October 2, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Neighborhood”



The opening half of CBS’s doubleheader of new Monday sitcoms has one joke to tell in its pilot, and it spends half an hour telling it over and over.  THE NEIGHBORHOOD is almost exclusively about the hilarity of a midwestern white family moving into a black Los Angeles neighborhood, where barbecue is being cooked next door and there may be a crackhead across the street.  It’s Vida for a different ethnicity and without the nuance, relying instead on a middle-of-the-road, multi-camera sensibility.

Dave Johnson (Max Greenfield) is as white as a human can be, not just midwestern but earnest both in personality and profession.  (He’s a conflict mediator.)  His wife Gemma (Beth Behrs, from 2 Broke Girls) is starting a new job as the principal of a Montessori-esque school nearby, so they bought their new house without thinking too much about the neighbors, their precocious son Grover (Hank Greenspan) in tow.  Unfortunately for Dave, Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) lives next door, and Calvin has strong opinions about white people and the kind of neighbors he does and doesn’t want.  He’s even more suspicious of sympathetic liberals than of overt racists, and that’s bad news for Dave.

Series creator Jim Reynolds, a writer/producer on The Big Bang Theory and, less auspiciously, last season’s awful 9JKL, wants to take residence in the zip code of uncomfortable social comedy, but not close enough to actually make any viewer squirm.  Dave may say some blundering things about Rihanna and Dwayne Johnson, but it’s clear from the start that his heart is pure, and while Calvin is cantankerous, he aims his grumbling ire even-handedly at his own wife Tina (Tichina Arnold) and sons Malcolm (Sheaun McKinney) and Marty (Marcel Spears) as well as at the neighbors.  He’s Archie Bunker without any real bite.

The result is comfortable, if entirely unmemorable.  Multi-camera legend James Burrows was behind the camera for the pilot, and the action is staged with his trademark smoothness, on sets that look lived-in while still having the room necessary for the genre.  Cedric the Entertainer (who gave a breakout, very serious performance in this year’s First Reformed) knows his way around a muttered punchline, and even though Max Greenfield, so recently one of the New Girl weirdos, seems like strange casting as the white-bread newcomer, he’s likable.  Both of the actors playing the Butler sons have some prime dialogue and get their laughs.  (The Neighborhood may at least be attempting to be conscious about race, but it’s perfectly content to let its women characters be generic “wives”.)

One wouldn’t expect a CBS multi-camera comedy to be Atlanta, and The Neighborhood delivers a stream of dialogue that’s meant to register as funny in reasonably regular increments.  And to be sure, given some time the show may venture beyond its premise and show some substance.  At this point, though, there’s no reason to expect it to be anything more than a proficient comedy product.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."