Thursday, March 26, 2015

Culture Shock 03.26.15: Tommy Wiseau trades his 'Room' for 'Neighbors'

Oh, hai neighbors!
"Oh, hai neighbors!"
The enigmatic director of the cult-favorite bad movie "The Room" is back, and this time he's made a television show.

Everyone who has met Tommy Wiseau has a theory about him — where he's from, where he got his money, what's up with that unplaceable accent of his, and so on. My theory, not from having met Wiseau but from having conducted a cursory study, is he's an extraterrestrial, an alien wearing an off-the-rack human suit and trying — mostly failing — to pass as a native of the planet Sol 3, aka Earth.

My theory makes as much sense as any. How best can one describe the man — if indeed he is a man and not a Reptilian from Zeta Reticuli — responsible for what is widely considered the worst movie ever committed to film, "The Room"?

Wiseau wrote, directed, produced, financed and starred in "The Room," apparently imagining it as a serious drama about love, friendship and betrayal. You know, the usual things, only filtered through Wiseau's alien-from-another-planet understanding of them.

Unintentionally, Wiseau created a hilarious comedy of errors. "The Room" is less a film and more a stream of non sequiturs. Characters come and go. Plot threads disappear. And no one reacts to anything the way a normal human would.

One of Wiseau's co-stars, Greg Sestero, recounted the bizarre behind-the-scenes story of "The Room" in his funny, often jaw-dropping book "The Disaster Artist," itself now set to become a movie.

So, when you've made one of the worst movies ever and spawned a cult following around both it and yourself, what do you do for an encore? If you're Wiseau, you do what all of Hollywood's big-name talent is doing these days: You take your game to the small screen.

Thus Wiseau now gifts us with 12 episodes of a half-hour comedy series he calls "The Neighbors." Not that any TV channel — not even E! — would touch this. So, "The Neighbors" is debuting on the streaming site Hulu, which made the first four episodes available last week.

"Seinfeld" was billed as a show about nothing, but "The Neighbors" really is a show about nothing. It contains no real plots and no real characters, just people wandering aimlessly. Wiseau seems to grasp that audiences love "The Room" because of its badness, so he has set out to make a deliberately bad sitcom, peppered with callbacks to fan-favorite lines and scenes in "The Room."

Characters in "The Room" idly toss a football for no reason, so characters in "The Neighbors" idly toss a basketball for no reason. It's Wiseau's idea of a crowd-pleaser.

Wiseau, once again acting as writer, director and star, plays two characters, because one just isn't enough to showcase his talents. The main character is Charlie, the apartment manager. The other, Ricky Rick, is (I think) one of the tenants. We can tell them apart because one is obviously Wiseau in an ill-fitting black wig, while the other is clearly Wiseau in an ill-fitting blond wig.

Other tenants include Ricky Rick's psychic girlfriend, a guy who always has a basketball and loves ice cream, a woman named Philadelphia who never wears more than a bikini, several ethnic stereotypes (one of whom owns a pet chicken) and Troy, a high-strung pothead and part-time arms dealer.

I don't think Wiseau has ever met a real pothead. I mean, I know of some who are arms dealers, but none who are high strung.

There's also a visiting British royal named Princess Penelope, who shows up in episode 2 because that's something British royals do, I guess. Did I mention there are 12 episodes of this?

By trying to make a show that's deliberately bad, Wiseau has succeeded only in making a show that's painfully unwatchable. When the actors blow their lines, miss their marks and fumble their props, it isn't funny, merely tedious. The only laughs come from the cast, and even those are forced.

Yet I've no doubt this is exactly the show Wiseau wanted to make. So, maybe this is Wiseau's way of getting revenge on the audience that laughed at his supposed drama "The Room." If so, maybe he's human after all. And if that's the case, well played, Tommy. Well played.

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