I originally subtitled this review of The Neighbors “I’m Glad My Family Doesn’t Fight.” It’s true–we really don’t fight that often, especially not when it comes to family gatherings like Thanksgiving. However, we also don’t invite people, and when we do eat with others, it’s usually at my grandmother’s house, where, again, we don’t fight. I reiterate what I’ve said before about identifying more with the extraterrestrials than the humans in this show, since, by most people, I’m basically considered one.
Enough about my life–I’m supposed to be talking about this episode, “Thanksgiving is for the Bird-Kersees,” possibly the first time we’ve heard what the Zabvronian family’s conjoined last name is. This marks a big development. In fact, this development in the writing is one of the things that illustrates the new confidence I’m hearing in the dialogue. It seems like the scripts have finally gelled and the writers are getting unified in the story they want to tell. We’ve finally veered out of “Let’s have them learn from each other each week” to “Let’s put them in the same situation and see how they cope without direction.” The latter makes for better comedy, more honest learning moments, better character beats and more concentration on simple, touching moments. I was really excited while watching this episode, to say the least.
Okay, so the actual storyline. The Weavers are gearing up for Thanksgiving, which is a figurative family bloodbath for them. Marty’s parents come over each year, and each year Marty has to endure hardcore criticism from his dad, Dominick (Stacy Keach) and Debbie has to sustain herself through the critiques of Marty’s mother, Theresa (Debra Mooney). Initially, Marty wasn’t going to invite his parents this year (and because of that, they decide to have fried turkey instead of baked), but somehow during his webcam chat with them–well, thanks to his dad acting jealous of his son’s new home–Marty demands they come over for Thanksgiving dinner. For once, he wants to show his dad up.
Meanwhile, Jackie is missing her family. However, it’s not like some of her family members are far away–her two sisters are in the neighborhood (one, played by Leslie Jordan, masquerading as a gay white man and the other, played by Carla Renata, masquerading as a sassy black woman). As Tim Jo said in his interview with TV Equals, Jackie’s sisters have been exiled to the far corner of the neighborhood after trying to overthrow (and kill) Larry. Dick and Reggie decide to cheer their mom up by releasing her sisters and having them join her for Thanksgiving dinner. Debbie, who feels for Jackie, invites her family to their home for the holiday.
It’s when everyone is all in the same house when the show starts getting really good. Basically, the rest of the second act is one (seemingly) continuous shot of everyone interacting–sometimes poorly–with each other, with Dick and Reggie acting as our eyes and ears. We see Theresa and Debbie arguing over fried turkey and the cleanliness of the house, Larry and Jackie arguing about the inclusion of Jackie’s sisters in the festivities, Marty and Dominick feuding over Dominick’s perfectionist parenting, and the kids and Amber beating up one of Theresa’s gifts to them–a terrible, ugly sweater.
Eventually, Theresa goes out to the car in a huff after Marty gets on to her for treating his wife like a doormat. Debbie does likewise to Dominick, before getting mad at Marty, who stomps upstairs in a huff. Dick is right to say “Thanksgiving sucks!” Their Thanksgiving does, anyway. I reiterate–I’m glad my family doesn’t fight. But, of course, the Weavers/Bird-Kersees Thanksgiving provides for great humor.
Dick, the little scene-stealer he is, joins Theresa in the car. His admiration for Debbie probably prompts him to talk sense into Theresa, telling her that Debbie is a great mother and wife. Theresa said it’s just been a pattern with mothers-in-laws in her family to get onto the wives in the family. It’s just the game, she says. Dick tells her to “change the game,” and change it she does. She finally approves of Debbie’s turkey.
It takes a little longer for Dominick to show Marty his softer side. He starts out by telling what seems to be a really mean story about Marty striking out in baseball as a kid. But when Marty’s parents are getting ready to go, Dominick is able to finish the story, saying that he admired the fact that Marty never gave up.
Larry also revokes Jackie’s sisters’ exile, seeing how unhappy it made her. They still want to try to kill him, but it seems like they everything might work out for them. Maybe. I hope they stay around.
In the end, Reggie and Dick did good. And Dick was proud of himself for changing the game.
I’d say this is one of the best episodes yet. I hope The Neighbors keep it up!