Why ABC's alien show The Neighbors is Galaxy Quest + The Simpsons

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

Things will get a little strange on ABC tonight when its new sci-fi family sitcom, The Neighbors, premieres, said the show's creator and executive producer Dan Fogelman. How strange is it? Well, Fogelman thinks The Neighbors is more than a little Galaxy Quest meets The Simpsons.

The series, about a normal family that moves next door to a bunch of aliens from the planet Zabvron, takes up residence in ABC's popular Wednesday night block among more grounded sitcoms, including Modern Family and The Middle.

"We want to keep the science fiction fans excited while at the same time appealing to our parents with the comedy and the family dynamics," said Fogelman in an exclusive interview with Blastr. "What it's really doing is analyzing the dynamic of a human family both through the eyes of the aliens and how strange we all are, and our races and our species, but also a human family, learning from these very sweet, uninhabited creatures."

In The Neighbors, the Weavers, mom Debbie (Jami Gertz), dad Marty (Lenny Venito) and three kids, move into the exclusive gated community called Hidden Hills. It isn't long before they discover that their new neighbors, who have named like Larry Bird (Simon Templeman), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), and Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) are actually aliens from the planet Zabvron who've been living on Earth for 10 years waiting for instructions from home. They also learn that Zabvronian families have some of the same relationship problems we humans do.

While Fogelman certainly sees more than a little Galaxy Quest in his new series, he feels The Neighbors is "almost like a live-action Simpsons. 'Cause you get to have all the science fiction rules that are really fun and you can have fun with, but at the same time you're kind of grounding it in real actors and a real family dynamic that you're familiar with on TV," he said.

"We really got to tap into the fun of the sci-fi rules. We cast actors who are not comedic actors. They're more dramatic actors who would say odd and unusual things, but in a completely dramatic way of owning it. And even the way we shot it, it's very cinematic and very much the way you would shoot within a TV show a kind of science fiction film with a comedic edge to it. So we're going to have fun with the rules and the science fiction of it all," he said.

The show will delve into "the pinnacle events in every family's yearly existence," said Fogelman. "But then be able to look at them through the eyes of the aliens and through the eyes, really, of the humans watching the aliens learn about them."

Early in the first season, the Weaver kids will take the alien kids to the mall. "You can walk around the mall and the images you'd see, if you think about an alien watching them, of somebody on one of those face-first massage chairs or a parent walking a child on a leash or a family just diving into a pretzel like animals together and all of the things of the human condition that you might see at a mall. People spraying themselves with perfume and throwing change into a water fountain. The aliens just walking by them and checking out all this strange imagery which may be at first bemusement, and then revulsion by the end of it," he said.

Here's a look at The Neighbors:

The Neighbors airs on ABC tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET, and then moves to its regular time next week at 8:30 p.m.

Do you think this could be the next 3rd Rock From the Sun?