When Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) found a great deal on a house in the suburbs for his family, it seemed a little too good to be true. Turns out, that’s exactly what it is, because it isn’t long before the Weavers learn that the entire neighborhood is populated by aliens! Yes, literal aliens from outer space. How do the Weavers cope with discovering other life forms in their own backyard? Well, you can find out in The Neighbors – The Complete First Season, a three-disc DVD recently released by ABC.
The Neighbors premiered last fall to critical derision. I admit, I was on that bandwagon, merely sticking a four-sentence quickie review in a list, not even granting it a full article. It was cheesy, the aliens were very goofy, and there didn’t seem to be any realism to it at all. For instance, how can the aliens, who aren’t at all schooled in Earth customs and don’t really attempt to hide, live for ten years on our planet without being discovered?
But once you get used to the very unique tone of the show, it quickly begins to grown on you. You can forget about why the police didn’t notice a whole development selling at once, and instead enjoy a dance number or confusion about dating. The holiday episodes, in particular, address whole new levels of confusion in unexpected ways. And by the end of the season, despite less-than-stellar ratings threatening cancellation, a number of fans had been made, myself among them, who couldn’t wait to see what zany trouble these characters would get into next.
A lot of the credit goes to the actors involved in the project, who created two fantastic families, the of which interactions between them are the core of the series. Toks Olagundoye is absolutely phenomenal as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the naive, earnest, compassionate, loyal extraterrestrial matriarch who likes human ways, and rebels against her husband’s strict rule. Said husband, Larry Bird (Simon Templeman), is more bumbling, resisting integration, even though he has no desire to go home either. Elder son Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) is soon smitten with the Weaver’s daughter, Amber (Clara Mamet), which means Larry is fighting change from two sides. Thankfully, Larry has younger son, Dick Butkus (Ian Patrick), who would happily follow in his father’s footsteps.
As you may have noticed, each of these family members has the name of a famous athlete (including last names), and they are a multi-racial family, with a British father, African-American mother, Asian teenager, and fair-skinned boy. That’s what the crux of the issues, which result in much humor, are with the aliens: they know about Earth, but don’t understand how it fits together.
Equal credit must be given to the performers portraying the Weavers, who are very relatable, and roll with the punches as best as one can expect them to. Marty takes Larry under his wing, whether Larry wants to actually pay attention or not. Jackie becomes fast friends with Marty’s wife, Debbie (Jami Gertz), a source of inspiration to the visitor. And the younger Weaver children, Max (Max Charles) and Abby (Isabella Cramp), quickly adapt as kids do, even if they have trouble getting Dick to engage in childish activities.
In short, The Neighbors is a surprising winner, and if you missed it the first time around, as many did, The Complete First Season may be a great way to catch up in a weekend binge. Despite the utter lack of bonus features, only a gag reel and deleted scenes, which seem the bare minimum, I enjoy the episodes quite a bit, and recommend this set as a piece of fresh, different, dare I say out-of-this-world, comedy.
The Neighbors – The Complete First Season is available now.