Genre: Comedy | Sci-Fi
Creator: Dan Fogelman
Original Broadcast Network: ABC
Run time: Approximately 506 minutes (22 episodes)
Release date: September 24, 2013
Cast: Jami Gertz (“Debbie Weaver”), Lenny Venito (“Marty Weaver”), Simon Templeman (“Larry Bird”), Toks Olagundoye (“Jackie Joyner-Kersee”), Clara Mamet (“Amber Weaver”), Tim Jo (“Reggie Jackson”), Ian Patrick (“Dick Butkus”), Max Charles (“Charles Weaver”) and Isabella Cramp (“Abby Weaver”).
The Weaver family moved from the city to the suburbs only to discover that their neighbors are aliens. From Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love, the writer of Cars, and Tangled) comes this new comedy about close encounters of the ultimate kind, in New Jersey. Own ABC’s The Neighbors: The Complete First Season on 3-Disc DVD on September 24th, 2013.
Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) just wants the best for his wife Debbie (Jami Gertz) and their three kids. That’s why he’s moving them to Hidden Hills, New Jersey, a gated community complete with its own golf course. Marty is certain that their new home will be a dream come true. And then, they meet the neighbors. After Debbie and Marty frantically try to make sense of the weird neighbors (Very European? A cult? Amish athletes?), they discover that the entire Hidden Hills community is comprised of aliens from the planet Zabvron, Turns out the Zabvronians have been holed up in Hidden Hills for the past 10 years, awaiting instructions from back home. And the Weavers are the first humans who have ever lived amongst them.
Most current comedies are mean. They feature characters with attributes that we either exhibit ourselves or we have seen, crank them up one notch, then point out how awful/ridiculous they are. Presumably we’re expected to laugh at them because we are relieved that we aren’t those people, or because we are mortified that we have somehow been found out. It’s mean. “Funny” is a matter of taste just like all subjective preferences are a matter a taste. I don’t find “mean humor” funny. I find it mean. And for the most part, pretty boring.
What I do find funny is the absurd. Attributes that aren’t cranked up one notch, but cranked up fifty notches. Sure some of it is too silly to be funny, but at least it isn’t mean. Think Monty Python. Steve Martin’s standup routines. PeeWee’s Playhouse. Better Off Ted just a few years ago. And now, The Neighbors.
The thing that’s particularly clever about The Neighbors is that it starts with a standard setup for mean and potentially boring family comedy about the Weavers, but turns it into the absurd thanks to their ridiculous, odd, brilliant neighbors, who have no experience with and limited knowledge of the human condition.
Here’s a nice example. It’s the seemingly obligatory “dealing with death” episode that in other comedies is supposed to be funny because it points out our discomfort with the subject. Take that idea, and the way a mean comedy would deal with it, and crank it up:
If it was just the Weavers, it would be the uncomfortable part that’s supposed to make us laugh. With the aliens, taking the subject and making it absurd makes it funny. And of course so do the little comments that Larry and Jackie make about sex. It’s those little touches that add a nice twist, and take The Neighbors from Mean to Absurd to Absurd-With-a-Wink, and that makes it a delight.
It isn’t a constant riotous laughfest, but when the humor isn’t hitting it completely on the mark, it’s silly, which is still better than most other comedies. It is never stupid. It is always, at a minimum, fun, and makes me happy.
The writers, cast, directors, and production in general all do an excellent job and should be commended. It’s easiest to give kudos to the actors since they’re the ones we see, and for this series the most obvious best work is done by the two women, Jami Gertz and Toks Olagundoye; they are hilarious. Many thanks, though, to everyone involved in the show.
As with all TV series, The Neighbors is even better without commercial breaks. Especially for half-hour format shows, being able to watch without interruption, without even the interruption of fast forwarding past commercials, is absolutely recommended. And since The Neighbors is a major network series, a full season on DVD means 22 episodes, not the skimpy 6-12 episodes of a cable series.
Which just about makes up for the minimal bonus features. There are only two: a gag reel, and deleted scenes. I would have loved even one commentary with maybe the showrunner and a director. I would love to listen to them crack up as they watch the show, and talk about what worked and what didn’t. Ah well. The gag reel is fairly long, and gives the spotlight to each of the actors one at a time. It isn’t as funny as the show. And the deleted scenes are cool, but I’m not usually much of a fan of those. Still, it’s nice that any bonus features are included at all, so thanks for those.
The packaging is standard, and the index of episodes (including titles) is printed on the inside of the case. The bonus features are all on the third disc, so there’s no confusion there. All in all, it’s a satisfying presentation.
One more thing that simply must be pointed out about Season 1 of this series is the original song that was written for the episode when the Zabrovians sneak away from their little community and see their first Broadway show. The song was written by Alan Menken, who has been composer on several Disney productions. You know, like Aladdin. And this got him an Emmy nomination:
I love The Neighbors. It’s so great to find a half-hour comedy that actually makes me laugh. It’s a treat. Get it.
I give The Neighbors: The Complete First Season Four Out of Five Stars.
The Neighbors: The Complete First Season is available now from Amazon; here’s the link: