Race is on in ‘The Neighborhood’

Fanning Out

THE NEIGHBORHOOD stars Cedric the Entertainer in a comedy about what happens when Dave Johnson, the friendliest guy in the Midwest, moves his family to a neighborhood in Los Angeles where not everyone looks like him or appreciates his extreme neighborliness. Cedric the Entertainer plays the Johnsons' opinionated next-door neighbor, Calvin Butler, who is wary of the newcomers, and certain that the Johnsons will disrupt the culture on the block. THE NEIGHBORHOOD will premiere Monday, October 1st (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured (L-R): Sheaun McKinney (Malcolm Butler), Marcel Spears (Marty Butler), Tichina Arnold (Tina Butler), Cedric the Entertainer (Calvin Butler), Max Greenfield (Dave Johnson), Hank Greenspan (Grover Johnson) and Beth Behrs (Gemma Johnson). Photo: Bill Inoshita/CBS 2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Cedric the Entertainer’s CBS sitcom aims for more than ethnic diversity

The new CBS comedy that puts a humorous slant on race relations has performed well in its first two telecasts. In its third episode — airing Monday, Oct. 15 – Dave (Max Greenfield) gives an emergency key to his house to his standoffish new neighbor Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer), but the gesture may not be returned, even if the ever-optimistic Dave is convinced that it already has been.

Such a scenario is based in fact, since “The Neighborhood” mirrors personal experiences of its creator and executive producer, Jim Reynolds.

“I moved with my family five years ago to the neighborhood we still live in,” he explains, “and what I discovered in that process about remembering things that we all kind of learned and sometimes forget — about the power of humanity, the power of kindness, and the basic principles of being a good neighbor – (was that I wanted) to bring that to television again, at a time when people are very busy trying to position us as opposites or people who are in conflict.”

The racial aspect clearly is prominent in “The Neighborhood,” but Reynolds maintains that “at its core, (the show) is not about that. This is a show about people. This is a show about families, about neighbors, about friendship … again, those universal themes and relationships that we all know and are familiar with. 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.”

To that end, Reynolds says he is “incredibly proud and impressed by the group of people that we’ve put together. I don’t think there have been a whole lot of writers’ rooms in network sitcoms that look like our room, along racial diversity lines. Half are African American. Half the staff is white. I think we have more women on our staff than is typical. We have a wide range of age as well, and of experience.

“I always thought, going into this, that this can’t be just another middle-aged white guy’s point of view. We need real, authentic voices, because this show is supposed to be a dialogue — so that needs to be reflected in the writers’ room.”

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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