Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Neighbors’ Sucks All the Fun Out of Hate-Watching


Maybe the only thing harder than making a great television program is making one that is both horrible and highly enjoyable to watch. The “so-bad-it’s-good” genre of culture can be infuriating at times. It’s hard not to feel like you’re supporting terrible art and therefore encouraging more of it, instead of championing what’s good. But it’s easy to succumb to the fun of it — the most prominent example of the 21st century being Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 disaster The Room, a movie so bad that we still can’t stop talking about it. It inspired a devoted cult following who, I’m sure, helped to give Wiseau the encouragement he needed to make a follow-up: a sitcom called The Neighbors. The Neighbors is bad — that much was to be expected — but it’s bad in such an awful, unwatchable, and joyless way that it doesn’t even merit an ironic appreciation.

The Room was, at least, somewhat charmingly terrible. You can actually appreciate Wiseau’s hard work and vision, however misguided it was. It was effortlessly and accidentally awful. It created its own personal brand of weirdness, howlingly funny continuity errors, and downright indecipherable conversational exchanges. The fans who loved it understood the specific, intricate ways in which a movie must fail in order for it to swing back to cult success: it must be endlessly watchable and quotable, even selling out midnight screenings.

The Neighbors is nothing like that.

Where to even begin when trying to review something so detestable that it defies reviewing? It’s a sitcom that practically begs you to turn it off the second it begins. The Neighbors is bad, plain and simple. It is virtually unwatchable. There are four episodes available for viewing on Hulu Plus; I quit during the third, worrying that I might have done irreparable damage to my brain. All in all, I watched about 90 minutes of The Neighbors, but it felt like I’d been watching for at least ten hours and was now forced to view the entire world through a jarringly grating low-budget filter resembling a DIY basement porno flick, all while everyone screams at me. There is so much screaming in The Neighbors. None of the characters talk to each other; they yell, they scream, they screech, their conversation devolves into high-pitched noises reminiscent of birds attacking each other. I did not understand approximately 90 percent of the dialogue, though based on the remaining ten percent, that’s probably a good thing.

The premise, and I use the word “premise” very loosely here, is that the show follows the everyday lives and interactions between a group of tenants in an apartment building and the building’s manager Charlie and his secretary/girlfriend Bebe. Wiseau plays both the protagonist, Charlie, and the antagonist, Ricky Rick (in a blond wig). Also in the building are a bunch of women who only wear bikinis (one is named Philadelphia; I can’t recall if the others were ever named), a stoner who wears tie-dye shirts, and a “diverse” group of racist and homophobic characters. Also, there’s a chicken involved, for reasons that are still unclear to me, resulting in one character being accused of having “sex with men and women and maybe even a chicken!” Sure, why not.

Other characters include an older black woman whose sole purpose, it seems, is to scream about “my baby” (referring to the chicken, of course) as she goes on a frantic search for her pet, screaming so loud and incomprehensibly that I temporarily had to mute the television. There is an Asian character who gets into a screaming match with a black character — I did not care to learn anyone’s names — both yelling racist stereotypes at each other. It’s unbearable.

Most of the “jokes” in The Neighbors involve Ricky borrowing $20 from people, and characters threatening to kill other characters as they sleep. No, it doesn’t lose its humor on paper — it’s all humorless in the series, as well. There is nothing in The Neighbors that makes sense. At one point, a princess moves in to the complex; at another, everyone serenades Charlie and Bebe with “Frère Jacques” because… well, who knows.

Every part of The Neighbors is incoherent. Scenes start and stop abruptly, characters talk over each other without saying anything of importance, it’s often unclear if the show is even scripted, and its lack of color correction and sound mixing makes it look even worse than most freshman film school projects. It lacks any sort of passion from Wiseau, as if he’s doing this because he knows that he has to do something in order to stay somewhat relevant but has no actual interest in this series. The Room may be a terrible movie, but it was at least a passionately terrible movie. The Neighbors has no redeeming qualities, and I doubt even obsessive Wiseau fans will find something to ironically enjoy.