Animation and comedy lovers, its time to meet the Neighbors From Hell.
The first original animated series from TBS premieres on the network tonight (June 7) at 10:00 PM / 9:00 PM central time, focusing on a family of demons sent to Earth to stop global conglomerate Petromundo’s super-drill from burrowing into the center of the planet — a move that would surely expose Hell to the rest of the world.
Along for the mission is Balthazor Hellman (Will Sasso), a good-natured torturer sent to Earth because of his deep knowledge of human television; his wife Tina (Molly Shannon), a no-nonsense demon drinking far too much Chardonnay and spending way too much time surfing the ‘net for celebrity gossip news; their son Josh (David Soren), a videogame-playing mischief maker, and daughter Mandy (Tracey Fairaway), a flirtatious demon with mastery over teenage boys; Uncle Vlaartark (Kyle McCulloch), Tina’s uncle with serious immaturity issues; and Pazuzu (Patton Oswalt), a talented goblin who is forced to pose as the Hellman family’s dog, much to his embarrassment.
“I think sort of one of the biggest challenges was how do you make a family of demons likable — how do you get on their side,” Neighbors executive producer Pam Brady told Spinoff Online during a conference call last week. “And I think the biggest thing we did was by using sort of the philosophy of like a show like Dexter and we gave them a code of conduct that they would never break. So we kind of made them sort of highly principled and moral in sort of a world of humans where, you know, the real evil on Earth that happens is because of human frailty and human weakness. Demons wouldn’t start wars — demons just punish the guilty.”
Also assisting in making the Hellman family a relatable group are the characters’ genuine interests in human activity, such as Balthazor’s unbridled passion for television. “The fact that he believes in these shows and believes that problems get resolved in 22 minutes and he’s such a believer that it’s hard not to like someone that’s just enthusiastic and wants to believe in sort of the best instincts of people,” said Brady. “It’s not until he comes to Earth that he realizes people aren’t like they are in a sitcom — they do bad things.”
With the Hellman family coming to Earth with a specific goal in mind — stopping Petromundo’s drill from inadvertently revealing Hell’s location — Brady said that Neighbors From Hell will ride a fine line between balancing standalone episodes with an ongoing story.
“We try to make each episode sort of stand alone and we try to make it so that we’re not serializing it. But we also know — it’s almost like a Gilligan’s Island sort of premise that they’re on Earth, they want to get home and they’ve got something they need to do before they can get home. They’ve got to get off the island,” she said. “In a way, we start each episode with Balthazor having a new sort of insane idea about how he’s going to stop this drill, but it’s always a different thing so it’s always like he’s going to start trying to get the engineers drunk one day, or he’s going to take them to a strip club, or he’s going to go after the head of transportation because he’s vulnerable and has some access to the drill. There’s all these different ways for him to get access to the drill. And then, hopefully, we’ll move on and make this sort of a show about how to get ahead in business — sort of American culture in the 21st century. It really becomes about [Baltazor] climbing the corporate ladder in the most evil sort of oil services company that makes Halliburton look like a bunch of bikers. It makes BP look responsible, our company.”
Having worked on TV and film properties such as South Park, Just Shoot Me! and Hamlet 2, Brady is no stranger to animation, television and comedy. While Neighbors certainly has all of those ingredients, the executive producer finds herself most interested in the show’s “fish-out-of-water” premise.
“I’ve always liked shows that are kind of fish-out-of-water shows,” she said. “This was a great way to sort of spin on a fish-out-of-water show. You’re supposedly bringing the most evil people ever and putting them on Earth, and the whole joke of the show is that the humans are the neighbors from hell. [The Hellman family] keep their yard nice, they’re not too loud; they’re actually a really loving family. They support each other. It’s just a kind of show where suburban America has kind of gone off the rails.”
Neighbors From Hell debuts tonight (June 7) on TBS at 10:00 PM / 9:00 PM central time.
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