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NEIGHBORS FROM HELL

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NEIGHBORS FROM HELL

Animated comedy has had a good year on television.  “The Simpsons” is still going strong after 20 years, “South Park” after 10 years, and there seems to be no power on Earth that can stop Seth MacFarlane and his growing list of shows.  Even Ricky Gervais has managed to recycle old podcasts into an animated half hour on HBO, which is now headed for a second season.

By : SHAWNA BENSON

Animated comedy has had a good year on television.  “The Simpsons” is still going strong after 20 years, “South Park” after 10 years, and there seems to be no power on Earth that can stop Seth MacFarlane and his growing list of shows.  Even Ricky Gervais has managed to recycle old podcasts into an animated half hour on HBO, which is now headed for a second season.

Now TBS introduces us to the “Neighbors from Hell.”  Balthazor Hellman (Will Sasso) is tasked with going to Earth to prevent humans from using a giant drill and breaking into the underworld.  While there may be some thematic interest right now against drilling deep into the Earth for any reason, the actual mechanics of this drill digging into Hell isn’t really addressed.  The thrust of this show is sending this family up to Earth to blend in with other suburban families and how they respond to their human neighbors.

The conceit of the show is that the humans are far worse than the demons.  In fact, Tina Hellman (Molly Shannon) spends a majority of her time coping with the terrible antics of her their new neighbors.  The joke: living in the suburbs is worse than living in Hell.

The show tries to be like “Family Guy,” exploring the nuclear family dynamic of a mom, dad and two kids (no erudite baby, but a grandfather who eats cats adds multi-generational humor).  Throw in a talking “dog” Pazuzu (Patton Oswalt) who seems to have more sense than the rest of the clan and the formula is complete.  While there are some mildly humorous gags, too often the jokes don’t quite work, too odd are the references, especially not knowing why the demons appear to be more civilized than the humans.  There is considerable vocal talents at work in the series, including Kurtwood Smith (“That 70’s Show”), as Balthazor’s highly offensive human boss and Steve Coogan (“Tropic Thunder”) as Satan.   One wonders how this series concept is sustainable over the long haul.  It would almost be better if we didn’t know why they were living in the suburb at all – it’s just their home, rather like “The Munsters,” we just accept that they are there.  The plot about the drill just feels unnecessary as no one really explains what the drill is for or why they are drilling (oil never seems to be the goal).

It may take some time for the show to find its voice, but if it doesn’t accomplish that quickly, it could put the longevity of the show in jeopardy.  There is a lot of original programming on cable during the summer months.  “Neighbors from Hell” may not make it onto many people’s ‘must watch’ lists, with so much quality competition in the mix.

Neighbors from Hell premieres on TBS, June 7th at 10/9 central.

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