The Neighborhood occasionally loses sight of what it’s trying to do, and not all of it works, but the bits that do are very entertaining.
In “Welcome to the Repipe”, the Johnsons’ basement is flooded, and Dave (Max Greenfield) isn’t equipped to deal with it. He’s a “conflict mediator”, remember, but the water pipes aren’t willing to meet in the middle. It can only be a job for Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer) and his unemployed son Malcolm (Sheaun McKinney), who has nothing else to do. The work will probably do him good.
Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of this storyline that doesn’t work too well. Calvin’s mistrust of Dave feels a little artificial; Dave’s dorky blundering feels too nakedly designed to tee up jokes. Neither thing really fleshes out The Neighborhood’s underlying themes of cultural contrast.
The more interesting debate is between Calvin and Malcolm on their respective approach to work; the former is a staunch traditionalist, whereas the latter is eager to find easier ways of accomplishing the same task. It comes back up later when Calvin leaves Malcolm to it out of frustration, and instead goes outside to play catch with Grover (Hank Greenspan). Calvin’s tougher approach helps the kid out with his catching, and Malcolm, given the freedom to experiment, is able to fix the pipe without his father’s help. The idea of shelving expectations and being able to concede that two distinct approaches can work equally well feels more in line with what The Neighborhood is trying to say that Dave’s cartoonish idiocy.
But it’s actually the relationship between Gemma (Beth Behrs) and Tina (Tichina Arnold) that does a better job of furthering the show’s ideas. In “Welcome to the Repipe”, the former is invited round to shower and discovers that Tina wears wigs. There’s a funny discussion about white people not using washcloths in the shower, but much funnier is a scene in which Gemma tries one of the wigs out without permission. Marty (Marcel Spears) wasn’t around too much this episode, but he arrived just in time to communicate to the audience that a potentially catastrophic social faux pas had been made. (He remains pitch-perfect, and the show’s funniest character.)
This kind of thing is The Neighborhood at its most entertaining, and while not all of it strictly works, the bits that do are well-worth tuning in for. It’s not a perfect sitcom, but it is a good one, and has guts enough to try something at least a little bit new.