Earlier tonight, I went onto Hulu and I watched the first episode of The Neighbors, which is the latest project from cult movie icon Tommy Wiseau.
Before I even start watching, I knew that The Neighbors would be bad. That’s really the only reason that anyone would choose to watch The Neighbors, just to see how bad it could possibly be. After all, Tommy Wiseau is best known as the director of The Room, a film that has become famous for being one of the worst ever made. And, as I’ve made clear on this site in the past, I absolutely love The Room. I own a copy. My boyfriend and I have attended countless midnight showings of The Room, where we’ve shouted out all the lines and we’ve thrown plastic spoons at the screen with joyous abandon. When Clint Jun Gamboa showed up on American Idol, I wanted him to win just because he composed three of the songs that appear on The Room soundtrack. I consider The Disaster Artist to be one of the best film books ever written. I’ve even been lucky enough to interact with Room co-star Greg Sestero on twitter. The Room is a bad film that you can’t help but love and I think that a lot of people — like me — assumed that The Neighbors would be a bad sitcom that you could not help but love.
Uhmm yeah … about that.
Having now watched the first episode of The Neighbors (entitled “Meet the Neighbors”), I can definitely say that sitting through it was perhaps the most unpleasant 31 minutes of my life so far.
The Neighbors is about an apartment complex. (Every few minutes, we see the exact same establishing shot of the building while some rudimentary but catchy EDM plays in the background.) The tenants are an eccentric bunch but, fortunately, they’re all watched over by property managers Charlie (Tommy Wiseau) and Bebe (Gretel Roenfeldt). Remember how, in The Room, everyone was always asking Johnny for his advice? Well, the same seems to apply for Charlie here. For the most part, the first episode of The Neighbors consisted of characters stepping into Charlie’s office and telling him about their problems. Charlie gives advice that is, of course, delivered in that famously impenetrable Wiseau accent. Characters leave the office. “What a day!” Charlie says.
(It’s interesting that, in both The Neighbors and The Room, Wiseau played a wise man who keeps his childish friends from making terrible mistakes. Based on his performances and the portrait of him that emerges in Greg Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist, I imagine that’s the way that Wiseau prefers to view himself in real life.)
The other main storyline deals with CiCi (Pamela Bailey), a woman who owns a chicken. When she can’t find her chicken, she wanders around the apartment complex, screaming at people and demanding that they return her chicken. Eventually, she finds her chicken.
There are other things going on, of course. There’s a guy who is thinking about hanging himself but then he’s paid a visit by Philadelphia (Karly Kim), who has big plastic boobs, looks straight at the camera whenever she has to deliver her lines, and who spends the entire episode wearing a pink bikini. And then there’s Troy (Andrew Buckley) who smokes weed and sells gun and yells a lot. When we first meet Troy, he’s angry because he’s found a big note on his door that reads, “BRING $850 TODAY OR BE EVICTED.” And then there’s Tim (Raul Phoenix) who always has a basketball with him and who is always borrowing money from Tommy so that he can pay back Bebe or from Bebe so that he can pay back Tommy. There’s a handyman named Ed (Jonathan Freed) and a pizza boy named Joe (Brian Kong) who rents an apartment of his own. Joe is Asian but his last name is Spielberg because that’s what passes for the height of hilarity in The Neighbors. Both Joe and Ed also wear Tommy Wiseau-brand underwear.
There was one character that I did like. Lula (Cheyenne Van Zutphen) is the girlfriend of drug dealer Ricky Rick (played, in a blonde wig, by Tommy Wiseau). Lula has the power to literally hypnotize people with her charm. That’s a great power to have and, at one point, she uses it to get a free gun from Troy. When Troy comes out of his charmed state, he yells and yells while the camera zooms in on his sweaty face.
There’s also a tenant who is upset because his pregnant wife has figured out that he’s gay. His name is Don and when he first steps into the office, Charlie says, “Oh hai, Don,” and you’re briefly reminded of how much more fun The Room was compared to this. Don and his wife have a huge fight in the manager’s office while Charlie and Bebe try to maintain the peace. It all adds up to a lot of yelling.
And that, to be honest, is why The Neighbors was such an unpleasant viewing experience. Everyone in this show yells nonstop. They yell when they argue. They yell when they say hello. They yell when they tell jokes. They yell when they say goodbye. After spending just a few minutes of listening to them, I had a massive headache. Imagine if the “WHERE’S MY FUCKING MONEY!?” scene from The Room had gone on for 32 minutes and you have a pretty good idea of what it was like to watch The Neighbors.
One reason why The Room is so beloved is because, as bad as it is, it’s also a legitimate movie. The Room is blessed with such a mix of sincerity and ineptness that the film becomes both terrible and endearing. You marvel at how bad the film is while also respecting Wiseau for staying true to his own eccentric vision. The Neighbors, on the other hand, has all of the ineptness of The Room but none of the sincerity. The Room is fascinating because it’s so clearly the product of Wiseau’s own eccentric world view. The Neighbors, meanwhile, is the product of Wiseau’s newfound fame. The Room was made by a director who wanted to make a statement. The Neighbors, on the other hand, was made by a director who knows that people will watch anything that has his name slapped onto it, regardess of what it may be.
The Room is a guilty pleasure. The Neighbors is just guilty. (One side effect of thinking about Tommy Wiseau is that you soon find yourself writing like him as well.)
That said, I’m still probably going to watch the other three episodes of The Neighbors. The first episode was so bad that the show itself has nowhere to go but up.