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29 September 2011

Pilot Watch: Suburgatory

By // TV

Suburgatory has a lot to overcome, to be honest. The whole “oh my god, aren’t the suburbs weird?” vibe the show has going for it- whether its the hardly trenchant observations about suburban living or the incredibly snobby ways of looking at the transition of Manhattanite teen Tessa- was old when it was premiered by films like Heathers and perfected by the soundtrack to Weeds.

That being said… Alan Tudyk. And Anna Gasteyer. And Jeremy Sisto. And Alan Tudyk. The comedy may not be entirely fresh, and occasionally the attempts to seem edgy and observant feel painful and like the kind of angry screenplays I wrote in high school, but the cast is good enough that you want to forget it. The main character, Tessa Altman, sets the show in motion by getting caught owning condoms by her single-parent Dad. The twosome move on down to the suburbs, where no one ever has adolescent sex ever. As played by Jane Levy, Tessa manages to stay just on the right side of overly-smart. She may think she’s better than everybody else, but given how thinly sketched the rest of the characters are in the pilot, she kind of is. And Levy brings her an innocent intelligence.

And as for Jeremy Sisto, as daddy George*, he is a pretty great grounding presence against the wacky over-the-topness of Alan Tudyk, Ana Gasteyer and Cheryl Hines. They’re all funny enough to justify the dialogue, but they’ll need some serious fleshing out. Dalia showing brand new student Tessa around the school in a monologue that is like a passionless version of David Krumholtz’s speech to Joseph Gordon Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You, is easily indicative of how much the show is lacking.
The cruelty-based humor will have to be based in something deeper as the series continues, but it is funny. I hope the show gets less impressed with itself, and more impressed with its cast, as it continues because there’s some great stuff hiding beneath all the old-in-1992 suburbia jokes.

Great Examples of how the show dances on the edge of overly cutesy:

Tessa: pretty ironic that a box full of rubbers landed me in a town full of plastic.
Tessa: This is Betty White’s bike.**
**(WHO MAKES FUN OF BETTY WHITE?! I bet she drives a Harley)

Tudyk: But you can’t have sex with the school system… not really.
Tessa: So my whole school thought I was a vagitarian.

*SIDE NOTE: Jeremy Sisto can play the father of a teenage daughter now?! How old am I?

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