If there is one TV trope that is more applicable to real life more than just about any other, it may very well be the nosy neighbor. Just about anyone who has ever had neighbors has experienced the unwanted interest of a stranger. Oh to heck with that; even when your neighbors are family, you can know exactly what it’s like to deal with a nosy neighbor. Some of the most memorable characters in TV history have been annoying neighbors. And by annoying neighbor, I’m not talking about characters like Ed Norton or Cosmo Kramer. I’m talking the neighbor whose intrusive nature is so carefully cultivated that you really do sometimes wonder why the show’s protagonist hasn’t killed them yet.
If you like to delve down deeper than the shallow surface of most TV shows allow you to penetrate, you might well take the opportunity of investigating nosy neighbors on TV shows to ask the question of whether what is going on here is an example of society guiding the course of entertainment or entertainment creating a trope that we come to believe is an accurate reflection of the reality around us.
I can think of at least five reasons why Trevor and Raquel Ochmonek qualify as two of television’s most annoying neighbors and that’s not even including the fact that they are responsible for the superfluous addition of Trevor’s nephew Jake to the cast. Nosy doesn’t begin to describe Raquel Ochmonek on “ALF” and intrusive could well be Trevor’s middle name. Why is it that TV characters who have a threatening secret to hide are always situated within the viewing range of annoying neighbors? When watching “ALF” or any other show about a nosy neighbors threatening to bring a house of secrets collapsing down around the central focus of the show, you might well be inclined to wonder whether TV scribes were not already ahead of the game when it came to charting a future for America in which the National Security Agency is spying on you through your Xbox Kinect camera.
For instance, why does Samantha Stevens on “Bewitched” get saddled with perhaps the most iconic noxy neighbor in TV history? Just how annoying was Mrs. Kravitz? Even death couldn’t stop her from training her beady little eyes on the witch across the street! You may have gotten the skinny that Samantha had two different husbands sharing the same name, but were you aware that the annoying “Ochmonek” across the street was also portrayed by two different actresses? The second actress was first hired to play the annoying sister of the nosy neighbor on “Bewitched” but when the original actress died, the second actress was simply rechristened with the name of the annoying neighbor. Confused yet? Now you see why I led with the Ochmoneks.
Yeah, the thing about the Ropers being annoying–and I get what you’re saying–is that neighbors are only really annoying if you aren’t more annoying. You understand what I’m saying? The Ropers are memorably annoying–well, Mrs. Roper more than Mr. Roper–but let’s be honest, shall we: Jack Tripper, the brunette and whichever of the blondes who lived with them would in the real world be considered annoying neighbors. If you look at it from that point of view, the Ropers were fully in the right to be snoops. So perhaps an examination of the concept of whether the nosy neighbors portrayed on television is an accurate reflection of reality is based on the perspective of whether you are doing something that you need to be ashamed of or not. TV writers living in Hollywood may actually have such a skewed perspective that the nosy Ropers snooping around the lies of Jack, Janet and those blonde chicks living with them were not as entitled to their right to defend their property as the NSA. Then again, one may well argue that since the Ropers never really had any evidence of Jack, Janet or the blondes doing anything shameful, they were just as out of line as the NSA riffling through every cell phone conversation you will ever have from this point forward.
You have your choice here. Three characters who both have two annoying neighbors, but only one of them really has to deal with the specific problems of nosy neighbors. If you lived across the street from the troika that is Patrick Star, Squidward and the Bob, which would you consider the most annoying neighbor? Here in one little section of the Bikini Bottom that offers the full range of annoying neighbors. You’ve got the guy who wouldn’t take a leak on your lawn if it were on fire. You’ve got the guy who sets the fire because he’s trying to be so helpful. And you’ve got the guy who brings you a bucket of ping pong balls when you asked for a bucket of water. That said, one must assume that it is Squidward who represents the perspective of the TV writers charged with either reflecting or shaping reality.