The Feb. 12 season opener introduces recurring guest star Skye Townsend (A Black Lady Sketch Show) as Marty’s longtime friend Courtney. Viewers will learn that Marty and Courtney had a fling before Marty recruited his former JPL colleague to come work at the Fuse Box — and shortly thereafter, he discovers that Courtney is pregnant with his child. Or, rather, Tina discovers that Courtney is pregnant with Marty’s child.
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“You catch on to an expected pregnancy pretty early in the process, but an unexpected pregnancy can catch you off guard,” executive producer Bill Martin tells TVLine. “[In the premiere] we have some fun with the fact that Tina figures it out before the actual mom does.”
It was just last season that Marty broke off his engagement to Niecy because he wanted kids and she didn’t. One year later, The Neighborhood is catapulting Calvin and Tina’s son into the next chapter of his life.
“I don’t think Marty wanted kids this soon,” Spears points out. “The writers, obviously, were inspired by real-life events.”
He’s referring to his recent (and unexpected) foray into parenthood. It was last summer, during a Neighborhood cast-and-crew picket during Hollywood’s dual strikes, that he first informed co-showrunners Martin and Mike Schiff that — surprise! — his girlfriend, Sarah Francis Jones, was expecting their first daughter.
“I was chatting with Marcel, and he said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m about to be dad,’” Schiff recalls. “The strikes [at that point] seemed like they’d been going on forever, but it didn’t seem like it’d been quite long enough for this to happen. We were talking about it amongst ourselves and suddenly, it was like, ‘Marcel, do you mind if we steal that?’”
A few days later, Jones went into labor while in attendance at Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour — we’ll have more to share on that experience, direct from Spears, after the Feb. 12 premiere! — but The Neighborhood doesn’t intend to borrow every aspect of Spears and Jones’ journey.
“It’s a complicated personal story that inspired us to ask, ‘What would happen to a guy like Marty in this situation, who doesn’t have any of the groundwork laid to be a dad or a partner?’” Martin previews. “That’s an engineering problem, it’s an emotional problem, it’s an everything problem.” Adds Schiff: “We’re taking the bare bones of what Marcel went through. We thought it could be a great [pivot] for a character who lives in his head a bit — and this is not in his head at all.”
Spears has always viewed The Neighborhood through the lens of Marty and his brother Malcolm, “two young Black men who are discovering their manhood as they go from their twenties into their thirties,” he says. “Malcolm’s arc has been the loss of his baseball career — going from being completely unemployed and feeling useless, feeling like a stereotype and feeling like he doesn’t have anywhere to go, to his slow climb back into the workforce and back into his own identity, reclaiming his manhood in that way.
“For Marty, he has a college degree, he has a career, and he’s grown up in this family where he’s admired his mom and his dad for creating this family unit, and they did it at a time when people were starting families much younger, so he feels behind the curve,” Spears posits. “He’s been looking for love because he wants to have that kind of relationship, and to have that kind of connection with someone. Now this happens, a little [sooner] than he expected… and now he has the challenge of figuring out how to become a parent” — and with someone who isn’t necessarily looking to settle down in the traditional sense.
“Part of the thing we like about the storyline is that Marty and Courtney are explicitly not a romantic couple,” Martin explains. “Marty’s asking himself, ‘Do I have to do the right thing,’ as his parents would put it? But it doesn’t feel natural because they’ve been friends for a long time. The relationship is more ‘punch you in the arm, see you at trivia night.’ We like the idea that the pregnancy creates a collaboration where they have to figure out how to be partners in the business of raising a baby, as opposed to the push-and-pull of a romantic comedy.”
We’ll have more from our interview with Spears immediately following the conclusion of The Neighborhood’s premiere on the 12th. In the meantime, keep scrolling to see what else Martin and Schiff divulged about the strike-shortened, 10-episode season.
As Marty prepares to be a father, older brother Malcolm will take stock of his life — how far he’s come in his professional life, and how far behind he feels in his personal life.
“This season, we’re playing with his ambitions,” Martin tells TVLine. “He’s got his dream career now [as a hitting coach for USC’s baseball team] but in order to take things to the next level, he’s got to make some aggressive moves. We have a storyline where a peer of his has passed him by — and he also sees that Marty kind of has everything going in his direction now — so he’s got to do something to shake up his life.
“We’ve also taken this opportunity, while Marty’s in an anti-romantic relationship, to have Malcolm try and figure out [his own romantic life],” Martin teases. “Has he been in, you know, 17 relationships, because he hasn’t found the right person? Or is it because he’s scared and not ready [to commit]? We want to get him ready for that [kind of commitment].”
Calvin, meanwhile, is grappling with getting older. “Suddenly, out of nowhere, he’s going to become a grandfather, and he doesn’t like being referred to as a grandfather,” Martin previews. “Calvin’s friends make fun of him for being a grandpa, and he rejects that old guy label. So, in one episode, while trying to prove that he’s not an old guy, he injures himself badly enough that it lingers for three episodes. He’s stuck in the house, recuperating, and when he comes out of it, he’s ready to take on the world again. He’s ready to prove that he’s a tough guy… only to have a physical therapist (played by NFL great Tony Gonzalez) who is a lot tougher than he is.”
Tightly wound Dave will be challenged by teenage son Grover and estranged father Lamar (returning guest star Kevin Pollak) to loosen up a bit.
“We’ll have fun with Dave, who’s such a straight arrow, and his dad, who is not,” Schiff says. “He’s excited to have a dad who had always been missing as part of his family — but the thing about Lamar is that, while he has really good intentions, he also has bad instincts. He’s out of prison, but that’s still a part of who he is. He takes shortcuts that he maybe shouldn’t be taking.”
At one point, “Lamar goes to work at the Fuse Box because Calvin is willing to give him a second chance after Dave begs and pleads,” Martin reveals. “But once Lamar takes that job and starts to do things that are, um, not so legal, it puts Dave in this hard position of having to lie to his best friend.
“Dave has always been an anal, controlled, together guy, and as the season goes on, he’s now got this dad who is a bad influence and is bringing chaos into his life, and Grover, who we’re having fun turning into a bit of a teenage mess,” the EP says with a laugh. “We also like the fact that Gemma grew up in a much more rough-and-tumble home, and she’s much quicker to say, ‘Screw it, let’s let our hair down a little bit.’ For Dave, it’s really about cracking his veneer of having it all together.”
Dave’s wife Gemma will have her own stresses to reckon with at school, where music teacher Tina isn’t making life any easier. “We have an arc where Tina and the other teachers start to resent that they don’t have the resources they need to do their jobs, and Gemma [as principal] has a bit of a blind spot because she’s also trying to keep the board of trustees happy,” Martin previews. “So, I don’t know where we got the idea to have a labor issue pop up this season” — wink, wink! — “but eventually Tina takes up arms against the man… and the man is Gemma.”
Calvin and Tina, meanwhile, will come up against guest star Ever Carradine (The Handmaid’s Tale) when Tina decides to embark upon another Butler home renovation.
“She wants new bathrooms for their house because the Johnsons recently renovated their bathrooms and Gemma’s very excited about it,” Schiff tells TVLine. “Tina and Calvin want to get a home equity line of credit, and as it turns out, home equity loans are much better for people who are white than people who are black.”
Explains Martin: “The Johnsons’ house has been appraised at a much higher rate than the Butler house, even though they’re almost the same square footage. Calvin sets out to prove this [double standard], and Ever Carradine is the unfortunate bank executive who catches it head on when they come to blow the lid off it.”
The Neighborhood Season 6 premieres Monday, Feb. 12, at 8 pm, with episodes streaming next day on Paramount+. Feast your eyes on the exclusive key art below, then hit the comments and tell us if you’re looking forward to the return of the CBS comedy.
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