“The Neighborhood,” a comedy about a white family that moves into a historically black neighborhood in Los Angeles based loosely on creator Jim Reynolds’ experiences, premieres at 8 p.m. Monday evening on CBS.
The series stars “New Girl” alumnus Max Greenfield as Dave Johnson, a white conflict negotiator from Michigan whose wife (Beth Behrs) gets a job as a school principal in Los Angeles.
Opinionated next-door neighbor Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) is wary of the newcomers, certain that the Johnsons will disrupt the culture on the block.
Reynolds describes Butler as “a black Archie Bunker,” referring to the character played by Carroll O’Connor in the groundbreaking 1971-79 CBS comedy “All in the Family.”
“At his core, what Calvin is afraid of is change,” said Reynolds, a producer of the hit CBS comedy “The Big Bang Theory” from 2009-17. “If you look at Archie Bunker, that’s what he was also afraid of.”
The cast also consists of Tichina Arnold as Butler’s wife Tina, Sheaun McKinney as the Butlers’ unemployed older son, Malcolm, Marcel Spears as their chipper younger son Marty and Hank Greenspan as the Johnson’s young son Grover.
“This is a show about families, about neighbors, about friendship — those universal themes and relationships that we all know and are familiar with,” Reynolds said at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour.
“I think the premise gives us an additional layer to get into some discussions that, frankly, I think a lot of people would like to be having more, in a safe space.”
The name of the neighborhood in the series is not given “because we want it to be representative” of predominantly black neighborhoods throughout the nation whites have been moving into in recent years, Reynolds said.
Reynolds declined to give the name of the neighborhood he moved to with his family five years ago and where he continues to live.
Future episodes include “a housewarming party that the Johnsons throw and what that looks like in this neighborhood and when Calvin, next door, is not excited at that prospect,” giving your neighbor a key to your house “and what that’s like when you’re used to that in your old community and now you show up and maybe people don’t want to give you a key,” Reynolds said.
“The Neighborhood” “provides a take on the family comedy that has not been on television for a while,” CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl told City News Service. “It provides a distinct comedic voice to explore real, contemporary themes that are very relevant today,” Kahl said.
Following at 8:30 p.m. is “Happy Together,” which stars Damon Wayans, Jr. and Amber Stevens West as a happily married couple whose lives are changed when one of his accounting clients, music superstar Cooper James (Felix Mallard), arrives on their doorstep looking for refuge from the paparazzi following a high-profile breakup with his girlfriend.
“We were fortunate to get Damon Wayans, Jr., who was the most sought after actor in town this pilot season,” Kahl said. “The spin creates a new dynamic to explore this couple’s relationship, which I think will be very relatable.”
The series is “loosely inspired” by an 18-month period in the life of executive producer Ben Winston (also an executive producer of the late-night CBS talk show “The Late Late Show with James Cordon”) when Harry Styles from the boy band One Direction lived in the attic of the London suburban home he shared with his wife.
“A few years later he did an interview in Rolling Stone magazine and spoke about that time, how living with a very normal, slightly boring family … helped him while he was living quite an abnormal life,” Winston said.
“It gave Harry and I, and with our (executive producers) Jonathan Berry and Michael Rotenberg, the idea that actually this could be quite a fun sitcom and quite a cool TV show.”
Styles is also among the show’s executive producers.
To Winston, “Happy Together” is about a couple in their mid-30s “who feel their life is maybe getting a bit boring, a bit stale. They’re losing their youth, and they are seeing in front of them this young, dynamic, cool epitome of youth and excitement in front of them … who wants nothing more than normality and a boring life.”