Television review: ‘Neighbors From Hell’ on TBS

In a TV trope as old as “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters,” minimally updated by animation, much crudity and current pop culture references, TBS’ new series “Neighbors From Hell” seeks to lampoon human depravity by contrasting it with the more reasonable behavior of supernatural beings, in this case demons.

The hell this time around may be full of requisite flames, but the preferred method of torture is lame irony — sinners must listen to Britney Spears, Satan looks like Hellboy run amok but acts more middle management than Lord of Darkness, and demons are allowed lunch breaks, signaled by the screech of a creature that bears a passing resemblance to the bird who provided a similar service in “The Flintstones.”

The Fred of this piece is Balthazor (voiced by “MADtv’s” Will Sasso), a well-intentioned demon with a weakness for humans. Within minutes he is banished from hell for the crime of watching TV for pleasure when rules clearly state it should be used only for torture because, as Satan informs him, “it rots the mind. And that’s a fact.”

So right away, you pretty much know the level of humor you’re in for.

As luck would have it, Balthazor’s knowledge of TV culture makes him perfect for the job at hand — infiltrating the human ranks to prevent an American company from completing a drill so powerful it would reach the center of the Earth, i.e. hell.

Not surprisingly, none of Balthazor’s family relishes this assignment. Tina (“Saturday Night Live’s” Molly Shannon) has just started a new job, and the rest of them — daughter Mandy (Tracey Fairaway), son Josh (David Soren), Uncle Vlaartark (Kyle McCulloch) and dog Pazuzu (Patton Oswalt) — simply find Earth disgusting. “That’s where Uggs come from,” says Mandy in what may be the show’s one humorous line.

Up they go, into, of course, the suburbs (hell on Earth), where they quickly meet humans so icky they make even cat-eating demons seem like models of deportment: neighbor Marjoe (Dina Waters) is a Southern belle potty mouth with a penchant, it would seem, for bestiality (did I mention this is one of those cartoons that is not for children?) and Balthazor’s new boss Killbride (Kurtwood Smith) is so evil he brains baby owls to death for fun.

What seems like an easy assignment — the success of the drill depends entirely on one man, Chevdet (McCulloch again) — quickly becomes more difficult when Balthazor realizes he cannot succeed at the price of Chevdet’s failure. A noble ethos but one involving a lot of vomit nonetheless. It requires the wisdom of Pazuzu to remind everyone that family is all that matters.

So it’s that kind of show, brimstone and treacle, which is difficult to make into a winning combination even by a talking dog.