I was fully expecting to roll my eyes throughout Suburgatory. I mean, come on: Complaining about big, safe, pretty neighborhoods and going shopping all the time! The sobs just won't stop coming. And I knew there would plenty of complaining once Manhattanite and single dad George (Jeremy Sisto) moved himself and his daughter Tessa (Jane Levy) from the Big Apple to a hyper-colored suburban candyland full of Stepford wives and green lawns.
But my preemptive dislike instantly dissolved in the face of the visual humor. The opening montage of moms truly made me smile, especially the shot of some unnamed but very funny lady lip-syncing to gangster rap while driving her zoned-out daughter around. And while I fancy myself a watchdog for comedy that lampoons women, the humor comes not from lampooning the women themselves but from skewering the role they're being pressured to play. Plus, the guys (including the very dry and awesome Alan Tudyk as a sunny bleach blonde) seem just as bad.
Suburagtory feels as if someone saw Mean Girls and said, "Lets do a show about Amy Poehler's mom character." And maybe I was that person, and maybe a studio executive overheard me, and maybe I should be entitled to some funds. But regardless of how the inevitable lawsuit shakes out, it’s a very watchable premise. Wednesday's pilot featured several fantastic sight gags, and the several shots I couldn't help smirking at were like a gateway drug to the snappy dialogue between dad George and daughter Tessa. But I knew I was hooked as soon as we met this siren:
Carly Chaikin's Dalia Royce is already one of my favorite new TV characters of the season. Her deadpan delivery and stoic stare are either the product of a genius director or sterling comic self-possession. As Dalia showed Tessa around school, George met her Dalia's mom, Dallas. Dallas is the penultimate suburban mom, played by the excellent Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm).
Suburgatory is full of awesome casting: Ana Gasteyer is a welcome familiar face as George and Tessa's nosy, across-the-way neighbor. Alan Tudyk also manages to steal every scene he's in with his dry delivery. Jane Levy's rapid-fire wit and red locks will no doubt draw comparisons to Emma Stone's turn in Easy A, and Jeremy Sisto strikes exactly the right balance between concerned, earnest dad and easy-going hunk. But the casting director really earned her keep when she brought Cheryl Hines on board. Written as a picture-perfect, Red Bull-swilling housewife, Suburgatory's Dallas Royce is all of those things in addition to being thoughtful, intelligent, and fun, with a depth and wit from Hines that makes her the de facto star of the show.
In fact, my least favorite character so far is the actual star of the show: Tessa's constant snark and total ingratitude for a rad house, cool bike, and privileged life quickly became tedious. You have to accept a certain amount of plodding exposition and set up in any pilot, and this was the heroine at her starting point. Levy seems very smart and certainly capable, and I'm confident that she'll soon get the chance to flesh out Tessa a little more. We've already seen signs of growth: When Dallas reached out to her via the gift of a cute bra, we got the sense that, for all of Tessa's complaining, she is not going to dismiss these people so quickly just because they live in rows instead of in stacks (as we do in the cities). And that's what's really intriguing about the Suburgatory—it seems to promise that beyond these bright and visually hilarious facades, there are some very interesting characters waiting to emerge.
…Did you like the Suburgatory premiere?
… East Coast people: Doesn't it seem like Suburgatory's setting is more like the suburbs of the West Coast than the ones in New Jersey or Connecticut? I think the show wanted a main character from New York, but filled out suburbia with character types from Orange County. Or maybe I've just been out West too long.
… No romantic hero yet! Kind of refreshing or bring on the lovin'?
… Is Dallas an awesome lady or the future villain?
… How much do you love Dalia?! SO MUCH?!?!