Back at the start of the TV season in the fall, I read the description for The Neighborhood, and thought, “Friendly mid-westerner moves to an LA neighborhood? Meh.” I expected cancellation. I bookmarked an online version of the premiere on one of the Canadian networks, and then kind of forgot about it. It didn’t hold a lot of interest for me.
What I missed in the original description was that it is about a white mid-westerner moving to an almost exclusively black suburb. All small houses, but a decent neighborhood. And as the first episode unfolds, you realize it is a bit of a different take on race relations to see a white man being not exactly welcomed by his black neighbors, or at least by one in particular. It actually has something to say, despite being a comedy, and it doesn’t do it clumsily in the first episode.
The three white midwesterners are Dave (Max Greenfield from Veronica Mars and New Girl), his wife Gemma (Beth Behrs from 2 Broke Girls) and their son Grover. The four black neighbors are Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer, who used to be really annoying but is okay here), wife Tina (Tichina Arnold), and sons Malcolm (Sheaun McKinney who is fantastic) and Marty (Marcel Spears, who cracks wise a bit too much for my taste).
The first episode shows promise as Dave arrives with his family in tow, and meets Calvin. While Gemma and Tina hit it off, and Malcolm and Marty seem to like them well enough, Calvin likes to expound on the fact that there are two types of racists — those who hate black people and those who love black people, over-compensating. It doesn’t take much to see that Calvin thinks Dave is the latter type, and despite Dave trying his hardest to be the super nice new neighbor, Calvin is less than pleased to have a white family living next door.
But let’s back up a second…it IS a comedy after all, not race relations 101. And some parts of it are quite amusing. I chuckled out loud a couple of times even. But not enough to hold my attention for episode 2. I just don’t care enough. Truth be told, I think there are three main relationships for the show — Gemma and Tina, which will be fine, a few bumps now and again, more just getting used to each other, yet not that compelling; Dave and Malcolm, that seem to have some actual chemistry and are worth watching; and finally Dave and Calvin, and I really don’t give a rat’s ass about Calvin. I see from the episode descriptions that somewhere around episode 4, Dave has had enough of Calvin’s rejection, but honestly? I had enough about 2 minutes in. There’s just not enough humour in it.
But I have no idea how to predict the show’s future. I guess I didn’t see enough to convince it is renewable, but I have to say, it had more depth than I was expecting, and if they could concentrate on Dave and Malcolm, there just might be some gold there. Too bad Calvin would be the main counterpart to Dave. STILL PREDICT CANCELLATION.