Lenny Venito and Jami Gertz Lenny Venito and Jami Gertz

E.T.s, go home! Less out-of-this-world than out of its league, ABC's The Neighbors (9:31/8:31c) stands out on the network's celebrated Wednesday comedy lineup like a wart on a hand model. Cheerfully ridiculous and unapologetically moronic, this aliens-among-us sitcom follows a long and mostly proudly silly TV tradition that includes Mork & Mindy, ALF and 3rd Rock From the Sun. Nothing wrong with a goofy guilty pleasure in the right circumstances and if blessed with the genius of a John Lithgow or a Robin Williams — or an ALF.

Sadly, Neighbors settles for charmless performances, stupid jokes and sight gags that might be funny once, such as naming all of the aliens after famous sports figures (like Larry Bird and Jackie Joyner-Kersee), but with repetition grows fretfully stale. It all begins when a brash New Jersey family moves into an exclusive gated community that seems too good to be true — which of course it is. This secluded Stepford enclave of suburban conformity and ubiquitous golf carts turns out to be a haven for refugees from the planet Zabvron, who hide their green alien bodies inside human meat suits but haven't quite mastered such basics as shaking hands (they use their thumbs) and shedding tears (they ooze green goo from their ears). And the men carry the babies. The show is that clever. And the alien leaders (Larry and Jackie) talk in plummy British accents "because they make your guttural dialect sound sophisticated."

Sophistication is the least of The Neighbors' goals, which is why the critical community screamed in aghast unison last spring during the network upfront presentations when it was originally announced that this show would follow three-time Emmy champ Modern Family on Wednesdays. The standard-bearer for quality network comedy yoked to this kooky claptrap? Wiser minds prevailed, up to a point, and after this week's programming premiere stunt, hoping to capitalize on Modern's latest Emmy triumph, Neighbors will move next week to the comfy hammock (at 8:30/9:30c) between The Middle and Modern. An even better idea: Move this to Fridays, away from the top-shelf brands, when the "TGIF" franchise is rebooted in early November.

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