The Neighbors





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

The Bible tells us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But when those neighbors are extraterrestrial aliens, well, that verse can present a special set of challenges.

Not that the Weavers spend a lot of family time reading the Bible, mind you. Marty, Debbie and their three kids are a fairly dysfunctional lot—a nuclear unit powered by the occasional good intention and some seriously bad family dynamics. What the Weavers need, perhaps, is a nice change of scenery—a new townhome in a clean, gated New Jersey community. Just being surrounded by nice, manicured suburban normalcy might rub off on them. Or so the theory goes.

Alas, “Hidden Hills” isn’t normal at all.

Its residents seem friendly enough. And just because they’re all named after sports celebrities and they dress aggressively preppy, that doesn’t make them bad people, does it? No, not bad people at all. And not even people at all. Because the entire community is populated by Zabrvonians—beings from a distant planet who’ve been in Jersey for the last decade, waiting to be called back home. As for those odd names and fashions, they seem to have learned everything they know about earthbound culture from the rigorous study of ESPN and out-of-date Izod catalogs.

The Neighbors, like the standard Twinkie (another earthbound entity that seems, in its own way, rather alien), has a certain sweetness at its center. Strip away the Weavers’ dysfunction and the aliens’ extraterrestrial oddities, and you’re left with folks just trying to fit in and make better lives for themselves and their families. The Weavers’ neighbors—Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (along with sons Reggie Jackson and Dick Butkus)—can learn a thing or two from Marty, Debbie and their kids. And the Weavers? Well, they’re not too proud to take note of what their out-of-this-world friends do well. The Neighbors, in its own off-kilter way, tells us that families are precious, friendships are priceless and that we can all grow by paying attention to what others are doing—even if they’re crying green goo out their ears.

But like the previously mentioned Twinkie, that tasty center can’t make up for the utter lack of any real nutritional value. Sure, a lot of the less-than-ideal parenting we see here isn’t meant to be aspirational: It’s more Simpsonsand  The Middle than Leave It to Beaver. But satire aside, there are still other cheap chemicals to be concerned about, including crass language, bad behavior and frank sexual subjects.

See? Special challenges. I’m just not sure we should all love this Neighbor.

Episode Reviews

Neighbors: 11-14-2012

“Thanksgiving Is for the Bird-Kersees”

For Thanksgiving, the Weavers invite Marty’s hyper-critical mother and father to dinner. They also ask Larry Bird’s family over … who in turn invite Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s two sisters (one arriving in the human body of an effeminate older man). Those two sisters once tried to overthrow Larry as suburban leader, and so we see lots of familial dysfunction ensue, with folks storming around and out of the house. Parents shout at parents. Kids shout at parents. And it prompts several people to say that Thanksgiving is a horrible, soul-sucking holiday. (Dick says it “sucks”; Debbie says it’s “h‑‑‑.”)

Wine is drunk and the merits of beer are discussed. There’s a joke about alien “probers.” And then things level off again, with Larry releasing Jackie’s sisters, saying, “My wife is my entire world, and my world misses her sisters.” Of course, moments later the sisters try again to kill Larry by way of poison.

There are several crude references made to testicles. Marty’s mother calls Rosie O’Donnell “a lesbian crackpot.” Debbie suggests that Marty’s parents are racist. Jackie’s “male” sister refers to herself as a “man of prance.” Several lies are told. Debbie deep-fries her turkey, which Marty’s mother says is “a prank on God.” We hear a reference to the Lord’s blessing in a song. And God’s name is misused once or twice.

Neighbors: 11-7-2012

“50 Shades of Green”

It’s mating season for the Zabrvonians, and while their “rituals” revolve around emotional conversations, Larry and Jackie eventually decide to try out the human way of doing things. So we see Jackie wearing only a sheet and also in lingerie as she begs Larry to touch her. We see Larry in lingerie too. Marty and Debbie, meanwhile, brag about their three-move, 10-minute interludes. They both wear bathrobes at various junctures.

A physical gag makes it look as though Larry is masturbating. And Reggie apparently “mates” with eldest Weaver daughter Amber when they find that their minds are in perfect unison. Still, the episode stresses that true intimacy is both physical and emotional: The end result is that Marty tries to be more romantic with Debbie. We also see Amber reject a popular guy’s sexual advances, and Marty promises to be there to talk with her about sexual issues—acknowledging that it’ll be awkward, but that because he loves her, “I’m going to keep trying.” That said, Amber is noncommittal when her parents ask whether she’s still a virgin, and they don’t press the issue.

High schoolers spout double entendres and refer to popular girls as “slutbags.” We hear about what happens to certain bits of the male anatomy in bathtubs. Characters say “h‑‑‑” three times, “d‑‑n” once and “freakin'” once. God’s name is abused a half-dozen times. Wine makes appearances.

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Paul Asay
Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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