I am always up for a new animated series, especially one that is NOT by Seth MacFarlane. (Nothing against him, he just has enough airtime.) Neighbors from Hell is being promoted by TBS as “from the studio that brought you Family Guy,” but is written by Kyle McCullouch (South Park). There is little resemblance to Family Guy. Except for the dog—I”ll get to that.
This pilot takes no time at all to introduce the premise: a demon is assigned by his boss, Satan, to transfer to Earth where he will infiltrate and bring down an oil company called Petromundo. We’ve seen the misfit-family-moves-to-new-neighborhood premise before. What makes this one a bit different is that all of the information Balthazar Hellman and his family have about Earth comes from watching television. So, we know we’re in for tons ‘o references. What I don’t get however, is why there is a 20-year delay on shows getting to Hell. I mean, it’s not England. They are watching Growing Pains, Alf, and The Cosby Show. That’s not the only thing that is out of date…
Characters are introduced with no unnecessary fanfare or backstory. The main character, Balthazar, has a wife, a son, a daughter, an uncle, and a dog that talks and seems smarter than the rest of the family, ala Brian Griffin. He winds up being the dues-ex-machina that undoes the mess the family finds itself in, and we can surmise that will be his ongoing role.
It is too perfect that this show is hitting the airwaves right now, as the villain (not Satan mind you, the real villain) is an oil company. The company is devising a giant drill that will bore to the center of the Earth, ostensibly disrupting life in Hell. Apart from that coincidence, some of these jokes seem like they have been gathering dust for a while. A demon tortures a damned man by making him listen to Britney Spears’ “Oops I Did it Again.” How old is that song? We’ve also got some jokes about Ugg boots and Criss Angle. The funnier jokes are the ones without an expiration date. Balthazar walks into the house to find bodies all over and inquires calmly, “Tina, did you kill the neighbors?”
The story seems headed for a quick resolution as Balthazar plots to destroy the engineer who is in charge of getting the drill up and running. Toward the end we find out what will give the premise an excuse to last past the first episode; the fact that Balthazar—aw, shucks— likes the guy he needs to destroy. There is also a racist neighbor how apparently practices beastiality with her poodle, and another who’s addicted to Valium. But, um, where are the TV references? The writers teased us with the possibility of Kirk Cameron jokes and there’s not a one.
The animation style is refreshing. (i.e. It doesn’t look like a Seth MacFarlane show) It’s stylized, and deceptively kid-friendly.
This pilot is all over the place. It has the feel of having been revised and rewritten to within an inch of its life. Not sure if that’s the case, but we’ll see where it goes.