Third-episode verdict: The Neighborhood (US: CBS)

Two surprisingly good episodes. Then the bad moved in

The Neighborhood

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, CBS
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Just as with Happy Together, I had high hopes for The Neighborhood, once I’d seen the first episode, since it too defied expectations. It sees typical white midwesterners Max Greenfield and Beth Behrs move into a tough(ish) suburban black neighbourhood in LA. Neighbour Cedric the Entertainer isn’t too keen on having white neighbours, so generally tries to be as antagonistic as possible to them; however, the rest of his family are more open-minded, bringing it a different kind of conflict.

The first two episodes managed to do more than simply be “hey, you’re white!” and “hey, you’re black!” jokes every 10 seconds. Instead, they were surprisingly insightful looks at the differences between black and white Americans’ culture, while being almost a comedy of manners about what can and can’t be said and by whom in modern America.

Episode two also saw a potential alternative discussion point for the show, with Cedric the Entertainer the voice of tough conservative black American parenting values and Greenfield the voice of softer modern white parenting approaches. Indeed, there were times in the episode where the words black and white never even got mentioned.

The Neighborhood

There goes The Neighborhood

So it’s a shame that episode three lived down entirely to my initial expectations for the show. Greenfield stopped being an equal, more a figure of fun for everyone to laugh at. The jokes were basically “hey, you’re white!”, “hey, you’re black!” and most of the comedy revolved around the characters laughing at, not with each other. On top of that, not the slightest bit of cultural insight.

Basically, a standard CBS sitcom then. In fact, I couldn’t make it to the end of the episode, it was so unwatchably awful and standard CBS sitcom.

Which is a shame, since Happy Together showed that CBS is clearly aiming for a new, younger, gentler, more diverse market than it has been before, and I’d hoped The Neighborhood would be a good pairing with it. It isn’t.

Oh well. Two goodish episodes ain’t bad, is it?

Barrometer rating: 4

The Barrometer for The Neighborhood