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The Neighbors:
The Complete First Season

Let us start with exactly what the producers of The Neighbors owned: the "aliens on earth" sitcom had a lot of hype surrounding a pilot that allegedly absolutely blew. Yet somehow, ABC and viewers knew that this show had potential, and gave it enough time to find its footing.

In fact, If you work your way backwards, The Neighbors would seem to be one of the funniest shows on network television. With a DVD set, you can actually do that.

But since I had the DVD set, I went back to the beginning. Maybe this way it has a glow from having experienced later, funnier episodes, but the pilot isn't terrible; it's just mediocre and largely unnecessary to understand the rest of the series.

It would have been better served by a '60s style theme song.

That's because while the pilot spends a lot of time being terribly on the nose with its jokes and working hard to establish its premise, the rest of the series relaxes into a strange rhythm all its own. By the third episode the balance starts shifting toward the funny. It becomes so confident in itself that near the end of the first season it pokes fun at 3rd Rock From The Sun, a spiritual ancestor.

Once the show gets past pointing out how different the aliens are and instead shifts to how much they want to fit in with Earth society, it becomes downright clever -- though of course it can't help but tread well-worn territory. It's a sitcom about suburbia, after all. The best episodes almost forget the neighbors are aliens and settle in on them just being weird.

But parallelling the human family of the Weavers (led by '80's heartthrob Jami Gertz) with the Zabvronians works, and The Neighbors still finds original material to mine. Stand-out episodes include "Larry Bird Presents an Oscar-Winning Film by Larry Bird," in which alien mother Jackie Joyner-Kersee (the wonderfully clipped Toks Olagundye) is inspired by The Blind Side to take in a wayward human child, followed by the Emmy-nominated "Sing Like a Larry Bird," aka the Musical Episode.

As a bonus, several episodes also feature Doug Jones in a role without any make-up, and I consider that a plus, letting the master monster portrayer of Guillermo Del Toro's dreams just ...act.

This DVD set is sparse on extras -- deleted scenes and a gag reel. They don't really add any insight, but who needs it? All you need to remember is The Neighbors didn't just get better, it got good.

Derek McCaw


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