Tommy Wiseau finally goes beyond the borders of The Room and heads into the realms of the entire apartment complex in his long anticipated Hulu.com series The Neighbors – a show where, unlike The Room, he was apparently granted complete creative freedom. The primary evidence of this is that this show, I kid you not, is so rancid that it proves how bad The Room COULD have been, and not all of it has to do with the fact that Wiseau is trying to be funny on purpose this time.
I am not exaggerating. When you look at The Neighbors, you will start to realize how much worse it could have gotten if there weren’t people on the Room set trying to talk sense into Wiseau at all times. At least The Room had competent sound editing, consistently lit shots, a semi-serious attempt at music, less bizarre racism, comparatively less sexism, and dialogue scenes where people weren’t yelling random bullshit over each other, which is sure to cause some serious amounts of ear damage among viewers due to how terrible the audio quality is. Also, Wiseau’s non-existent understanding of English shines through much more clearly in the writing this time around. Ironically, so does his obsessive love towards the country of America.
Tommy Wiseau plays two characters: Charlie, the owner of the apartment building where the show is set, and Ricky Rick, a troublemaker and “cool guy with lots of friends”. The only difference between the two is their hair (read: bad wigs) and clothing; both sound like emotionless drunks who cannot speak English. They are surrounded by approximately a dozen other characters, getting into more seemingly random fights and equally random sex scenes than anyone from The Room had time for.
The female characters in the series range from a group of busty, large-lipped friends who walk around the building wearing nothing but bikinis, to a one-note slutty girl who has sex with a man with Tommy Wiseau underwear on a washing machine in her first scene, Charlie’s uninteresting co-worker, a princess who checks into the building only to have everyone start kissing her arse, and a perpetually shrieking elderly who is one of the most one-dimensional “strong and independent black woman” stereotypes I’ve encounteretd in recent years. She also hates humans but loves her pet chicken. On that note, let’s talk about some of this show’s issues with race. Yay.
There are also men of color in the series, utilized in the only way Wiseau seems to understand other ethnicities. There are two black men, one whose sole characterization is that he’s “the rapper” and one who speaks English mixed with African clicking sounds (!), and an Asian guy whose relation to rice and knowledge in technology are often alluded too. There’s also something about him potentially having sex with chickens and the punchline is something along the lines of “well, he’s Chinese, haah”. I think the saddest part is that no-one truly knows if Tommy’s joking.
A fun behind-the-scenes fact on The Neighbors is that Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim & Eric fame, who helped make a certain other project of the same quality become popular, were gonna help Tommy out on the show. There are varying stories as to why they didn’t. Tim and Eric’s version is that they wanted Tommy to have creative freedom (probably since watching him try to do serious yet oblivious attempts at comedy is more interesting than having a self-aware touch of “stylistic suck” added to it) while Tommy’s version is that Tim and Eric were jealous of him – naturally.
The scenarios that Wiseau comes up with for some of these episodes are truly fascinating. There is an episode where he seems to try to satirize the shoddy gun control laws of America and gives us a scene where Ricky Rick’s girlfriend casually asks if she can “have a shot-gun”. After Ricky Rick is done fondling his own crotch and talking about his own gun (ha… ha?), they buy a gun from a local and Ricky’s girlfriend uses her telepathic powers to make the man give them the firearm for free. The man starts screaming after realizing he’s been punked and we have a couple of jump-cuts until we end on a cut where he nonchalantly says to himself that he’s “okay”. I am only describing the things I saw, folks.
In-between bizarre and awkward scenes such as that one, we get an establishing exterior shot of the building. It is the exact same one every time, with the exact same piece of bland techno-like music, and not only do we get it between every single scene in an episode, but sometimes it even appears in the middle of an already ongoing scene, as if Wiseau wanted to simulate a “non-passage of time” and “cut to the exact same location to see what’s happening in the scene we’re watching”.
The opening theme is Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, but beyond that, there is little in way of music besides the irritating stinger used during the aforementioned transitions. There is one tolerable track than can be heard briefly during the closing credits, until it of course cuts without warning to a reprise of the transition theme. I watched the show with my brother and two friends last month. I have since been scarred for life and being reminded of that music – that constantly reappering piece of music that just wouldn’t go away – is now one of my triggers.
The Room was hilariously bad – a true classic of “filmmaking gone wrong” – but proving that giving its maker creative freedom bumps the quality of his work down to Birdemic levels, The Neighbors might be hands-down the worst show I have ever seen in my life. The writing is outlandish, the audio is a nightmare to listen to (it sounds like everything’s been recorded on the integrated mic of a bad camera, potentially explaining why all the actors had to shout their lines, and you can hear footsteps and reverb more loudly than you can the dialogue), the characters are one-note stereotypes that would make Michael Bay groan, and the attempts at humor are so baffling that you spend more time staring at the screen in a permanent state of “cringe” instead of laughing at how bad it is, as you did with The Room.
Like I wrote in my review of The Visit, a Shyamalan movie is less funny in its absurdity when comedy is his true intention. It just becomes empty and, well, pathetic. Sorry Tommy, but it doesn’t work when you’re doing it purposely either, even if it’s still baffling in a way that only someone as unconventional in his very existence as you could pull off. Try making another serious drama next time. Perhaps I’ll buy your underwear.
I’m posting a preview below. And yes, the editing on display here is at least as bad in the finished show. I have also posted a link to a trailer for an “early draft” of this show, which is so much better by comparison. Presumably, this early version was made when Tommy still had people around him who let him know when he had bad ideas. I can see why Tommy trashed that version.