Last year, many television critics called “The Neighbors” one of the worst new shows of the season. They were crazy. It was hilarious from Day One. A human family unknowingly moves into a suburban neighborhood where everyone is a green-skinned alien (though in human form). The innocent aliens try to learn about American customs, often stumbling of course, and the humans become close to the alien family next door led by father Larry Bird and mother Jackie Joyner Kersey (everyone’s named after professional athletes).
Months later, some critics admitted the comedy had gotten better and they now enjoyed it (well, they finally got a funny bone). For us media watchers, it was intriguing to see Amber (Clara Mamet), the human teenager, slowly falling for Reggie Jackson (Korean American Tim Jo), who liked her from the beginning. Reggie had started hanging out with a nerdy (but very cute) Giselle (Lora Plattner) just to make Amber jealous, and the two ended up fighting over him. Two attractive white girls fighting over an Asian boy? When do you ever see that happening?! More!
Still, its ratings were only so-so, meaning it could’ve been cancelled. MANAA wrote a letter to ABC President Paul Lee offering encouraging statistical reasons to renew the program. It worked. He gave it a second season, but he moved it from Wednesday to Friday, where all shows go to die because of the lower viewership.
Last week, “Neighbors” returned, and in keeping with its increasingly “breaking the fourth wall” humor, Jackie quipped that a year ago, “We thought that ‘Smash’ was going to last forever!” Larry: “Not even a pity move to Fridays!” Very funny!
The entire show focused on Reggie’s and Amber’s relationship. The two managed to keep it a secret for the summer, but their families caught them making out in the patio and had to have a “family conference” to discuss if it should be allowed to continue.
During the meeting, Amber complains her mom is playing footsie with her. Mom: “Heaven forbid someone should touch you! When you were a baby, you used to let me touch you all day long!”
“What other options did I have? I was a baby!”
Reggie offers, to everyone’s embarrassment: “She lets me touch her all the time!”
The discussion ends when Amber’s little sister points out that Amber has 13 faces, most of them glum (“sleepy morning face,” “mad at Mom” face, etc.), and that since she’s been with Reggie, she has a 14th face — the only one where she’s smiling with her teeth.
Her brother chimes in: “I wasn’t even sure she had all her teeth.”
Reggie jumps in: “She does! I felt them all with my tongue!” (More groaning from the families)
Larry Bird jumped the gun and sent for Reggie’s soulmate to come from their planet. She arrives in a pretty tempting package: A cute blonde (Megan Park) who constantly smiles and bats her eyes. She even asks Reggie to name her, and he randomly chooses Jane.
Turning to the two families, she says, “I’m Jane. I’m here to claim Reggie for all time. And you are?”
Amber angrily responds: “…Going to gouge out your dimples with my thumbs!”
Amber’s Mom tells her daughter: “You go for the face, I’ll take her out at the knees!”
Amber: “On three…!”
Reggie averts disaster by telling Jane he’s already got a girlfriend and to wait outside, which she happily does. He refuses to let the families vote on their relationship, announcing he’s already found his soulmate.
“I was pulled through space and time by universal force to meet her. It’s you, Amber. You are why I’m here. It’s why my family came to Earth and it is why your family moved next door. So we could meet.”
Larry Bird interrupts him: “Can we move this along? ‘Shark Tank’ starts in four minutes!” (It actually does!)
After reassuring Amber not to worry about the new rival, whom she calls a “cosmic stalker,” she leaves, but like a magnet, Reggie’s body goes flying, pinned to the door toward Jane, who looks at him through the glass panel, smiling. “Oh boy!” he says, worried.
Woo hoo! Looks like we have another love triangle for poor ol’ Reggie Jackson. But how long will we get to enjoy this farce? As feared, “The Neighbors” wasn’t promoted well (I didn’t realize until the last minute the new season was starting last Friday) and it ratings were lower than what was in its time slot last year. Check it out at 8:30 p.m.
“Always Behind with Julie” Department: Two columns ago, my “Big Brother” column was printed, the same day the racist Aaryn was voted out. So I had to wait two weeks to talk about that. The day before that was printed, host Julie Chen made news for admitting on “The Talk” that she had plastic surgery because her station manager and a well-known agent said she’d never fulfill her dream of becoming a news anchor with her eyes (the former said she looked bored when interviewing people). So after discussing it with her parents, she decided to go under the knife. As others have pointed out, she probably had a nose job too (Chen denies this).
Well, this opened a can of worms. Of course, the messages she received were racist and sad, but did she consider applying her make-up better instead? I’ve seen enough “before and after” photos to know that women can pretty much paint themselves to look the way they want. And if you saw how much mascara Chen wore on recent “Big Brother” telecasts, you couldn’t see her eyelids anyway. Couldn’t tell if she was bored, excited, or indifferent.
So she changed her eyes to reach her goal of becoming a news anchor. Many onliners asked if she got into a romantic relationship with (and later married) CBS CEO Leslie Moonves (thereby breaking up his 25-year marriage) because she felt it also would help her reach another career goal? It’s a mess.
Death Watch Department: Last week, the controversial “Dads” debuted to only 5.6 million viewers and a 2.2 rating in the 18-49 age group. Adding DVR +3 ratings (those who recorded the show and watched it within three days), it improved to 2.6. But that was against repeats.
This Tuesday, when it went up against “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and the #1 show “NCIS,” it fell 28% to 3.7 million viewers and a 1.5 in the 18-49 demographic. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” (featuring Ming-Na Wen and co-written and co-produced by Asian American Maurissa Tancharoen), on the other hand, was the highest-debuting new show in four years with a 4.6 rating (and 11.9 total viewers). Prepare the casket for “Dads.”
Fox declined MANAA’s request to re-shoot problematic scenes in the offensive pilot episode, but they did edit out at least one joke from what I’d seen at the July pre-screening: After asking Brenda Song to dress in that infamous “sexy Asian schoolgirl” outfit to impress the Chinese businessmen, her boss, Giovanni Ribisi, worriedly told co-boss Seth Green, “We’re gonna get sued!” It wasn’t in the broadcast. Didn’t wanna give anyone ideas?!
Movie Worth Our Support Department: This Friday, “Wedding Palace,” a comedy starring Korean American actors, opens in Koreatown, Irvine, Pasadena, New York City, and Oahu. It’s written, produced and directed by Christine Yoo. If it doesn’t do well in its first weekend, it won’t get a second weekend or get to open in other cities.
We need to show there’s an Asian American market for Asian American films or else Hollywood will be even less inclined to green-light movies about our community, and our own producers and directors will decide to make “white films” like everyone else because they’re easier sells. Please support this project. Tell your family and friends to go to www.weddingpalacemovie.com/ for theatre info and watch the trailer at http://youtu.be/F-m4OaIGmuM.
’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.