The Light from the TV Shows: TV Comfort Food for Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Eve ’round Bullz-Eye HQ as I write this piece, which means that anyone here who’s still working wants to be doing it about as little as I do. In fact, the biggest reason I’ve waited this long into the evening to get moving on the piece is because I’ve spent way too much of my day watching a marathon of a certain series on the USA Network…which brings me to the premise of this week’s column. Lord knows it’s become a small-screen staple for networks to offer programming which provides the one-two punch of 1) allowing the employees of these networks to do as little work as possible, and 2) inspiring all those TV viewers with Tryptophan surging through their veins to set down their remotes and bask in as many episodes of their favorite show as their holiday weekend downtime will allow.

Now you’re wondering what marathons you can catch this weekend, right? Well, there are a few good ones out there, to be sure:

Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America (Travel Channel, 9am-3pm Thursday)
ALF (The Hub, 3pm Thursday – 3am Friday)
The Andy Griffith Show (TV Land 4pm-9pm Thursday & Friday)
Behind the Music (VH1, 2pm-10pm Friday)
Beverly Hills, 90210 (SOAPNet, 8pm Friday – 1am Saturday)
Breaking Amish (TLC, 11am-9pm Saturday)
Castle (TNT, 10am-11pm Thursday)
Chef Race: UK vs. US (BBC America, 8am-5pm Sunday)
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The Light from the TV Shows: It’s Time to Meet “The Neighbors”

Unto each generation, there must come at least one sitcom about aliens coming to Earth and trying to learn the ins and outs of humanity. It’s a trend which began in the 1960s with “My Favorite Martian,” and it has continued through the ‘70s (“Mork and Mindy”), ‘80s (“ALF”), ‘90s (“3rd Rock from the Sun”), and even the ‘00s (“My Hero”), and rather than leave us sitting on the edge of our seat for the better part of the decade, ABC has jumped into the fray early and provided us with the requisite entry for the ‘10s: “The Neighbors,” which premieres tonight at 9:30 PM.

Here’s the premise, straight from the ABC press release:

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.

The residents of Hidden Hills are a little… different. The Weavers have barely unpacked when 20 of their new neighbors show up in the driveway, standing in a triangle formation, each holding an identical cherry pie. Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) introduces himself as the “leader” of the community. Then he presents his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), and their two sons (yes, they’re named after famous athletes – Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson). As Debbie and Marty frantically try to make sense of the weird neighbors – 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.

At first the Weavers are ready to cut and run. But the aliens seem harmless enough. And there is a lot of closet space… So they decide to stay and help their new neighbors adapt to life on this confusing planet we call home. But as the Weavers and the aliens face the struggles of everyday life together, they discover that some things – the ups and downs of marriage, the desire to be a good parent and raise a happy family – are universal, intergalactic even. And the Weavers realize they’ve found an ally in the family next door… even if they do cry out of their ears.

When people have asked me to cite my favorite new shows of the season, I won’t pretend that “The Neighbors” has been at the top of my list, but I have found that I can rarely finish such a conversation without at least bringing it up. Not because I like it, although I do, but because my seven-year-old daughter absolutely freaking loves it…like, to the point where she has watched my advance DVD of the pilot three times now, almost lost her mind when I told her that ABC had provided me with an online screener of the second episode, and demanded that I add it to the TiVo queue immediately.

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