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 V.19 No.22 | June 3 - 9, 2010 
“Neighbors from Hell”
“Neighbors from Hell”

Idiot Box

Hell Maybe!

“Neighbors From Hell” on TBS

TBS is jumping on the “adult” animation bandwagon with “Neighbors From Hell.” While the show isn’t the funniest or most innovative comedy on TV, viewers can at least rest assured in the knowledge that it—as opposed to everything else on TBS—isn’t produced by Tyler Perry.

Our wacky sitcom family in this instance is the Hellman clan. Unlike your average, ordinary suburban brood, the Hellmans are recent transplants from the fiery domain of Satan. Get it? These neighbors from hell are actually neighbors from Hell. To get the ball rolling, successful midlevel demon Balthazor Hellman is transferred from Hell to Earth by Satan himself. Seems a greedy oil corporation is about to develop an ultra-powerful drill capable of boring into Hell itself. Against their wishes, Balthazor and family are sent to the surface to pose as normal Americans and stop that drill. (Making our demonic protagonists—what—democrats and environmentalists?)

You’d think a show about suburban hellspawn would open up all sorts of unconventional comic possibilities, but the jokes are mostly standard issue. (Parking at the mall, PTA meetings, how housewives drink Chardonnay—that kinda stuff.)

As sitcom setups go, it’s serviceable. The point—as in most sitcoms—is simply to get our wacky, unconventional family in contact with various straight people. Though mom, dad, sis, bro, crazy uncle and even the family pet are demons in disguise, they aren’t all that different from you and me. They have jobs, they go to school and they solve assorted personal crises on a weekly basis. Basically, they’re “The Munsters” with a different skin hue. “The Simpsons” doing a Treehouse of Horror episode every week. Or maybe “The Oblongs” borrowing the talking dog from “Family Guy.”

“Neighbors From Hell” is produced by Pam Brady (a consulting producer and writer on “South Park”) and Mireille Soria (a producer on the Madagascar films). Stylewise, it leans more toward the mainstream Madagascar part of that equation. The look of the animation is slick and traditional 2D with just a hint of flair. You’d think a show about suburban hellspawn would open up all sorts of unconventional comic possibilities, but the jokes are mostly standard issue. (Parking at the mall, PTA meetings, how housewives drink Chardonnay—that kinda stuff.) In the wake of Comedy Central’s awesomely edgy and innovative “Ugly Americans,” “Neighbors From Hell” feels rather vanilla. Not that it isn’t amusing. Not that it doesn’t have possibilities. Watching it, though, you get the feeling TBS is less about pushing the envelope and more about finding one in a nice shade of slightly off-white.

“Neighbors From Hell” premieres Monday, June 7, at 8 p.m. on TBS
 
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