The Neighbors “Pilot” Review

The Neighbors (ABC) "Pilot" Episode 1 (1)

If you’ve been waiting on a family-friendly show that also features sci-fi elements, The Neighbors is your go-to. Keep in mind that the key word here is family-friendly. Don’t come to this with your brain completely turned on to Falling Skies mode; it’s not that serious. I think if I had to compare this show to anything, I’d compare it to the ’90s TGIF lineup combined with Nickelodeon’s ’90s show about a stranded alien, The Journey of Allen Strange. 

The show is about the Weavers–Marty (Lenny Venito), his wife Debbie (Jami Gertz), their oldest daughter Amber (Clara Mamet), the middle child Max (Max Charles) and the youngest child, Abby (Isabella Cramp). They move from their cramped living space in inner city New Jersey to a home in the clean suburban development, Hidden Hills. Marty thinks he’s finally living out his father’s dream of having a home with marble countertops and a golf course, but what he doesn’t count on is moving his family into a community of stranded aliens, waiting for their people to contact them through the poopar, a disk-shaped object that has green, gooey insides. (I’m also assuming it’s spelled that way.) However, the charger has been left on the home planet.

The aliens, known as the Zabvronians, only dress in Hamptons-esque uniforms and do what their leader, Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) commands of them. Larry Bird’s wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye) is both faithful to him and long-suffering, seeing how he has gotten comfortable to bossing her around like the rest of their group. Their children are Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) and Dick Butkus (Ian Patrick).

Of course, the Weavers think Larry Bird and his family are strange, but the big secret is revealed when, in an attempt to show Max and Abby a cool trick, Max changes into his normal alien form.

Even though the Weavers are scared about living next to aliens at first, they eventually come to terms with the news after deciding not to rat the Zabvronians out to authorities. The second half of the show then delves into a fairly standard “fish out of water” type story, where the two families learn from each other. In this episode, Debbie  instills feministic fury into Jackie when it comes to Larry’s inattention. This fury gets translated into Larry getting kicked out of his house when disagreeing with Jackie about a way to recharge the poopar.

Jackie takes actions into her own hands by telling Dick to go to their garage to recharge the device. In Zabvronian society, only the youngest member of the family can recharge the poopar, but once they do, they would get sent to the future to be raised by their grandchildren, never to see their original family again. The show culminates with Jackie’s maternal instincts kicking in. She saves her son from his mission and destroys the poopar, even if it means the colony will never hear from their homeworld again. The two families become friends, and thus we have the set-up for the series.

We learn some interesting things in this episode, and I’m sure the mythology will continue to build when it comes to what Zabvronians can and can’t do. Here’s a short list of what we’ve learned about Zabvronians so far:

  • They’re green Creature  from the Blue Lagoon-type beings
  • They cry green goo from their ears and their necks. It’s also alluded to that some of those openings are also used for sexual acts.
  • They have sex standing up with their arms in the air. I assume some sort of telepathy is involved, but we don’t need to get into all that.
  • They eat by reading
  • They sleep in pods
  • Some, like Larry and Jackie, have adopted British accents because, according to Larry, it makes our gutteral language sound more intelligent.
  • They seem to have a somewhat loose hive-mind mentality
  • They really do like human diversity. The reason I say that is because all of the minorities in this show were on the alien side. I’m not sure what kind of thing was involved when casting the show, but it seems mighty interesting that a chunk of the aliens were minorities, some of whom had British accents, which adds another layer to what this show considers “alien.” Who knows if the casting decisions had a social message behind them. I’m not arguing for or against, okay? I’m  just saying it’s interesting.
  • Overall, The Neighbors is harmless, fun television with a Mars Attacks-esque bent in terms of the show’s zany quality. I can’t tell you how long this show could stay on the air, but I can tell you that it has better writing than No Ordinary Family, another high-concept family show on ABC. As we saw, that show didn’t last that long, even though it had The Incredibles-esque appeal. At the very least, The Neighbors seems solid enough to survive its freshman year.