PRESS TOUR: Defending ABC's 'The Neighbors'

Friday, 27 July 2012 04:05 PM Written by 

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- I approached watching ABC's new sitcom "The Neighbors," about aliens living in a New Jersey neighborhood, with two conflicting preconceptions.

First, I tend to have an interest in high-concept shows. Evidence: I loved "ALF" as a kid. But I'd also heard nothing but negative buzz about "The Neighbors" from ABC's upfront. So I was predisposed to be curious about it but also wary. Ultimately, I liked the pilot, making me a rarity among TV critics, who mostly seem to loathe it in the way TV critics hated ABC's "Work It," which I also hated.

Read more and watch a preview after the jump. ...

The premise of the show has a human family moving into a neighborhood colonized by aliens -- all named after American sports figures -- who have taken on human form. This is the first human family to live amongst the aliens. 

While I laughed a good bit at the pilot episode, I also had concerns. Initially ABC scheduled the show for 9:30 p.m. Wednesday after "Modern Family." That made no sense. The show is way too broad to work with "Modern Family." ABC executives evidently had the same realization. This week they announced plans to move "The Neighbors," after a special premiere at 9:30 on Sept. 26, to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday the next week. "Suburgatory" will take the 9:30 slot.

So that alleviated one concern. But I also wonder how long they can keep up the jokes. Seeing the unusual way aliens do the dishes in the pilot is hilarious. But that gag only works the first time. After that, it's stale.

Executive producer Dan Fogelman, who wrote Pixar's "Cars," said "The Neighbors" was inspired by a visit to his mother's gated community.

"I watched people in unison taking the garbage out and they never spoke to her and she never spoke to them and that was the impetus," he said. "I started to wonder if they were aliens and my mom was living amongst them."

Fogelman said he wants "The Neighbors" to be a show the whole family can watch together.

"It's high concept but I do want to ground it as a family sitcom," he said. 

A future episode will feature the alien neighbors' first trip to a shopping mall where they are horrified by humans engorging themselves at the food court. Fogelman did promise gags will not be recycled.

"We'll explore new topics or areas," Fogelman said. "They have different things they do strangely."

Here's a trailer for the series:

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