There are some shows that just take a long time to find their creative sweet spot. Maybe there are casting issues or a chemistry that just doesn't work week-to-week. In some cases the premise laid out in the pilot is flawed and it takes half a season or more to sort it out. But in some cases it all works out and the show you see at the end of the season is nearly indistinguishable from what you saw in the pilot.
Unfortunately for most TV shows, by the time that change comes the audience has already given up hope and moved on. Which is sad, because not only are viewers missing out on something good, the show doesn't reap the benefits of all that hard work done earlier in the season.
I'm not sure what the fate will be for ABC's rookie comedy "The Neighbors," but this week's episode makes the case for giving the show a second season. It's witty and charming and while there aren't a lot of laugh out-loud punchlines, nearly every scene in the episode is entertaining.
If you haven't watched the show the premise is pretty straight-forward. The Weaver family move into a gated community that promises a safe environment at an astoundingly fair price. But as it turns out, they've moved into a community populated entirely by aliens who are stranded on Earth after their ship crash-landed.
The first few episodes of the season were filled with a lot of the needed exposition required by a show like this one. There was the discovery of the community's secret and a lot of scenes that played on the alien's inability to really grasp Earth's culture and language. There were some good moments but more often than not the show seemed to be a weird mash-up of "Third Rock From The Sun" and "Mork and Mindy."
But once all the groundwork was laid out "The Neighbors" began to find the proper tone for the material. The wacky alien behavior was dialed back and the Weavers began to feel more like a real functioning family unit than just props to service the premise of the show. As all the characters became more than caricatures the show began to come together and it has improved every week as the season has progressed.
Which brings us to the episode "Sing Like Larry Bird," which is the musical episode of "The Neighbors." The episode has two simultaneous stories: daughter Amber Weaver (Clara Mamet) wants permission fron her parents to go to a Jay-Z concert and the Bird-Kersees (Simon Templeman and Toks Olagundoye) want Marty (Lenny Venito) and Debbie Weaver's (Jami Gertz) help as they plan to take in a Broadway show.
The resulting chaos finds Abby going on strike and the Bird-Kersees deciding to launch their own Broadway-style production. There are big chorus numbers in the street, a couple of catchy ballads (courtesy of Oscar winner Alan Menken) and even a running gag involving a child falling into a nearby well.
The episode finds just the right tone for the material and while the premise is often over-the-top, the performances are right on the mark. The comedy is broad but not stupid and by the end you feel as if you've been watching real characters react to real situations instead of random scenes that are bolted together for convenience.
"The Neighbors" may not be classic TV (at least not yet) but along with "Go On" it's my favorite new comedy. If the show has accomplished anything this season it's to prove that it's worth saving just to see where these characters can go. Change can be a good thing. Especially when the changes improve a show that deserves a second look.
For more information on the show, visit AllYourScreens.com.