Neighbors From Hell -- TV Review

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TBS' "Neighbors From Hell" is the first original animated series on TBS. It turns out it might have been smarter to wait a little longer.

The series, when pitched, must have seemed rich with potential veins of comedy just waiting to be tapped. But judging from the pilot (the only episode made available), writer-creator Pam Brady only scratches the surface.

In the opener, Balthazor Hellman, a demon from the netherworld, gets a special assignment. He and his wife, Tina, their two teenage kids, Mandy and Josh, their weird Uncle Vlaartark and their quasi pet dog Pazuzu are being sent topside. Balthazor's mission is to sabotage a newly made superdrill before heartless corporation Petromundo can use it to drill all the way to Hell.

Why Balthazor of all the demons? He got caught watching television, which is banned down below except as punishment. "It rots the mind. That is an actual fact," the Devil in Chief declares.

So Balthazor is being punished, right? Not exactly. He specifically was selected because his incessant TV-viewing made him the only demon capable of blending in with humans.

So one can expect lots of pop-culture references and plenty of jokes about the disparity between real life and the distortions Balthazor watched on TV? No, not exactly. More precisely, no, not at all.

As the show progresses and the stated reason for Balthazor's selection becomes more puzzling, a potentially sharp-witted commentary on media melts before one's eyes into an occasionally amusing but mostly mundane domestic comedy.

Burdened with backstory, the pilot has less time for the Hellmans' first adventure aboveground. Here's a quick summary: Tina meets her boozy, prying, obnoxious suburban housewife neighbors, and Balthazor meets his insensitive boss and a nerdy colleague from Turkey. Except for the boss, the new acquaintances return to the Hellman house, get suspicious, get knocked out and then forget everything. (Spoiler alerts are necessary only when there's something there to spoil.)

The list of comic voices here is impressive, though as a rule, stars doing voices aren't more effective than talented but less well-known voice actors. Will Sasso and Molly Shannon give voice to Balthazor and Tina. Patton Oswalt speaks for the family pet, Kurtwood Smith is the voice of Balthazor's boss, and Kyle McCulloch does Uncle Vlaartark and Chevdet from Turkey.

"Neighbors" might yet become more than just a show from Hell, but it has far to go.

Airdate: 10-10:30 p.m. Monday, June 7 (TBS)
Production: Fox TV Animation and MoonBoy Animation
Voice cast: Molly Shannon, Will Sasso, Patton Oswalt, Tracey Fairaway, David Soren, Kyle McCulloch, Kurtwood Smith, Dina Waters, Stephen Coogan
Executive producers: Pam Brady, Mireille Soria
Supervising producer: Maryann Garger
Director: Anthony Chun
Writer/creator: Pam Brady
Supervising editor: Tiffany Hillkurtz
Art director: Alan Bodner
Casting: Mary Hidalgo
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