Aliens in Sitcoms: A Retrospective
Back in November, I wrote an article questioning why ABC hadn’t cancelled The Neighbors yet. It got quite a response. Ignorant personal attacks aside, I felt that most of the critiques of my critique were heartfelt and honest. Some of you really like the show. Thankfully, a single critic’s opinion does not decide what is or is not chosen to remain on the air. But I am still firmly convinced that without its cushy time slot alongside the brilliant Modern Family and clever shows The Middle and Suburgatory, The Neighbors would have been cancelled months ago, although that can be said for a number of other programs that have found audiences as well.
I also believe that if viewers who watch The Neighbors were aware of alternative “Aliens Meet Humans” sitcoms, they might enjoy watching those shows instead. And since we live in the wonderful age of Hulu, Netflix, DVD/Blu-Ray, TV Land, etc., you can pretty much watch any show anytime you want, and not be left to the mercy of network Lineups (also, bonus, fewer/no commercials!). So in an effort to serve the TV viewing public better, here are five extraterrestrial-related sitcoms that I believe are all better than The Neighbors, shows that anyone (especially families looking for non-offensive entertainment) can watch as an alternative.
Mork and Mindy (ABC, 1978-1982)
Robin Williams and Pam Dawber starred in this wacky, family-friendly fish-out-of-water series. It’s dated, for sure (as is every old sitcom), but Mork and his observations on Earth’s strange customs, the easy chemistry between the co-stars, and Mork’s “what I’ve learned” dialog with his intergalactic boss Orson at the end of every episode make this show a true, endearing classic.
3rd Rock from the Sun (CBS, 1996-2001)
What more can you say about an Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series that featured the great John Lithgow and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Typical sitcom plots were handled with a type of dry yet naive humor without being sickly sweet or wildly inappropriate. And the show wasn’t nearly as gimmicky as some “normal” comedies.
ALF(NBC, 1986 – 1990)
A People’s Choice Award Winner and ubiquitous pop culture reference, ALF stood out for the simple fact that most of the Alien shows go out of their way to physically hide the fact that the main characters are aliens. Don’t look too deep into the back story of ALF (it involves the planetary destruction of his entire home world of Melmac), and enjoy it instead for its combination of childlike wonder and the fact that it features a sarcastic, funny, yet loveable hairy rogue, who seems like the end result of Woody Allen creating the Ewoks.
My Favorite Martian (CBS, 1963-1966)
Exodus, an alien from the planet Mars, comes to earth and lives with Timothy O’Hara under the guise of his uncle Martin (get it?). This one is the original alien show, the one to which all the others pay homage. In the same vein as other crazy sitcoms about bizarre families that dominated the airwaves in the 60’s (The Munsters, The Adams Family, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie) the black and white presentation and dated references might make this one a tad stale for today’s audiences, but like a classic record, one should take it in to understand contemporary entertainment.
Out of This World (NBC, 1987-1991)
In a unique spin on the “aliens among us” concept, young Evie is conceived when her Mom has an extraterrestrial affair with a dashing interplanetary visitor (voiced by Burt Reynolds!). This gives the young girl special powers, including stopping time. The ability of the creators to take this one gag and turn it into three interesting seasons (sorry, season four was a drag) was remarkable. And yes, I was a kid when I saw it, and I might have had a bit of a crush on Maureen Flannigan. I still kind of do.
So there you have it. Of course there are other shows that deal with aliens (The X-Files, V, American Dad, Roswell, Torchwood), but I went with family-oriented sitcoms, as that’s the format that The Neighbors is attempting to emulate. Perhaps the show has gotten better since my first review; I wouldn’t know. I only hope that this article provided a few alternative options for anyone sitting down with their loved ones for some quality TV time.
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