When we read about the idea behind The Neighbor, it sounded to us like a Spanish, 2020s version of The Greatest American Hero. For those of you young’uns, the 1981-83 show was about a regular guy who was given a suit with super powers by a group of aliens, and after losing the instruction manual, finds out about his powers via trial and lots of error. This is pretty much what The Neighbor is about, except the guy is an irresponsible narcissist who can barely manage his own life, much less the powers he’s been given. Read on for more…
THE NEIGHBOR: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: We see a shot of the stars, and then something crashes to the ground. A man in a red suit crawls out of the crater his ship created, and he transfers something to a sleeping couple outside a cabin. Then the sleeping couple wake up in a bedroom.
The Gist: Javier (Quim Gutiérrez) is a bit of a screw-up. He’s so lazy that he would rather sleep than open the bar he works at (not owns, mind you) on time. He thinks his t-shirts with generic slogans on them will be such a hit that he’s banking his future on it. But somehow he has managed to enter a burgeoning relationship with a journalist named Lola (Clara Lago), who is excited about her idea to interview people in his building for a story about apartment building residents who help each other. He mentions the t-shirts again, and is dismayed when he overhears her talk to her friend — and Javi’s neighbor — Julia (Catalina Sopelana) that Javi is just too darn selfish.
Meanwhile, José Ramón (Adrián Pino) is new in the city, eager to start studying at university. He finds a room in Javi’s building that’s no more than a closet. When he leaves the next morning, he runs into Julia. She has just kicked out her boyfriend for giving her a stuffed animal that she finds out has a webcam in it (she figured they could both have been naked on camera with much better resolution), and offers José the room.
In a desperate move, Javi takes advantage of a friend needing to cancel a weekend in the woods to offer the trip to Lola as a “romantic getaway” to “connect with nature.” However, when they get to the creepy cabin, their beefs with each other come out and they’re about to break up. But then, the crash described at the top of this review happened. In the alien’s last gasp, he plays a video that explains that he’s been given a medallion and suit that makes him “the guardian and protector of the cosmos.” The suit and “sacred pills” are the key to his powers.
Back in town, Javi starts to realize that, when he takes a pill, he has super strength and can throw things very far. He can also jump to the point of almost flying. He swipes the medallion and the suit materializes. He takes a huge jump and lands butt-first in José’s window, then subsequently vomits. He tells José about his new powers, and instead of being skeptical, José gets a little excited.
Our Take: The Neighbor (Original title: El Vecino) is described as a buddy comedy, with José being the practical half of the pair, which means he’ll be spending the first season trying to wrangle his ne’er-do-well new friend with superpowers to actually use them for good instead of for goofing around. But the first episode really goes slowly to set all this up. We don’t even realize that José and Javi will get together and be buddies until the last three minutes of the episode. For most of the first episode, we think this will be about Javi getting his powers and trying to salvage his relationship with Lola.
And while we were OK with the GAH rip-off (it has been almost 40 years since that show debuted, after all), we were hoping things in the first episode would be funnier. We liked José’s plight, especially when his first roommate climbed over his cot to get whatever drugs he was selling. But Javi just seems like an unfunny doof, and we are going to wonder how things with the perfectly reasonable Lola will continue as the season wears on. Being a jerk can be funny if the show’s writers find situations that expose that jerkiness. We haven’t seen it yet, and we’re wondering what kind of bad stuff he’s going to inflict on all of these people’s lives now that he has these powers.
Sex and Skin: Nothing.
Parting Shot: To prove to José that he has powers, Javi says, “Watch this,” and bends his hand backwards to the point where the pain would make any mortal pass out. Both guys scream, but only one of them is screaming for real.
Sleeper Star: Catalina Sopelana as Julia might be the only one on the series who is a voice of reason, and she seems to be just as odd as everyone else.
Most Pilot-y Line: The guy that José first rooms with thinks his name is José Pamón, and doesn’t believe that he wrote the name down wrong. It’s a decent joke, but it’s dragged out a bit too long.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Now that The Neighbor has established its high-concept premise, we think it’ll get better. Just watching the first few scenes from episode 2 tells us that it will. But when your first episode is only 32 minutes and it still feels slow, that’s not a good start.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, VanityFair.com, Playboy.com, Fast Company.com, RollingStone.com, Billboard and elsewhere.