Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield seem like an unlikely pairing, but in the new CBS comedy, The Neighborhood, they could make sitcom magic. When Dave (Greenfield) moves from the Midwest into a new Los Angeles neighborhood, he's a new arrival that not everyone appreciates, including his next-door neighbor, Calvin. Hopefully, hilarity ensues. Both actors are TV veterans, but what's the inspiration for this new narrative? Is The Neighborhood based on a true story?
Right now it doesn't appear that the show's individual plotlines are concretely based on specific real-life experiences, but creator and executive producer Jim Reynolds said the plot is loosely based on his own move to Los Angeles. "What I discovered in that process, remembering things we all kind of learned — and sometimes forget about — the power of humanity, kindness, and basic principles of being a good neighbor and wanting to bring that to television at a time when people are very busy at trying to position us as opposites," he said, according to CBS. "Focusing more on what we have in common."
He continued that The Neighborhood is meant to resonate among its audience in a very real way. This is a show about people," Reynolds said, according to CBS. "This is a show about families, neighbors, friendships. This is a show primarily about human relationships."
Cedric told the New York Times that the script from Reynolds' point of view landed in his lap, and after taking a look, he saw the potential for a more fleshed-out story. He wanted to not only explore a character like Reynolds, who is the outsider in a neighborhood, but also incorporate relevant racial dynamics, and illustrate how it feels to have newcomers encroach on a place you already call home. "It was written from Jim’s point of view and none of the other characters were really developed. I said, 'If I can tell you my side of it, then we got a story,'" he told the newspaper. "Jim and I met based on that partnership and I realized, “Oh, this could actually be very interesting.'"
Greenfield is especially fresh in the minds of viewers, having just come off a wildly hilarious run as Schmidt on the recently concluded New Girl. He said in the same interview that gentrification is something we see in everyday life, but the show's main goal is to tackle people and their relationships, not become a talking point. Gentrification looms in the show, but the point is that "you understand the characters and what's meaningful to them," he said.
Cedric was on the same page, also saying that the The Neighborhood doesn't buy into typical stereotypes that often surround the topic of gentrification. "Max’s character comes to my character’s house. I tell him to get out," he continued. "Why? Not because my character is 'mad.' That’s the stereotype. It’s just, 'I don’t want you in my house.'"
The show's goal is clear — its success so far in pulling it off is a different story. For Variety, Makeisha Madden Toby wrote that in the pilot, some of the "schtick" can get old. "We get it. The Johnsons can’t afford to comfortably segregate themselves, and they don’t know much about black people," she said. "The writers should let the Johnsons own their limitations, but they try too hard at times to be edgy and relevant — and it comes across as tone-deaf and as awkward as Dave Johnson himself."
The Neighborhood has all the tools to cultivate interesting, relevant conversations. As it debuts on Oct. 1, it'll be up to viewers to see how well it utilizes them.