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It Has Likely Ended for The Neighbors

The Neighbors poster

Written by : published Friday 29th March 2013

The freshman season finale of ABC's wacky sitcom The Neighbors aired this week. Entitled "It Has Begun...," the episode takes the surprising tack of setting up a cliffhanger and plot for next season. Surprising, because the ratings have never been stellar, and the chances for renewal aren't good. Though, TVLine.com has upgraded The Neighbors from "A long shot" to "Could go either way," so I guess it has a chance.

The Neighbors seems destined to become a forgotten footnote in the annals of television history. It has an interesting concept, a middle-class New Jersey family moves into a suburb populated by aliens, and after becoming friends, help the extra-terrestrials adapt to our planet. But it's utter oddness, including the childlike behavior of the adults in the situation, the way all of the aliens always dress the same, and that they are named after sports stars, is enough to turn many off.

I actually find the series charming, in a way. All of the performers in the show completely sell the concept. It may not be an example of the highest, smartest comedy writing, but it's a feel-good series that feels authentic for what it is. The Weaver family, the humans at the center, have bonded with the Bird-Kersees, the main aliens, and it's become a tale of two different groups finding commonality and friendship against all odds.

"It Has Begun..." does what The Neighbors so often do: it sends Marty (Lenny Venito) and Debbie (Jami Gertz) Weaver off to do a thing, this time visit Atlantic City, with Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) and his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye) in toe. Marty finds out Larry can see through cards and beat the casino at its own games, so they have fun. Jackie laments that she never got a traditional wedding, so Debbie helps her throw an impromptu one.

There are plenty of funny moments, such as when Jackie thinks the Maid of Honor should be dressed as an actual maid, or when Larry asks Marty "How poor are you?" after Marty gets upset at losing $5,000. But it's really a tale of four friends, at its heart, who help each other with life's experiences, and learn from one another.

This season finale decides to get a little meta in its humor, which seems a natural adaptation, given the silly tone. Larry and Jackie acknowledge the formula the show works on out loud at the beginning, Debbie expresses the opinion that they have the kinks worked out on how they should interact, and all four express the hope to spend more seasons, er, years together. If only more people would watch, they just might have the chance...

But besides the kookiness, which is entertaining, "It Has Begun..." lends a level of heart to the proceedings. The adults have it, when they bond and express their friendship. Reggie (Tim Jo) has it when, faced with leaving Earth behind, he chooses Amber (Clara Mamet) over his girlfriend, and they finally kiss. And Dick (Ian Patrick) shows a little when questioning where his loyalties lie, as do Max (Max Charles) and Abby (Isabella Cramp) in hoping their aliens friends will stay.

That's why I like The Neighbors. Not necessarily because of the aliens, but because of the two families. The rest of the neighborhood has taken a back seat to the two main clans, and should everyone else have gone home in "It Has Begun...," I would not have been disappointed. In fact, it might have really worked, as Larry and Jackie would need to depend on the Weavers even more.

I think the reason the show doesn't do that is because the characters are currently isolated in their gated community. It's hard enough not to be found out, as careless as they are, but for it to be believable that Earthlings move into the area and don't notice the alien behavior is just stretching the show too far, further than it has already stretched. Also, for the aliens to be publicly exposed would send the show in a darker direction, and take away the specialness it currently has.

Not that The Neighbors can't handle deep emotion. The bit this week where the Commander arrives, the aliens gather to leave, Reggie chooses Amber, and the adults flee the wedding to rush home is moving and powerful. It may be the single best sequence the show has done.

But it thrives on the comedy. The ending cap where the Commander (played by Star Trek's George Takei) banters with his subordinate (played by Star Wars' Mark Hamill), and they rip on the actors' respective franchises, is very funny and most welcome. And learning that Jackie's alien name is Debbie may not make sense, but elicits a chuckle.

The only real complaint I have about "It Has Begun" is the plot hole of what the Commander is up to. He supposedly tries to reach out to Larry through toast messages, then tells Dick not to tell Larry he's coming, then is annoyed when he shows up and has to wait for Larry. Does he want Larry to know he's coming or not? And why does he bring an army if he's not going to force Larry to leave? I feel like an artificial layer of suspense is added on top of the tale they are trying to tell, and it ends up confusing things.

I will be disappointed if we don't find out what the Commander is trying to warn Larry of. This opens the door to an interesting new direction in a possible second season. For that reason, and because I want to see the actors playing aliens continue their brilliant work, I hope The Neighbors gets renewed.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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