Monday, October 15, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Neighborhood' - Dave and Calvin Learn How to Trust Each Other in 'Welcome to the Spare Key'

CBS' The Neighborhood - Episode 1.03 "Welcome to the Spare Key"

Dave gives Calvin a spare key to the Johnsons' house in case of an emergency and is pleasantly surprised when the gesture is reciprocated - or so he thinks.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of CBS' The Neighborhood.

"Welcome to the Spare Key" was written by Devon Shepard and directed by Jeff Greenstein

I've given The Neighborhood a solid sampling of episodes to see if it could fully realize the potential of its strong cast. After a dreadful start, the show hasn't gotten any worse. And yet, it hasn't gotten a whole lot better either. It still seems incredibly forced and stiff. It proves that even the best actors struggle when given lackluster dialogue. That's the most apparent issue when it comes to Max Greenfield in this series because Dave is just so needy and completely oblivious. He is nothing more than a walking punchline machine but one who isn't all that clever or amusing. A joke about short shorts makes no sense in 2018. Him trying to find common ground with Calvin by researching the car on the driveway is just silly. In fact, the overall main story of this episode is very predictable. As such, it's very lackluster because there isn't a single moment of genuine surprise of cleverness. It's the story told exactly as how the audience could have predictable. There isn't a sense of fun on display. Nor is there any kind of victory that comes from both Dave and Calvin getting what they deserve. Calvin being locked out of his house by his wife and son mostly just serves to prove to Dave just how unfriendly Calvin really is. Meanwhile, Calvin continuing to lean all of his weight onto Dave proves that not everyone has to be as trusting as Dave is right away. The best thing really going for this episode is that it doesn't feel the need to shoehorn in something about race. Sure, that's still baked into the premise of the show with the Butlers still making jokes about how their neighborhood is different now that the Johnsons have moved in. That is growing incredibly stale and tiresome though. But the main story doesn't resolve around Dave and Calvin seeing things a certain way because of the racial divide between them. Instead, it's just about Dave being overly friendly and Calvin being stuck in his ways and not wanting to trust anyone. It frankly would be a much more interesting show if Gemma, Tina and their friendship were on display more. That dynamic is just so relaxed and familiar already. It only pops up at the end of this episode. That's very disappointing. In fact, it also hints at neither of these women fully enjoying the marriages that they have. Sure, there are moments of love between Tina and Calvin. But that still comes out of her believing that he has done something nice. Meanwhile, things just remain so empty between Dave and Gemma. There is no real spark or comedic energy between them. She just seems like a typical sitcom wife who is exasperated by her husband's antics. Beth Behrs deserves so much better than that. Even in the end, she's still tasked with caring for Dave after his injuries. She is juggling so much and has to deal with that too. Of course, the show hasn't really expanded the personal lives of any of the characters so far. They still have their broad descriptions of how they fit into the premise. As such, it's already worrisome that it won't develop beyond that. Right now, the jokes just aren't funny enough for that to be all that's necessary for the show to work.