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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The Light from the TV Shows: Taking a Gander at the 2012-2013 Season

Sure, the kick-off of the 2011-2012 TV season is still about four months away, give or take, but it’s never too soon to start getting excited about the new shows that will be gracing the broadcast networks come the fall…or to start placing bets on which ones will be the first to be cancelled. I’m keeping my mouth shut on both topics for the time being, but I have no doubt that most folks who check out these network-provided plot synopses and trailers won’t hesitate for a moment to offer up their opinions, so I look forward to reading what ya’ll have to say about what’s coming up…

ABC

666 Park Avenue (Sun., 10–11PM): At the ominous address of 666 Park Avenue, anything you desire can be yours. Everyone has needs, desires and ambition. For the residents of The Drake, these will all be met, courtesy of the building’s mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn). But every Faustian contract comes with a price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, are offered the opportunity to manage the historic building, they not only fall prey to the machinations of Doran and his mysterious wife, Olivia (Vanessa Williams), but unwittingly begin to experience the shadowy, supernatural forces within the building that imprison and endanger the lives of the residents inside. Sexy, seductive and inviting, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its residents, tempting them through their ambitions and desires, in this chilling new drama that’s home to an epic struggle of good versus evil.

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