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Archive for Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Show likely to alienate viewers

September 26, 2012

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The notion of wacky people living next door is almost as old as the sitcom genre. “The Neighbors” (8:30 p.m., ABC) asks us to imagine a family of brash New Yorkers who move to a sterile New Jersey development by a golf course, only to discover that it’s populated entirely by a cultlike clutch of exiled aliens. The aliens have lived there 10 years, awaiting word from their home planet.

The human newcomers are played as broad stereotypes. Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) could be Ralph Kramden’s TV grandson. His long-suffering wife, Debbie (Jami Gertz), has the most emotional range here, and that’s not saying much. She goes from bossy semi-feminist to “I love you, you lovable lug” affection for her hapless hubby. The kids consist of a petulant teenage girl, a rude video-game playing boy and a cute younger sister who just tags along.

The strange neighbors are green people in human form who speak in stilted English accents and have the overly polite deference of 19th-century Amish. They’ve also adopted names from the sports pages. Group leader Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) is married to Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), and they have two boys, Dick Butkus and Reggie Jackson. It’s funny for about a minute.

The whole enterprise is too arch for its own good and reminds us of what a Tim Burton movie might be like without the strange humanity of Johnny Depp. (And lately, even that’s been in short supply.) It also shows why the Coneheads on “Saturday Night Live” were much funnier in a five-minute sketch than a full-length movie. Airing right after “Modern Family” and that show’s remarkable talent for fleshing out comic stereotypes, “Neighbors” is almost certain to alienate viewers.

• The new comedy “Guys With Kids” (7:30 p.m., NBC) debuts in its regular time slot tonight. The good news: One of the generic husbands is married to a character played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler of “The Sopranos.” The bad news is she’s about as likely to save this stinker as Drea de Matteo was to salvage the wreckage of NBC’s “Joey” in the mid-2000s.

Tonight’s network debuts

• Mike plays favorites on “The Middle” (7 p.m., ABC).

• An escaped con leaves his mark on “Criminal Minds” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Cragen’s crisis and a new captain (Adam Baldwin) raise tensions on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Gloria doesn’t know how to break the big news on “Modern Family” (8 p.m., ABC).

• Russell’s granddaughter goes missing on “CSI” (9 p.m., CBS).

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