Stars: Jane Levy, Jeremy Sisto, Cheryl Hines, Carly Chaikin, Alan Tudyk, Allie Grant
Writer:
Emily Kapnek
Director:
Michael Fresco
Network:
ABC, Wednesdays @ 8:30 PM
Original Telecast:
September 28, 2011

If you’ve read books aimed at teens and tweens (the main characters are teenagers, but the readers are sometimes a little younger), you know the tone of SUBURGATORY – wry and snarky but not mean-spirited, watching peers in a new territory as though they’re aliens and viewing adults as though they are from another dimension altogether.

In SUBURGATORY’s pilot, our narrator, fifteen-year-old Tessa Altman (Jane Levy), is uprooted from her beloved New York by her divorced father George (Jeremy Sisto) and moved to an upscale suburb, where George has convinced himself they’ll both be healthier and happier. Tessa is horrified by the big hair and small town bitchiness of the top girls in school, while George is made a little nervous by the predatory nature of the girls’ mothers, single and married alike. George’s pal Noah (Alan Tudyk) loves the place, while Dallas Royce (Cheryl Hines), mother of Tessa’s chief new tormentor Dalia (Carly Chaikin), would love to get to know George much better. On the other hand,Dallas does take what seems to be a sincere motherly interest in Tessa, even if Dallas’ ideas about what every teenaged girl needs don’t quite jibe with Tessa’s – and Tessa is willing to consider the possibility that maybe her own notions aren’t the only valid ones out there.

Some of us may part company with Tessa on exactly what causes her to come to this last conclusion – Dallas gives Tessa a gift that the girl decides she actually likes, while we are still marveling at the thing’s extreme tackiness – but the sentiment is agreeable and well-earned. SUBURGATORY is a bit broad, but it’s also deft and smart, with a lot of good dialogue and capable actors. However, because it’s literally told by Tessa, it very much feels like a first-person comedic novel about how a young person copes with the savagery of her own kind and the bizarreness of all other kinds. The show nails the tone, which is commendable; it’s just that the tone may appeal primarily to a pretty specific demographic.

Levy is effortlessly amusing in conveying how stunned Tessa is without being whiny, and Hines lets rip with a good ol’ gal who gets some very strong lines. Sisto makes a jovial straight man, and Tudyk is on-target as a nice guy who isn’t remotely in touch with how superficial he is.

As SUBURGATORY progresses, it may offer more for its adult audience. Right now, it’s gently entertaining, but seems best suited for those who are either in their adolescence or in a mood to revisit that mindset, rather than as a comedy about the potential discomforts of suburban civilization overall.

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Article: TV Review – SUBURGAATORY – Season 1 premiere

 

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