Let’s get the obvious out of the way. The writing is bad and the concept is uninspiring. The Neighbors is not watchable because it’s well written. It’s watchable because a cast of seasoned professionals wades through bad writing and has fun doing it.
The Neighbors is watchable for the same reason that another “Aliens come to Earth” TV show, Third Rock from the Sun, was watchable. Third Rock from the Sun was watchable and sometimes unwatchable, because John Lithgow dived into the material, got it into his teeth and chewed on it.
The Neighbors doesn’t have that kind of overacting, instead it has Doug Jones wading affably through the worst lines and Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz and Toks Olagundoye joining him. And all of them take the ridiculous material completely seriously. And somehow ridiculously, it works.
It works because the actors dive into it until the joke isn’t the punchline, but the way that everyone is running around and having fun with the ridiculous material.
The writing on The Neighbors is terrible, but writing only matters so much in comedy. Arrested Development had great writing, but was hardly ever funny because it spent too much time thinking about the joke. The Neighbors is the joke. It’s a show about ridiculous people acting ridiculously and it works.
It works for the same reason that Jerry Stiller on Seinfeld worked. Stiller’s character was supposed to be a bald repressed man living in fear of his wife. He was supposed to be an older version of George. On paper that’s a great joke. It’s the kind of joke that Arrested Development would have lived off for years. But nobody was laughing. Instead Jerry Stiller began screaming and hitting George. And that was funny. It wasn’t funny because Frank Constanza was well written, he often wasn’t, but because the whole thing was ridiculous.
The Neighbors is ridiculous.