Fall 2012 Pilot Reviews: The Neighbors

Premise: A family moves into a subdivision where all of their neighbors are aliens.

Initial Thoughts: This show looked horrible based on the promos. It didn’t look funny at all.

Series Premiere: 9/26/12

Timeslot Competition: Survivor (CBS), The X-Factor (FOX), Guys with Kids (NBC), Arrow (CW)

Post-show Thoughts: All I could think of when watching this show was how strange it was. I still didn’t find it overly funny, but I surprisingly didn’t hate it. Aliens, like most things in the sci-fi genre, allow for an exploration of humanity and culture. From the first episode, it is obvious that this show is going to attempt to do that, while maintaining a sense of humor. Unfortunately, for me, it failed a little on both parts. The humor was mostly just the show saying “look how weird these people are” and laughing about the name Dick Butkis. Neither of those things were particularly funny to me, so the comedy aspect was strongly lacking.

I was a little happier with their exploration of humanity. Gender roles were definitely the focus of the episode, and since that heavily relates to what I am studying, I was really interested to see how they did it. I give them credit for trying, but it fell short of what I was hoping for. First, it fell back on the incompetent husband trope with the humans, which I am already not a fan of. If they want to go a more egalitarian route, I would prefer seeing the husband and wife being portrayed as true partners, which I didn’t get from this episode. Second, the alien husband was very controlling of his wife, which was seem as foreign to the humans. I agree, displays of male dominance at home, on average, are not that extreme. It set up a strange dichotomy between the two couples that really didn’t explore our human (western) gender roles at all. Finally, I get what they were trying to do by having the male aliens be responsible for giving birth, but I didn’t think they executed it very well. It put the male aliens in a feminine role, but it still gave them all the power. They carried the baby, so they got to make the decisions. If you translated that to humanity, it seems like it would be arguing that women should be responsible for the decision-making for a family. However, it still fell back on the concept of men being in charge, which isn’t particularly abnormal.

I love the ability of sci-fi to look at these sorts of issues and I can only hope that with more time, The Neighbors is better able to find that balance between examination and humor. It’s still kind of a strange show, but I actually have more hope for what it could become after seeing the pilot than I did from the previews. It has potential, but I’m not quite convinced it will live up to that potential.

Predictions: I honestly don’t know. Modern Family gave it a strong lead-in, which it will lose next week, so it’s difficult to say if people will come back to it. Before the season started, I would have guessed that it would be the first show to be cancelled. Now, I definitely don’t think it will be the first, but cancellation is still not out of the question. Next week’s ratings should give people a better idea of where this show stands.

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