The Neighbors creator Dan Fogelman knows that viewers have a few pre-conceived notions regarding his ABC comedy about aliens living next door to a suburban family. But audiences — and critics — are starting to come around to the fact that, despite the show's outlandish premise, at its core The Neighbors is a family show that explores how we relate to and fit in with the world (As TV Guide Magazine recently reported, an ABC marketing campaign is touting those initial negative reviews to show how opinions are evolving.) Fogelman's resume is chock full of Pixar and Disney animated features (Cars, Tangled and Bolt) as well as more adult fare (he wrote the screenplays to Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Guilt Trip). Fogelman answered our showrunner survey to explain why adults and kids should make an effort to meet The Neighbors.
TV Guide Magazine: I've got time to watch one more show. Tell me why it should be yours.
Dan Fogelman: It's funny and it's got a lot of heart. I know that sounds simple and a little cliché and I throw up in my mouth a little every time I say it. But it's the hardest thing to do in half-hour television. We have this absurdist comedic premise (aliens living with humans) and that premise has no business getting to the heartfelt place it does each episode. It's a credit to our cast and writers, who walk a very fine line each week balancing the humor and heart. Also, there's just the right amount of nudity.
TV Guide Magazine: Who should be watching?
Fogelman: Families. It was always our intention to create a bit of an old-fashioned show that an entire family could sit around the television and watch together. Of course, nowadays they're all probably sitting around their 7-year-old's iPhone. But still.
TV Guide Magazine: What happens if we don't watch?
Fogelman: You're really missing out, and you're costing your love ones dearly, especially your children. Here's a trend we've been noticing: your kid goes to school, the other kids are talking about last night's The Neighbors, your kid didn't see last night's The Neighbors, he gets teased, develops a drug problem, winds up hooking. Doesn't happen every time, but it's definitely a pattern I've seen.
TV Guide Magazine: Give us an equation for The Neighbors.
Fogelman: I'd describe it as a little bit of Mork & Mindy, with a lot of The Cosby Show, plus a little bit of Star Wars but really a lot more of Spaceballs, with a sprinkle of an absurdist Beckett play on top. Because I know that's what people are looking for in their sitcoms these days.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the best thing anyone has said or written about your show?
Fogelman: Two episodes in, my father called me and said, "You know what, this stupid show of yours is actually really good." For us, that was like the end of Field of Dreams.
TV Guide Magazine: What's the worst thing?
Fogelman: Since the start of this show some guy at The Hollywood Reporter keeps writing terrible things about the show. I'm talking vitriolic, hateful things. Even now, he keeps writing things like, "The worst thing about the show is how much people who actually watch the show seem to be embracing it." So I sent him a gift basket and an autographed copy of a Neighbors script with a note that said, "We couldn't have done it without you." At the time, I thought it was a cool way of saying, "I don't care what you say, I don't even read what you write." Of course, I'd probably conveyed the exact opposite. My point is this: if you create a sitcom with aliens in it, stop going on the Internet. It's a dark, dark place.
TV Guide Magazine: What's an alternate title for The Neighbors?
Fogelman: We thought about naming it Alienated at one point. For a long time it was simply called The Untitled Dan Fogelman Show. We almost went with that but research decided it was "too Jewish."
TV Guide Magazine: Besides The Neighbors, what's the best sitcom ever about aliens?
Fogelman: Oh, c'mon. It's gotta be Alf, right? Right?
TV Guide Magazine: Your promo tagline is "It's OK to say you like it." What else should I feel comfortable admitting I like?
Fogelman: Here is my list: James Patterson novels (he now uses a font so big there's like three words per page, it makes me feel like I'm reading like a superhero). Instant coffee (you go ahead and order your $6 non-fat latte; I'm gonna sprinkle a spoonful of Folgers in hot water and it's gonna taste like home). My sister (yeah, she drives me nuts, but she's my sister, I should just admit it).
TV Guide Magazine: If you weren't producing this show, what series would you most like to be an executive producer on?
Fogelman: Game of Thrones. No brainer. No joke here. I just love that show.
The Neighbors airs Wednesday, 8:30/7:30c on ABC.