‘The Neighbors’ premiere recap: Embrace the weird neighborhood

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Previews made "The Neighbors" look like another TV show depicting abnormal as the new normal. The alien community had the potential to amuse viewers with their fish-out-of-water antics, lampoon humanity's quirks, hold a mirror to modern society, and impart extraterrestrial wisdom. Instead, the show features old Conehead comedy and pits husband against wife. Still, the gooey aliens have an undeniable appeal.

The premise

Stranded TV aliens usually hide among humanity in shows such as "ALF," "Mork & Mindy," and "3rd Rock from the Sun." "The Neighbors" reverses that trend and presents a cloistered neighborhood full of Zabrovians masquerading as humans. For the past 10 years, they waited for a chance to return home. A real human family, the Weavers, moves from New Jersey and immediately become suspicious of their neighbors. It is hard not to notice the aliens are named after professional athletes, dress alike, and speak with posh British accents. It is a far cry from "Joi-sey."

The Weavers do not have much time to consider their weird surroundings because little Dick Butkus likes to flash his true form -- a green being that resembles a Sea Monkey. The big secret is out, but the Weavers are okay with it because the aliens are peaceful. The families forge an interspecies friendship, and the Weavers agree to help the Zabrovians adapt to life on Earth.

Conehead comedy

"The Neighbors" has a tone somewhat like the Coneheads from "Saturday Night Live." Stranded on Earth, the bizarre alien family managed to thrive in suburbia. When people asked about their giant coneheads, the aliens simply attribute it to being French. Similarly, the Weavers initially think the Zabrovians are European, or Amish, or something equally exotic.

The movie version, "Coneheads," memorably featured a mysterious sex scene much like alien Jackie's telepathic encounter with alien Larry in "The Neighbors." The Coneheads, though, drew laughs because they were so over-the-top, strange, and expressive. Jackie and Larry's encounter is strange in an awkward, uncomfortable way and settles for a throwaway "Who's your daddy?" joke.

Men vs. women

Humans Debbie and Marty have a tiff and spread their marital discord to their new besties, Larry and Jackie. Again, the show settles for familiar territory as the women want more of a partnership with their husbands. A kinship between Debbie and Larry would have been an interesting twist. After all, they both bore children.

There is something oddly appealing about the community of strange beings who look like models for a Land's End catalog. Unlike TV's obnoxiously quirky kids, Dick Butkus is painfully adorable in an understated way. The gated community has potential, but "The Neighbors" needs to take more risks and strike a better balance of wry humor, puns, and in-your-face comedy.

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