TV Review: “Neighbors From Hell”

Written by Television, TV Reviews

TBS attempts to get into the adult animation territory and 10 PM tonight with the network premieres the series Neighbors From Hell. If the first episode is any indication of the quality of TBS’s animation, they should surrender now and leave the grown-up cartoons to Adult Swim, Comedy Central and Fox.

The “hilarious” setup of Neighbors From Hell is as follows: The Hellmans are a family of demons who live in hell (“hell-mans”– get it!). Balthazor (Mad TV’s Will Sasso) is caught watching human television, which is forbidden in the underworld. He’s summoned to sit with Satan and fears punishment. Instead, the dark lord wants to send Balthazor and his family to Earth to prevent a huge corporation from drilling into the Earth’s core, which is where hell is located. Thus, Balthazor, his uptight wife, Tina (Molly Shannon), their two teenage kids, Mandy (Tracey Fairaway) and Josh (David Soren), their Uncle Vlaartaek (Kyle McCulloch) and their talking dog, Pazuzu (Patton Oswalt) take up residence in a suburban neighborhood.  They must pose as “normal” humans until Balthazor can destroy the drill that threatens hell. It would be funny if the characters were actually having to “act” like humans, as was so well done on 3rd Rock From the Sun. But these characters (with the exception of the wacky and strange Uncle Vlaartaek and Pazuzu) are already sterotypical “human” characters that there’s nothing really funny about their situation.

Why doesn’t Balthazor just up and destroy the drill with magic demon powers? Because Satan won’t let him use magic; that wouldn’t be fun (and that would end the series in about ten minutes). Why doesn’t Balthazor just kill the engineer who designed the drill and without whom the project would fold? Because Balthazor has an affection for humans and their odd qualities (and that would end the series in about ten minutes). Why must Balthazor’s entire family accompany him? Damn it, you’re asking too many questions!

While the animation has some flare and the world of hell has an imaginative look, the show too quickly jumps to our world and everything becaome very plain.  Neighbors from Hell is an underdeveloped premise we’ve seen done better, I don’t know, 40 years ago when it was called The Addams Family or The Munsters. Actually, much of the series feels like it’s been pulled from those and other, better shows. The family unit so closely resembles Family Guy, including a family pet who is smarter than everyone else, I actually thought this was another Seth MacFarlane creation before I read the opening credits. The series is produced by Fox Studio, which knows a thing or two about quality animation, and the show’s executive producers are Pam Brady and Mireille Soria, who worked on South Park and Madagascar, respectively. With so much talent behind the scenes of this series I expected more… a lot more!

Instead, Neighbors from Hell is just another cliched sitcom about a misfit family trying to fit in. The jokes are flat, the gross out humor is forced, and the voice actors sound kind of bored. If you can make it through this half hour without being bored, then your a better person than I am.