Suburgatory: Welcome to the Neighborhood!

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.

QUESTIONS:

…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?!?!

Comments (32)
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I completely agree with this article!!!! I love Dallas's character and the relationship between her and George and am anxiously waiting to see what will happen next between the two. Dallas is hands down my favorite character. She stays true to herself and has a welcoming and kind heart to match. The show seems to be stressing that even though Tessa/George live a completely different lifestyle than the overly tan and wealthy suburban residents of Chatswic, they can get along quite well together. I also love the friendship that George and Noah have with each other. I am looking forward to the relationship development between these characters. Honestly, the storyline of Tessa is ok. I have seen it so many times, but what I would like to see is Tessa grow to accept the suburb kids and not judge them so much, and vice versa for Dahlia.



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I watched the premiere with no expectations or preconceived ideas. I definitely can easy comparisons between Tessa's character and Ellen Page in Juno. That's not a bad thing, IMO. Tessa's attitude and opinion make complete sense when you sit down and realize she was effectively dragged to this new placed because her father spied on her and found the condoms. Her attitude makes a lot of sense and expecting her to be grateful to her father for moving into a nice house, etc, is over-reaching. She's a teenager. Don't expect logic on that. The visuals and the characters are kooky and this contrasts Tessa both in how she talks and even how she dresses. The dialog is great, as well, especially between Tessa and her father. I'll keep my eye on the show.
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I was expecting to hate it.... but I found myself smiling a lot. Pleasantly surprised, I liked it. The show is sort of a mix between Daria, Mean Girls and Awkward.
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I liked it, just a show you don't need to concentrate to hard on, loved the "gangster" mom
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I absolutely loved it! To be honest, given how often I get disappointed by new and promising episodes, that soon turn out to be full of s***, this was a refreshing and pleasant surprise!

I'm only disappointed that it's too short, because for some reason I imagined it would be 40 mins. But then realized that comedy series are bound to last 20, duh. Anyway, great show, thumbs up and hopefully it will NOT be cancelled...We all know that many good shows get cancelled, opposed to rubbish ones that last for 7-8 seasons... :)
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I found the show was trying to be like Mean Girls, but with Emma Stone and her underlying character from the recent movie: "The A List". A little too much for me.
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I think you mean the movie Easy-A cause "the a list" is not a movie
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I was not expecting to like this show... I was pleasantly surprised by the first episode. Definately going to keep on watching this one.
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First, I am in the 'burbs of Los Angeles, and NO looking like these moms on the show!

Second, I thought the show was great! I totally would have not been interested in watching it, nor had I even heard about it until the costume director bought jewelry from our company for the show @alefbetjewlery. Now I set the dvr to record the entire series and can't wait until next week!
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Question for ya Lily, if "Dallas is the penultimate suburban mom" who is the ultimate suburban mom? I think you had a typo there :)



Anyway, I really enjoyed this. I liked all the main characters, the acting was good, the comedy well delivered and best of all it was actually well written, which isn't something I can say about many of the new shows. I agree that Tessa's complaining was irritating by the end of the episode, but the bra scene was a nice touch and it helped to show the potential for the character to become a little more likeable.
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WHOOPS how did that happen?Thanks for pointing out the misusage.I thought this show would be something to snark about, but its completely won me over. Honestly excited about next episode.
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Maybe its just me but I thought the show was not good. I saw the show in just the opposite way. I thought the way they made the secondary characters caricatures made the show silly and not funny. Its like I seen this all this before and I was being asked to like rehashed ideas. There was nothing fresh or really interesting about any aspect of it. Yes theres were some laughs but for me they were just chuckles.
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I actually kinda liked it, even though I don't relate to the main character at all. Someone mentioned here Juno as reference. I just don't like those hispter/cynical type of people, no offense >.< . I actually liked the dad, and Alan Tudyk. And I agree, the suburb daughter character was the most hilarious one.



I was surprised that it did well in the ratings. I thought the theme of teenagers/school/fitting in has been done so many times already.
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It really has, thats a good point, and I usually get angry at shows that lambast suburbia, but this series seems to have a kinder stance and Tessa let go of her cynicism a little at the end. I want to see her grow into a more open minded and judgemental heroine, and I think the show is setting her up for just that.
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Good news concerning the show, at least based on the pilot. Preliminary ratings give it a number of 9.81 million.
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Honestly, I watched it because of the prospect of seeing Alan Tudyk again on TV. In the end, I got really hooked.
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I did generally like the pilot and I will be tuning in next week. But I totally hate the premise that they moved because her dad found condoms. She's in high school! It doesn't mean she's having sex, and even she is at least she's safe! And has her dad ever been to a suburban high school? The amount of teenage sex might be even higher than the city (based on my experience in a suburban Catholic high school). Ridiculous premise! But if you can ignore that it was cute enough.
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Soooo stupid. But I suppose the only thing we can do is chalk it up to the show needing a way to get Tessa and her dad out to the 'burbs, and assume that since it was a pilot they settled on the weak idea to have him find condoms in her bedroom. Lame, yes. But possibly (and hopefully) forgotten/never spoken of again going forward.



Ultimately I completely agree with you, though... there definitely could/should have been a different reason for them leaving NYC! And holy crap, suburban high schools... aren't they the reason Teen Mom exists?
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I too came in expecting to hate this show, but it was funny. Cheryl Hines and Alan Tudyk were great. I also like the lead actress. Too many times these type of characters come across as precocious with grown-up dialogue (like "Juno") and it gets old. But Jane Levy conveyed an equal amount of teenage awkwardness.



The big question is how long can this show sustain this line of humor. They used up a lot of it in the pilot.
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It was ok. I'll keep watching it to see how it goes. I really like that there is NOT a romantic hero yet. It would just be so cliche if she meets a guy more like her and less like "them" in the first episode. Dallas and Dalia are pretty awesome.
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i didn't even hear about the show until last night because i happened to be bored , so i turned on the middle and then i saw the trailer which made me keep the tv on. i loved it and i hope to see more episodes of the show. me being a teenager thought it was really funny
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This show happened to be on when I turned on the TV and it sucked me in in just a few minutes. I wasn't on my radar, but I backed up the Tivo to watch the whole show and now I have a season pass. I might end up getting tired of it as I do most sitcoms these days, but it was nice to discover an unexpected pleasure. The father-daughter passive-aggressive book reading was hilarious. I wish they'd make that a running gag.
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How can you not like Tessa? Tessa = Daria
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One of this years sleepers.
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As a guy I didn't think I'd like it but it was surprisingly funny and fresh. Favorite bit was the walking/texting mom who took a dive. The lead actress is great. Don't think they should bring in a romantic interest...at least not for a while. That is a bit played out I think.
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Wow, who'd thought my favorite new comedy would be "Mean Girls" on Red Bull?? George's proclamation from the bedroom window echoing thru the hunting grounds gave me my first real laugh this season!!

You are right that Carly's Dalia truly is talented. An actor is still only as good as their direction allows. So bravo to all who brought this story to life.

As for the CA/CT confusion, I grew up in CT and recognize every blade of manicured grass , track house, col de sac, and after work line-up on the fences to pass gossip!!

As for Tessa's struggle, just recognize that her core strength is being pulled away by George and add the Dallas injection(brilliantly played!!) and you've got rebel without a cause(way). Even if the bike had been her BMW, she would still be pushing back at her Dad due to climate changes.

Great review, Sparky. Looks like we have something we can share afterall this season. Fingers crossed for the continued SMART comedy over Marshmallow FLUFF!!
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i was also surprised how much i actually liked this.. i didn't want to, but i ended up doing so. and the whole Emma Stone comparison is exactly the same thing i was thinking for most of the episode. i'll keep watching
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I had high hopes for this show based on the trailer. It seemed to have just the right kind of dry, sarcastic self-depreciating humour I like. And it did meet my expectations, to some extent. The thing was that most of the jokes in the episode had already been in the trailer. No wonder I thought the trailer was so good. But overall it was a good show. Someone might say that making fun of stereotypes of suburbia is outdated, but aren't stereotypes and caricatures an integral part of comedy? So I thought the pilot was fun, and most of all the show has a lot of potential for the future. It has many great actors. Unfortunately Jeremy Sisto is not one of them. He is simply not a comedy actor. He seemed really wooden.
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are you a new a writer for tv.com? i;m just noticing everything you write is refreshingly positive. it;s a nice change!

and i agree, it confused me that the main characters are from new york yet the "suburb" is something out of california. but i think jersey/connecticut suburb would be too "normal" to fit the premise of the show.
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I was surprised how much I liked this one. Hopefully they can keep this up.
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I enjoyed the first episode - hopefully it won;t get cancelled.
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first time this season that i totally agree with a review :)

this show looks promising
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