USA’s whacked-out sitcom “The War Next Door” — which owes a nod to Mad magazine’s “Spy Vs. Spy” strip and ’60s cult hit “Get Smart” — may be just what the script doctor ordered to fight this summer’s glut of reality programming. Although the premise of two goofy secret agents trying to destroy each other on a weekly basis may sound dated, creators Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi have affectionately upped the ante with ironic hyperbole and their quirky brand of humor.
When we first meet our battling bozos, straight-arrow Kennedy Smith (Linden Ashby) and his arch-enemy Kreigman (Damian Young), are “locked in an eternal dance of death.” But soon after, Smith decides to give up saving the world from evil geniuses to settle down in the suburbs with his wife (Susan Walters). The hyperactive Kreigman will not let his enemy settle for a desperately dull life as a car salesman, and rents the house next door. Soon, the two thirtysomething enemies are at each other’s throats like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
Thanks to Damon Santostefano’s crisp direction and the zippy script by McRobb and Viscardi, the ongoing rivalry between Smith and Kreigman creates opportunities for numerous cartoonish setups. And you can count on the scribes (who penned last year’s feature “Snow Day”) to take each plot point and amp it up to satisfy the series’ target 14-to-35-year-old male audience.
Acting is uniformly good, but Young’s menacing energy steals the show. In fact, one of the undeniable pleasures of “War” is seeing how over the top Young can get as he cooks up new methods to torment his quieter nemesis. Viewers can also expect Tara Rosling, who plays Kleigman’s supervixen partner, to spice things up in future episodes. After all, they don’t call her Barbara Bush for nothing.
Although the Toronto locations look a bit bland, overall tech credits are above average. F/x supervisor Brock Jolliffe visual effects are efficient. Some international conspiracy caused USA’s review tape to lack final music and polishes, but hey, that’s the spy biz.