:30 p.m. Wednesday, ABC; 2 stars out of 4) revives an old storyline used in everything from the the "SNL" Coneheads sketch to "Third Rock from the Sun." It just doesn't do it as well.
Marty (Lenny Venito) and Debbie Weaver (Chicago native Jami Gertz) move with their three kids from New York to the gated suburban community of Hidden Hills, N.J., where the houses are pretty much identical, with manicured lawns and golf carts parked in the driveways. The Weavers' neighbors, too, seem to conform to a certain lifestyle. They dress the same, get nourishment from reading books and are all named after famous sports stars.
Turns out they are part of a marooned alien colony, headed by Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) and his mate, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye). While waiting to hear from their home planet of Zabvron, they've disguised themselves as humans. They've apparently never left their 'burb nor had cause to interact with humans--which seems fairly odd even for this oddball sitcom. Who hooked up their cable?
Anyway, the extraterrestrials' lack of contact with humans has resulted in their misinterpreting American life, customs and social manners in almost every way--which results in much of the show's attempts at humor. That, and the aliens' own customs and habits. I thought the show had exhausted its comedic possibilities in the first episode. The alien kids are named Reggie Jackson and Dick Butkus--there really isn't more funny to be mined from the names.
The second episode, however, surprised me. "Journey to the Center of the Mall," airing Oct. 3, finds Debbie interrogating the aliens about their intentions toward the human children. ("If we were to abduct your children, it certainly wouldn't be Max," Larry Bird deadpans about their brat.) The Weavers also take Larry's family to a nearby mall for a crazy day of school shopping.
I'm not going to say it was great. The metaphor that we're all a little strange when viewed by strangers is obvious, and the life lessons learned are standard sitcom fodder. But "The Neighbors" isn't as awful as I thought it would be. It's going for silly fun, and that's pretty much all it beams onto our screens.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on Show Patrol's Facebook page.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC