The Neighbors is Coneheads for people who never saw Coneheads

When I first heard that ABC was bringing a television program called The Neighbors to their autumn roster, I was beyond psyched. "Finally!" I expectorated wildly. "Tommy Wiseau's infinitely gestating apartment building comedy has found the studio capital it deserves!" But no, this was sadly not the case.

Imagine if you waltzed home one day only to discover Mork from Ork, Alf, and the terrifying Rankin/Bass Coneheads getting romantic on your kitchen floor. Now, imagine that Ray Walston — who is miles away, wanting no part of this intergalactic love train — has called the CIA on these extraterrestrial trespassers. Moments before a tomahawk missile crashes through your living room, incinerating you and the cosmic rat king squirming on the linoleum, you feebly attempt to mop up the aliens' sputum. This fluid contains the DNA that makes up The Neighbors.

The Neighbors — which is written by Dan Fogelman, one of the screenwriters of Pixar's Cars — has such an overcooked familiarness about it that it feels like a fictional stock television show that's perpetually playing in the background of a movie. You keep half expecting the "I'd Buy That For A Dollar" guy from RoboCop to pop into the frame. This is a pity, as there are a smattering of halfway decent science fiction gags on display here.

The basic premise? Aliens land on Earth in 2002, assume human appearances and the names of famous athletes as a solemn tribute, and buy out an entire gated community in New Jersey while they await instructions from their homeworld of Zabvron. Ten years pass, and the Zabvronians are still stuck on Earth, but with an almost juiceless communicator.

One frustrated alien couple hightails it back to Zabvron, so a cantankerous family of New Yorkers (the Weavers) move in. Cue the entire gated community acting like the Thermians from Galaxy Quest, the human husband blustering about gender roles like Earl from Dinosaurs ("Things on par with 'Mighty Megalosaurus,' et cetera!"), and the Zabvronians secret revealed to the Weavers within 48 hours.

For every expectation-defying yuk The Neighbors delivers — for reasons unexplainable, to recharge their communicator, pater familias "Larry Bird" must send his young son "Dick Butkus" to the future to be raised by his own grandchildren — there's half a dozen sitcom chestnuts that were already moldy by the Holmes & Yo-Yo went off the air. But hey, The Neighbors was designed to be inoffensive — its ratings didn't suck last night — so everyone brace yourself for Thirder Rock From The Sun sticking around for more than three episodes.