Love Thy Neighbor
Episode 1: What's Love Got to Do With It
Episode 2: Love Thy Independence
By: Carlos Uribe
Love Thy Neighbor is a show about a family...I mean about a group of friends...I mean about a diner. Look, I have no idea what this show is about.
What is Love Thy Neighbor even about? The second series that Tyler Perry is making for the Oprah Winfrey Network is a huge mess. There are like three different shows being presented in the one-hour premiere. The first is a show about an African American family made up of Hattie, Linda, and Danny. They love each other even if Hattie can't seem to get along with them. The second is a show about a group of friends as all the protagonists know each other in some form or another. Danny has two friend and Floyd is friends with Hattie and Linda. In other words, this could be a show about this group. The third is a show about Floyd and Hattie running their own diner. Only this doesn't really come up in the premiere other than as a setting for the characters to get together or to justify the logo. I have no idea what the focus of Love Thy Neighbor is about which is a huge problem. It might be the biggest challenge that future episodes are going to have to face: trying to settle on just one television show. There is no way that this show can work on it's numerous other problems without settling on an actual premise. If it doesn't then it's going to find itself having to stretch it's energy so much that it can't address anything. If it does, then Love Thy Neighbor might be able to improve and become a decent sit-com. I say decent because I can't see this show ever actually becoming good. The two episodes in the premiere are giant messes that don't elicit a single laugh. It's easy to make me laugh so a comedy is really struggling with it's jokes if I'm not being entertained. Tyler Perry failed to create a soap opera for Oprah Winfrey but it looks like he failed even harder to deliver a sit-com. You would at least think that he could have learned enough from his previous three shows to be able to deliver something presentable. At this stage, Love Thy Neighbor is such a work in progress that game developers would claim it to be in pre-alpha stage. The jokes don't work, there is no focus, there are too many premises, and the characters are weak or annoying. I have a feeling the only reason this made it to air is because Tyler Perry put his name on it.
I wish I could tell you what the plots of each episode were but there is not enough time to cover in this review. The two first episodes basically to share a common theme when Hattie is trying to kick her grandson and daughter out of her home. There's a plot where Danny finds a job and moves on after fears of rejection, where Linda finds out that her husband is cheating on her, and where Sam tries to settle his rent situation. So much was happening in Love Thy Neighbor because it had to find a way to set up the two of the three different shows it was inexplicably trying to do. The diner is in all the promotional pictures, it's where the title design comes from, it's a major set in the show but I honestly have no idea what it's doing on it. There was no plot within the actual diner and it merely served as a way to get Floyd and Hattie together. The friends part of the show was set up with Sam and Drew but their plots aren't that interesting. The family plot of the show (Hattie trying to kick them out) was simply annoying to the point where the least thing I wanted to do was continue watching this show. The funny thing about the three different shows that Love Thy Neighbor is trying to be is that none of them are a show I want to watch. The diner could be interesting but the writers don't seem to actually want to develop it so that it actually has a presence. The friends part of the show presents no characters or their relationships that are compelling or interesting. The family part of the show is actually the worst one because it's annoying and off-putting. Have I mentioned it's annoying? Because it is. Overall, Love Thy Neighbor not only tries to set up three different shows but it fails to make a single one even interesting on it's own.
A large problem with Love Thy Neighbor are the characters. The worst one is Hattie. She's not really a character but a caricature. Patrice Lovely plays her as exaggerated as possible which creates someone that is as annoying as she is a cartoon. Tyler Perry seems convinced that she's going to be the breakout character of the show but she'll likely be what kills it. Hattie has a lot of battiness but her offspring are completely bland. Linda is a loving mother whose willing to forgive her cheating husband for his transgressions. She really doesn't have a personality or even an agency of her own. Her son, Danny, shows hints of possibly becoming the stupid character on this sit-com but so far he's just there. Danny and Linda are easily overshadowed by Hattie. The family that this show somewhat centers around is largely boring or off-putting. That is not a recipe for success. The main characters give no reason to watch this show. Hattie can't serve as a protagonist since she's the supposed “breakout” character that provides laughs but little heart. Linda can't be the protagonist because she's just so bland and dull. Her lack of any real agency means there's nothing for the viewers to root for. Danny can't be the protagonist because he also isn't really working towards something. In other words: Love Thy Neighbor doesn't really have a central group of characters to ground the show. I suspect this is because the show tried so hard to have so many different shows.
The other characters are not any better. The most developed is Floyd, largely because he's a character from House of Payne. I'm not sure why Tyler Perry chose to include him because he doesn't really add to the proceedings. The only real impression I got is that he's the only character capable of dealing with Hattie. The other two characters are the friends of Danny. The most personable one is Drew but that's because he's the typical character who parties all the time. He likes women, he likes partying, and he doesn't like to be responsible. You know: the kind of character that tends to exist in almost every single multi-camera comedy. Only Love Thy Neighbor doesn't really do anything with him and he's largely there to act as the second most annoying character. There is also Sam, a girl whom I can barely remember. Let's just say that she left no impression. The side characters are all largely weak and none of them provide any real reason to keep watching. Sam and Drew only prove that there's no reason to watch the friends show simply because they have no personality or are just a character stock. Floyd is slightly more developed but he seems to only be here because Tyler Perry wanted the fans of House of Payne to watch this show. In other words: Love Thy Neighbor is weaker on side characters than it is on it's main characters. The show does have one character it plans to introduce in mid-season, Mariana, that works at the diner. I'm guessing this is to allow the show to shift more of it's focus on the diner which is interesting considering how it played such a small role in these two episodes. If Love Thy Neighbor is becoming the diner show then I have no idea how it's going to be because it really wasn't introduced this week. All I can tell you is that based on these two episodes, that I doubt if it'll be any good.
Love Thy Neighbor is a mess. It's presenting three different shows in these two episodes and none of them are really a series I would want to watch. The characters aren't really working either. They are either bland, annoying, or serve no real purpose. Of course, the worst part of Love Thy Neighbor is that it simply isn't funny. I could withstand a show going through growing pains if I at least was having a good time but Love Thy Neighbor isn't it. It's pretty hard to love a show where it's simply boring, or worse: grating. I thought The Haves and the Have Nots was bad but Love Thy Neighbor simply shows that you could always go down.