'The Neighbors' review: Not alien enough

An image from the premiere of "The Neighbors,"

An image from the premiere of "The Neighbors," on the ABC Television Network. (Credit: ABC )

COMEDY PREMIERE "The Neighbors"

WHEN|WHERE Wednesday night at 9:30 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH Men get pregnant and weep green tears out their ears.


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WHAT IT'S ABOUT They're outer-space aliens, of course -- this crazy quilt of humanity in all colors with weird accents and names like Dick Butkus and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. They've arrived to adopt our "ways" to see how Earthlings behave, and guess what? They don't get it. (Join the club.)

Trying their best (but badly), the clueless visitors populate an entire New Jersey condo 'hood, wearing identical-but-not-quite fashions and acting like interlocked parts of a single whole. (The Borg!) When Actual Human Beings finally move onto the street (Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito, with their displaced urban kids), the aliens get a chance to observe a "real" family up close, and vice versa.

Big wild!

MY SAY Maybe aliens need a live studio audience ("3rd Rock From the Sun"). Or at least a laugh track ("My Favorite Martian"). The single-camera approach doesn't quite work here. But then this show doesn't have John Lithgow to rock its planet.

The middle-ground tone makes you wish the series had truly gone for broke in outrageousness or been more shrewdly subtle. While "The Neighbors" sketches something genuinely creative -- and truly weird -- its comedy doesn't really come together.

Here's the rub. What's the goal of this show? Is it satire? Spoof? Making a serious point? Or just being silly? I couldn't tell you. I'm not sure they can.

BOTTOM LINE Nice try, but no cigarillo.

GRADE C+

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