When “The Neighbors” premiered back in the fall, I found the pilot so disheartening that I ultimately didn’t even review it, choosing to devote my limited time in premiere week to shows I either liked or that at least had the potential for growth. I didn’t see any in a show that leaned so heavily on gags like naming all the aliens after famous athletes.
I watched another couple of episodes (the shopping mall trip and Halloween) later in the fall, each of which showed signs of becoming something I wouldn’t hate, and I made a mental note to come back later in the season to see what “The Neighbors” had become.
And with the musical-themed “Sing Like a Larry Bird,” it looks like I picked a very good week to check back in. This wasn’t a “good by ‘Neighbors’ standards” sitcom episode. This was a good sitcom episode, no other qualifiers needed.
The songs by Alan Menken were clever and fun, and also a good example of how aliens might respond to our popular culture. The aliens chafing at being treated like children by the Weavers also led to a number of funny moments, chief among them Larry Bird’s utter panic attack at being confronted by a television reporter. (Simon Templeman’s delivery of every line in that scene was perfect.) Having aliens on your show should be a license to get weird – as it so often was on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” which got namechecked near the end here – and I’m glad to see that “The Neighbors” has embraced its own strangeness.
So fair is fair: one of my least favorite new pilots of the season just turned out one of the better sitcom episodes I’ve seen anywhere on the networks this season. (And if you don’t believe me, I’ve embedded the full episode below.) Obviously, the characters won’t be bursting into song every week, but “Sing Like a Larry Bird” was good enough that I want to sample at least one or two more typical episodes to see exactly how good “The Neighbors” has become.
What did everybody else think? For those of you who’ve been watching all season, how did this compare to recent episodes? Are there others you might recommend as a good entry point to anyone else who was turned off by the pilot?