Welcome back to discuss our alien friends The Neighbors!
This episode is written by Kirker Butler. Great job!
Volunteering is not for everyone. In fact, you could say it is for the birds – the Larry Birds and the Jackie Joyner-Kerseys. This week, Larry (Simon Templeman) and Jackie (Toks Olagundoye) learn all about their child’s school and the PTA and Soccer team, with each organization working hard at maintaining its own form of political intrigue and confusing social expectations.
It is parent volunteer night at Polk Elementary School. Debbie (Jami Gertz) and Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) arrive to find that Larry and Jackie are also there, having a look around. According to Larry, the experience is boring and so are humans. Always encouraging, Jackie announces that the Bird/Joyner-Kerseys should find something that interests them. They are going to join the PTA.
Marty is less then enthused and recommends coaching. Jackie is intrigued. Larry, not so much. As Larry learns more about the PTA and that it is about bickering and petty politics, he brightens.
Jackie is pleased with the idea of coaching soccer. She admits that she was unexceptional as a child and sports gave her a much needed boost to her self esteem. She would like Dick Butkus (Ian Patrick) to follow in her footsteps. Please, young Dick is so bad, he will need a GPS to even find her footsteps.
At the first PTA meeting, Debbie learns a few things. Apparently, PTA politics is a lot like the Zavbronian council with a minor exception; there is no Butcher of Hope, ”a tall chap who wears a dark hood to mask his eternal sorrow. Puts an end to debates. How can you have a proper meeting without a Butcher of Hope”? Yes, that is a puzzler for sure.
We are now introduced to the President or Chairperson of the PTA who seems to like welding a gavel. She has decided arbitrarily that they are selling brownies to raise money for the soccer uniforms this year. Hey, I have an idea, why not just ask Larry Bird for the money for the soccer uniforms. He is rich. Then they do not have to torment the Bully, I mean, the PTA Gavel Lady.
Well, that is one very short way to tell a story. Since the aliens and, by association, the humans have to learn a lesson every week, it seems that Debbie is about to have a disagreement with Ms. Bossy Gavel Lady, otherwise known as Linda (Nora Dunn).
As Debbie attempts to debate the gavel and loses, she determines that Marty was right. The PTA is about bickering and petty politics. She is about to leave when Larry insists that she stay, “this woman is not only attacking your idea, she is attacking your very being, your way of life, your children”. That is when Larry stand up and tells the entire room that the guidelines state any decision on fundraising must be decided upon by the entire group. You go, Larry.
What to do next? Divide and conquer, Larry informs Debbie, “and together, we shall rule the galaxy…” This is not the first time we have seen a slight bent toward megalomania from Larry. Although he immediately attempts to hide the slip, it gives us, the viewers, a small tease of some possibilities for future episodes.
I do hope the writers choose to take the series a bit further. I would like to learn more about the aliens and their customs and politics.
On the soccer field, Dick Butkus is not doing very well. In fact, he sucks. Marty, however, continually provides encouragement. This confuses Jackie. Marty explains, “coaching is about positive reinforcement. Lets face it, the kid is never going to be David Beckham”. Jackie wants her son to succeed, however, it does not look promising.
Larry and Debbie approach the home of one of the PTA members. Her behaviour makes it obvious that Linda is definitely in charge. In fact, Elizabeth (Kerry Carney) seems down-right afraid of Linda. She attempts to close the door on Larry and Debbie but Larry stops her by pushing the door open and begins his sales pitch with, “Elizabeth, Debbie Weaver spent all morning putting lipstick on her teeth to come and talk with you. I insist you hear her out”.
At home, as Debbie continues to telephone sell her desire to make gingerbread cookies, Marty walks in wearing an unusual fashion statement – shorts that appear not to have seen the light of day for at least twenty years. Debbie just has to comment that Marty is chasing little kids around in lady pants. Marty, defensive argues that he is not chasing the kids around in lady pants, he is making lifelong memories. Maybe lifelong nightmares for the kids…
As Larry and Debbie walk along the sidewalk they come across Linda with a stroller. She tells them,” I’ve seen your type come and go, you move to the suburbs and bring the bad ideas from the city with you. Well, I’m not going to let that happen here, right?” She continues on, but she inadvertently displays a tattoo on her lower back that demonstrates how committed she is to being in charge. Debbie considers giving up, but Larry has a plan. Debbie responds, “okay, but don’t do anything weird”. Larry has a great answer again, “you’re weird”.
Back at the Bird/Joyner-Kersey house, Larry is working inside the garage as Jackie enters. She is indeed concerned about Dick Butkus. How will he grow up to be a strong confident black woman like her, if Marty Weaver continues to provide positive reinforcement for what she knows is not true – Dicks poor performance. Larry, wearing some magnifying glasses for his work responds that humans are surprisingly soft. They must be pushed into action. “You must be fierce and take no prisoners”.
Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo) makes his first appearance in this episode. He is assisting his father in Operation Gingerbread. Larry is wearing a suit that will translate all of his movements into the movements of a little gingerbread man that Reggie has slipped into Linda’s house through the mail slot.
Watching Larry torment Linda is pretty much every person’s dream when it comes to bullies. I can only imagine that Larry, being an enigma (we do not really know him), might take great pleasure in tormenting the misbehaving human; something like a cat, toying with a mouse. I wonder if this is but the first of many examples of Larry demonstrating his superiority to the feeble human race (cue maniacal laughter).
Anyway, in Linda’s house, the gingerbread man has made contact. Linda looks startled. And Larry, well, Larry is being Larry…Scary Larry… The focus, in this shot is on Larry and not the gingerbread man, achieving two goals; it gives Simon Templeman an opportunity to do what he does best, demonstrate his comic acting ability, and it saves the series producers a ton of money on special effects.
At the next meeting, Linda is a nervous wreck. Debbie thinks it is because Linda knows that Debbie and Larry have won all the votes. Larry quickly sets her straight. Linda is suffering from PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder, as a result of his activities, “I waged war through psychological destruction”. I love it. Debbie has a great response, “ I just wanted gingerbread cookies”.
Moments later, Larry delivers the Coupe de Grace (“the killing blow”)by waving a gingerbread man at Linda. She reacts by bolting from the room. Gallant Larry then give Debbie her badge of office; the gavel. The evil one has been overthrown.
At the sports field, Jackie is training Dick by jogging. I assume this is to build up his stamina, although Dick calls them motivational laps. They have reached 310 laps, so, motivational or stamina building, or not, one thing the aliens do well, is overdo everything.
We have reached the point where Jackie gets carried away in her quest to help her son. She calls him a weak link and banishes him from the team. Most kids Dick’s age would burst into tears at the rejection, but not Dick. He shows a maturity not found in many adults; he agrees with his mother and sadly walks away.
Jackie is not done yet. She tells Marty that he is also off the team. When he protests, Jackie takes advantage of the old democracy ploy, “Majority vote. Would you rather follow me to victory, or coach Weaver to certain defeat?” Naturally, the kids want to win. And, yes, Marty, I agree with Debbie; those shorts just do not work.
At home, Debbie, with her gavel does not look happy. Marty also is not happy. However, he is not admitting it. Nor is Jackie, “With Larry Bird, the PTA is all mine.”
Debbie is in her kitchen with the ingredients for cookies spread out before her. Larry walks in and wants to know where the minions are. Debbie tells him they have all quit because they think he is a dangerous lunatic and she agrees with them. Seemingly missing the last part, Larry is dismissive and calls them short sighted. Debbie reminds him that now they have to make 200 gingerbread men by tomorrow morning by themselves. Of course, Larry wants no part of all the work. He attempts to make an excuse until, Debbie makes her point by picking up a knife. It looks like he is staying or the next show might have to be called, “Clue”, with Debbie in the kitchen, with a knife.
Meanwhile, in the back yard, Dick is doing his best to improve his soccer abilities. Marty notices him from the upstairs bedroom. You really have to admire that kid. This is what perseverance is all about, kids. Pay attention, now.
Once outside, Marty gives, ‘the speech’; the, ‘it’s not about you, kid, you’re doing fine, it’s about your mom,’ speech. On the field, Jackie is +-missing her son. Fortunately for her, everything is about to work out. It is the return of the prodigal son.
At the Bake Sale Table, Debbie and Larry are batting zero…uh, sorry, wrong sport…they are not ‘bending it like Beckham‘. No one is buying their cookies. That is what I meant to say. Larry considers that they have achieved a victory. Debbie, not so much. As she says, “We have alienated the parents of all our kids friends, drove a woman crazy and made the worst gingerbread cookies in the history of mankind. So why, Larry, why?”
Because he liked Debbie’s ideas for arts programs and teacher evaluations. Then he compliments her by telling her that she is a very good woman and, “don’t be weird”. Her response, “no, you’re weird”.
Larry convinces Jackie to let Dick back in the game. He tells her she does not need to worry about his self esteem, “He’s a great kid. He’s smart, he’s compassionate, he’s cute.” Dick completes the thought with a great line, “once I learn a couple of bulletproof knock-knock jokes, I’ll be the total package”. Dick gets to play soccer again and Marty, because he is so clever, gets to be coach again. Larry joins Jackie and even manages to say something encouraging to Dick, “your hair looks great!”
Larry joins Debbie at the table and offers to buy a cookie. They are both happy now since they have both received compliments from Larry and Jackie. Marty does not seem to enjoy the cookie he has sampled. I do not know why. I hear that charcoal does wonders for your breath.
Linda shows up, as charming as ever, accusing Debbie of creating a living gingerbread man. Before she can launch her tirade, she gets bumped in the back with the soccer ball. As she turns around, she sees Dick come charging at her. Of course, she does not see Dick, as much as she sees the gingerbread man, ‘er, boy. She bolts again. I bet she can run really fast too.
To music reminiscent of the gunslinger facing his enemy at high noon, Dick Butkus is on the soccer pitch, facing his nemesis, the soccer ball. I am sure that all sorts of things are going through his mind. He is confident, he is capable, he is relentless. He will not be defeated by an inanimate object. He runs at it, preparing to kick it into next week…and….
We look forward to seeing more of you here at our review site dedicated to our wonderful aliens friends known as The Neighbors!
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