If you are at all interested in media representations of the Mixed experience, The Neighbors is an important situation comedy to watch. It airs on ABC at 8:30 (7:30 Central) and is in its second season. The show centers around two families: The Weavers – Debbie, Marty and their three children – are a ‘white’ urban family that has moved to a gated community in search of a quieter life. Their neighbors are aliens from the fictional planet Zabvron – and they are a Mixed family. The father is European, and his name is Larry Bird (they adopted human names to try and fit in). The mother is also European, and she’s played by the wonderful actress Toks Olagundoye (whose father is Nigerian and mother is Norwegian). Her character’s name is Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Their children are Dick Butkus (‘white’ red-haired Ian Patrick) and Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo, who is Korean American). The ‘interracial’ pairings in the show include: Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (in a not-as-common ‘white’ man/’black’ woman match), and Reggie Jackson falls in love with the Weaver’s teenage daughter, Amber. In the second season Amber and Reggie continue to solidify their relationship, especially when it becomes threatened by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Zabvronian who insists she is Reggie’s soul mate. Although the writing sometimes falls back on cliches and stereotypes, the actors are really strong and when the writing is good there is a lot to ponder here about ‘race’ and racism.
The first season is out on DVD and if you have time over the holidays, I’d recommend watching it from the beginning. If you want to check out one episode to see if you like it, Season 2, Episode 4 is a particularly poignant show on the Mixed experience. Jackie and Debbie have become best friends (another wonderfully portrayed ‘interracial’ relationship), but Jackie has been feeling neglected – so Debbie offers to do anything that Jackie wants to do. Jackie has an appointment to get her hair done at a ‘black’ hair care salon in LA., not everything you presume will happen happens as a result. The show doesn’t shy away from some relevant contemporary topics – and for a sitcom I was impressed at its approach.
BUT, the fact remains that the interracial couple is made of aliens – a harsh reminder that Hollywood still isn’t completely ready to embrace Mixed relationships in ways the rest of us have been doing for centuries.