●“The Neighbors” premieres at 9:30 p.m. on ABC (moves to 8:30 p.m. next week)
Some viewers (and certainly other critics) may well expectorate a DayGlo goo all over this ABC comedy about aliens in the Stepford-like exurbs — and I admit the story line is as old as Coneheads and crop circles. But what redeems“The Neighbors” is that it’s not confused about what it wants to be — or the sort of fun it wants to have.
The Weavers (Lenny Venito and the always-welcome Jami Gertz) decide to pack up their three kids and move from their New York apartment to a tract house in the strange outer realm of Hidden Hills, N.J., with its manicured lawns, big garages and conformity.
Buyer’s remorse soon sets in, as it turns out all their neighbors are part of a marooned alien colony, headed by Larry Bird (Simon Templeman) and his mate, Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye). Keeping vigilant watch for a signal from their planet, these space reptiles may have disguised themselves as citizens of Dullsville, but they’ve wildly misinterpreted American life and social manners in almost every way (including naming themselves after star athletes).
Once the Weavers get over their initial shock, the lazy metaphor can do its thing, letting us know that we’re all a little bit weird when viewed from the other side of the fence. “The Neighbors” means you no harm; it is merely offering buoyant, slightly creepy entertainment for anybody who doesn’t take sci-fi or satire too seriously.