"Neighbors from Hell" – Episode 1 “Snorfindesdrillsalgoho” Television Review

6/20/2010 Posted by Admin

"Neighbors from Hell" – Episode 1 “Snorfindesdrillsalgoho”

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz

By the end of the first act break of TBS’s new animated series, "Neighbors from Hell," I have not only seen a cartoon character pick up and sniff a piece of dog poop, but I’m also quite sure that nothing funny is going to happen throughout the remainder of this episode. The return from the commercial didn’t help matters by featuring a call back to the very shot I was hoping to forget, but I suppose that’s the central problem with the show because instead of trying to make its ridiculous premise work, "Neighbors from Hell" simply favors fart jokes and offensive one-liners to make its way through this terribly unfunny half-hour.

"Neighbors from Hell" begins with Satan calling upon our hero, Balthazor Hellman – Hellman – to stop a terrestrial company from manufacturing a drill that can reach Hell. The job calls for a family that can fit in undetected with the living people of Earth, and since Balthazor has watched every TV sitcom ever, the Hellman family seems perfectly suited for the job. Once on Earth, the already normal (by comparison) Hellman family interacts with their suburban neighbors, who are so wacky and offensive it begs the question--who are the neighbors from hell?

So, the story continues as everyone attempts to put the last 10-minutes behind them in hopes that things will get better. They don’t and Balthazor heads off to work where he meets his evil boss, Mr. Killbride, and a lowly Turkish scientist in charge of the drilling project named Chevdet. Mr. Killbride calls Chevdet a brown ape or something equally racist while Chevdet laments to Balthazor about not having the plans for the drill done in time, which puts the entire project in jeopardy. Balthazor sees this as a golden opportunity to halt the drilling of Hell and agrees to help Chevdet. This results in Balthazor simply asking Mr. Killbride for an extension on the project, which his boss allows despite his overtly racist resentment of Chevdet.

Meanwhile, Balthozar’s wife, Tina, agrees to go shopping with the fecal obsessed Marjoe Saint Sparks. Tina--who somehow feels the viewer’s pain--listens in horror as Marjoe tells her disturbing stories about sexual education in the Sparks household and makes reference to a pair of ironically racist salt-and-pepper shakers. Soon after, Marjoe will learn that Tina is a demon, proclaim that to be worse than the Jews, and then quickly forget the whole thing thanks Balthazor’s secret demon powers that he cannot use to stop the drill.

There are so many problems with the premise and execution of this show, it’s honestly hard to know where to start. For one thing, even on a cartoon series with fantastic characters, it’s hard to suspend disbelief long enough to amuse the idea that Satan simply cannot stop this company himself. I understand that Hellman needs a reason to go to Earth in order to try to act normal by saying things like “Double Fist Pump” and “Triple Fist Pump,” but come on, it’s Satan.

Furthermore, the episode is extremely lazy in its resolutions. Nothing ever feels confrontational, dangerous or worthy of investment, and as a result, the laughs the show is looking for don’t pay off. If the show is going to use offensive language then the straight characters should not be a couple of Hell-spawned Demons, because without that slight element of danger that someone might react badly to such offenses, there is nothing to make it funny. Marjoe seemingly stands up for the show in the episode claiming her racism to be ironic, but the only thing ironic about this episode is how ignorant it actually is of anything remotely resembling humor, irony or satire.

Racism is hardly the show’s only problem--although, it is a very serious one--but also the show’s predilections toward fart and poop jokes are pathetic. At one point, during one of her many Tasmanian devil-like outbursts, Marjoe farts in her suicidal dog’s face before grabbing the Hellman’s dog-like goblin’s testicles and insinuates that she also fornicates with her pet, which I can only assume she believes the Hellmans do as well.

Truth be told, it’s not fair to judge a show solely on its pilot episode. Obviously, changes are made as a series finds its footing, but "Neighbors from Hell" is so painfully unfunny in its attempts to be edgy that I can’t see this one getting much better. However, it does have a great cast including Patton Oswald, Steve Coogan and Kurtwood Smith--so, perhaps if the writers can give them something to do rather than molest and fart on animals, there might be hope for "Neighbors from Hell" yet.

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  1. Hrushi said...

    I used to play a game with the same name. Has it got to do with this?