Sympathy for the Devil

TBS's 'Neighbors from Hell'

Dante’s Inferno stands on its head in the mildly amusing, candy-colored series Neighbors from Hell, the first original primetime animated entertainment from the cable channel TBS. In the fourteenth-century terza rima masterpiece, a human voyaged through the infernal region, witnessing its hierarchy of torments. By contrast, in the TBS satire—which started airing in June—devil protagonists reluctantly leave hell to live undercover in suburban America. The anthropological perspective they gain on earthling behavior turns out to be just as dismaying for them as Hades was for Dante. 

South Park alum Pam Brady—who is an executive producer of Neighbors (the other is Mireille Soria, a producer of the Madagascar films)—even included a Divine Comedy allusion in the pilot, which she wrote. (You can watch Neighbors on the TBS Web site.) In that episode, the amiable fire-and-brimstone working stiff Balthazor Hellman (voiced by Will Sasso) is caught watching episodes of Two and a Half Men, and is hauled in for a dressing-down by the Prince of Darkness himself. “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enters My Office” reads a sign over Satan’s door. 

In the hell of the gleefully meta-pop-cultural Neighbors, you see, watching TV for pleasure is forbidden: the boob tube is only to be used as an instrument of torment. “It rots the...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.