TV Review: Suburgatory

E: So if you read this space, you know I’m not such a fan of sitcom.  Sitcoms, they are not my cup of tea.  Sitcoms can just feel so desperate, trying to make a joke about every little thing.  And so often there’s the canned laughter and the “ha ha, aren’t we eccentric, look at us!” malarkey.  It’s really hard to be actually, honestly funny for a whole half hour at a time, and eventually I get kinda bored if they don’t mix the funny in with other stuff.

But folks, sometimes a show can strike a sort of tone with a really clever point of view, a funny little angle on the world.  Suburgatory does that.  I really liked this show.

There’s a flavor of Easy A going on, but I actually liked this far more than I liked Easy A.

The cast of characters is simple: sassy NYC teen Tessa (the tart, smart Jane Levy) gets dragged to some unidentified suburb when her lone parent (rugged architect George) finds condoms in her draw.  Ironic, she observes, that rubber lands her in a sea of plastic.  Plastic surgery plastic, that is; Dallas (Cheryl Hines) exemplifies the Barbie-esque stay at home moms who fill the town, and her perfect, popular daughter Dahlia pouts in booty shorts and hot pink.   Dahlia, of course, is a Mean Girl assigned to be Tessa’s unwilling guide to the school.  George’s friend Noah (played as a shallow and completely orange player by of all people Alan Tudyk) helps his friend to work in town.  They meet at a Stepford-ized country club full of sexually starved bimbos walking into the pool while texting (“because of the implants, nobody drowns!”), before George’s off to install a sky light in Dahlia’s heinous pink bedroom, and Dallas is cooing with motherly advice.  And suddenly Dallas is carting them all off to the mall to cheer a thoroughly horrified Tessa up with some shopping.   As the others thrill over “boyfriend shorts” and microminis,  Tessa snarks. “You know what else that’ll show off?  Your vagina.”

Ah, the things you never thought you’d hear on network television.

Okay, some of it was silly.  High schools in the suburbs are hardly sexless. Is Dahlia projecting purity?  I think not. And sure, calling Tessa a lesbian she wears leather boots is pretty obvious.  It’s also so silly as to be funny.

I loved Jeremy Sisto as the cool dad.  This could be because I love Jeremy Sisto.  He’s got a whole Christian Slater sardonic thing going on; he’s got a little bit of edge, a little bit of danger, a little bit of clever, and a not insignificant bit of sexy.  It’s a winning combination.  And his relationship with Tessa is loving and full of good intention.  (My favorite moment between them?  When they read “passive aggressive reference books” across from each other – “How to Become an Emancipated Minor” and “Is Adoption For You?” -at breakfast.)  Tudyk – and, seriously, this guy defies type casting – is hilariously blind to his town’s shortcomings. “This was voted the fifth best place in the country to raise kids.”  “I don’t have any kids,” Tessa replies.  I love it.

So, okay, the neighbors watering their manicured lawns together is a mite silly.  And Ana Gasteyer may or may not be a plus as hideously nosy neighbor whose deeply embarrassed daughter becomes Tessa’s first friend.  I can’t decide if sugar free Red Bull (the official drink of suburgatory) will benefit from their obvious sponsorship of the show, or if it’s adoption as the Mean Girl/Stepford Mom drink of choice will have a negative effect.There are great touches, like the postman on a segway, and the license plate reading HPPYFAM.  And gosh, the fleet of tracksuit wearing, pedicure loving mothers?  I know mothers who wear those track suits.  Not a lot, but still.  I don’t get that, because these are always women who’re not only in insanely perfect physical condition, but also straightened and painted and blow dried within an inch of their lives.  So why don’t they were real clothes?  I’m glad this behavior puzzles someone else.

After we watched this, Mr. E and I cued up the latest episode of Up All Night (which, yes, I reviewed favorably) and we both couldn’t believe how inferior it seemed.  We had laughed at the pilot, but we weren’t laughing at this episode.  The contrast between the two shows was pretty shocking.

My point?  This pilot is re-airing tonight.  Check Suburgatory out; you’ll laugh.  You really will.

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One comment on “TV Review: Suburgatory

  1. Tid bit to make you feel old: Jeremy Sisto playing the father of a teen on a sit-com that looks like Easy A crossed with Clueless.

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