If you ever thought your neighbors might be from outer space, then the new show “The Neighbors” is right up your alley.
Set in Bayonne, the show features a gated community in which most of the residents are aliens from outer space, with males who get pregnant and name their children after earthly sport stars. In fact, the leader the group of aliens is named Wilt Chamberlain. The fact that the aliens are named after sports figures is something of a tribute to the film and TV series “Alien Nation,” which used similar names for aliens.
“I had no idea that ‘Neighbors’ took place in Bayonne, until Jamie Gertz mentioned it. Then my ears perked up,” said writer Sue Facter last week. “A few days ago, I was sitting in the Paley Center listening to a panel about ABC’s new fall programming. It was an eclectic evening. Sarah Rue had just announced her pregnancy. Lily Tomlin had taken a tumble and fell on stage. And then Jamie Gertz mentioned Bayonne on the panel. That brought it home for me. Bayonne made it to Beverly Hills yet again.”
Facter, the daughter of a local reporter and editor, has traveled with movie and TV stars, interviewing them for publications such as USA Today. Her inspiration has always been here, along with the memory of her father, who worked as the reporter and editor for the Bayonne Times, Hudson Dispatch, and other local publications.
She has written high-profile articles for USA Today since it started publishing, but has also had pieces appear in TV Guide, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She has also served as a publicist for the television division of Columbia Pictures and worked in TV production for King World Productions, Paramount TV, Court TV, Inside Edition, Hard Copy, Current Affair and other programs.
“It seems Dan Fogelman, the director and writer, got the idea from his late mom who lived in a condo complex in New Jersey with unusual neighbors. He was very close with her,” Facter said about the new series.
“It seems Dan Fogelman, the director and writer got the idea from his late mom who lived in a condo complex in New Jersey with unusual neighbors.” – Sue Facter
Inspiration drawn from reality
But it is not the only idea that Fogelman shaped out of his mother’s experiences. He is currently working on a film that deals with another situation involving his mother.
“He took a road trip from New Jersey to Vegas and wrote a film about it. Barbra Streisand plays his Mom,” Facter said. “‘The Neighbors’ continues to keep Bayonne on the map, especially in Hollywood. Last year, Enzo Palumbo [from Bayonne] wowed the masses on ‘Big Brother.’”
Specifically, “Neighbors” revolves around a community called “Hidden Hills” into which a more or less average American family decides to move. When they arrive, they soon discover the community is populated by beings from another planet. The aliens feed through their eyes and use mental telepathy to read books. Green goo oozes from their ears when they cry.
Although similar in some ways to several other comic science fiction sitcoms, “Neighbors” apparently tries to explore the similarities and differences between the humans and their alien counterparts, and perhaps takes a little from Steven Spielberg’s E.T. in that these aliens are stranded on earth and waiting for someone to answer their distress signal.
Fogelman apparently previously called the series “Down to Earth.”
“Dan Fogelman is a highly respected director in both film and television,” Facter said. “When all is said and done, he’s a family guy. The comedy is dedicated to his mom, the inspiration for much of his work.”
Late in 2011, Jami Gertz, Simon Templeman, Toks Olagundoye, and Tim Jo were signed onto the show. Gertz plays Debbie Weaver, the mother of the human family; Templeman plays Wilt Chamberlain, the leader of the aliens; Olagundoye is cast as Jackie Joyner Kersee, the mother of the lead alien family, and Jo is Joe Montana, the son of the alien family.
“I thought FX’s ‘Lights Out’ was one of the best shows on the air and was disappointed when it was canceled,” Facter says. “It took place in Bayonne. Years back, Johnny Carson made fun of our fair city. Now it’s very cool to be from Bayonne. Can’t wait for Jimmy Kimmel or Dave Letterman to poke fun at the show’s aliens. But, you’ve got to admit, there are some real characters here.”
Fogelman is reportedly a big science fiction fan, and has said in other interviews that he believes that “The Neighbors” will have a universal appeal.