“What a day.”
When the French film critics of Cahiers du Cinema first wrote about auteur theory, which posits that a film reflects the personal creative vision of its director, I somehow doubt they thought it would one day apply to someone like Tommy Wiseau. But alas, with the release of his new television series The Neighbors, Wiseau as auteur has never been more clear.
The filmmaker extraordinaire behind cult phenomenon The Room, Wiseau has been a figure of constant curiosity for fans of his unique brand of…well…filmic insanity. From his fascinating interviews, to his unknown origins, to the secrets of his life exposed in Greg Sestero’s absolutely fascinating book The Disaster Artist, every new morsel of information about Tommy seems to re-enforce one simple fact: the man is unlike any other human being to ever exist. And with that knowledge we come to his latest creative endeavor, The Neighbors.
A project that has seemingly been in-development for almost a decade, from the first frame of The Neighbors on you begin to realize that it is simultaneously the best and worst television series of all-time. Wiseau not only serves as the writer-director of each of the four episodes released straight to Hulu, he also stars as two separate characters. The first of which, Charlie, lords over an apartment complex where his tenants live out their days making out in the laundry room, borrowing 20 bucks, pleading for ice cream, celebrating the arrival of a “British” princess, searching for a chicken named Fefe, performing acts of hypnotism on stoners so they don’t have to pay for guns and, most importantly, YELLING.
Each character in The Neighbors embraces a very distinct stereotype, from Andrew Buckley’s crazed stoner Troy to Pamelia Bailey’s abrasive middle-aged African American woman Cici, but perhaps the one character that rises above its stereotype to becoming something truly special is the other character played by Tommy Wiseau, letterman jacket-wearing jock Ricky Rick.
While not a major presence in the first three episodes, Ricky Rick truly gets his time to shine in the fourth episode of the series titled “Black vs. Yellow”. In the episode, Wiseau’s other character Charlie decides to go on vacation and, for no apparent reason whatsoever, leaves the virtually insane Ricky Rick to run the apartment complex. While doing so, Ricky Rick drinks a bottle of water and, for no reason in particular, begins to spit water all over the office. There is no build-up to this, he just does it. Is this meant to establish that Ricky Rick is a rebel and just doesn’t care? I honestly don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.
There is also stoner Troy, who is played as a completely unhinged psychopath by Wiseau’s fellow producer of The Neighbors, Andrew Buckley. He is not only the complex’s resident drug dealer, but also provides the other residents with firearms, pleads with Cici to allow him to kill her pet chicken Fefe so he can eat her for dinner, and out of nowhere yells for no apparent reason. If this is what Wiseau thinks being on drugs is like, I take it he’s as straight-edged as they come.
Now, as stated before, many of the characters conform to a certain stereotype, which has let many critics of The Neighbors to accuse Wiseau of being racist, misogynistic, and pretty much every other negative adjective in the book. However, I think many of these people are missing the point of The Neighbors. That is, there is no point! This is a Tommy Wiseau project, and he’s the only auteur working today that doesn’t entirely understand how normal people function on this little rock we call Earth. Fans of his watch his projects because they get something from them they can’t get anywhere else: Tommy’s unique perspective on the world.
As an actual television series, The Neighbors is a failure of epic proportions, but as a Tommy Wiseau project, it is everything you could ask for and then some. In numerous other reviews of the series, critics have called attention to the fact that at times, the series almost feels like a porno, just with all the sex scenes cut out. That is a pretty apt description of a series that has a character named Philadelphia who walks around all day in a bikini. But, that’s also not all the show is. It’s a series that reflects the personal creative vision of its director, and no matter how different that vision may be from your own, it’s a vision all the same.
The Neighbors is currently available for streaming on Hulu.
As an actual TV Series: 0/10
As a Tommy Wiseau project: 8/10