Suburgatory stands out

by Krysta Huber
Ah, the infamous land of suburbia: the clichéd setting for a television show. How many shows about well-manicured lawns, trophy wives and cliquey teenage girls have been on the air? Far too many. But Emily Kapnek, writer of ABC’s new show
Suburgatory, has given the suburban scene a facelift– one that Dallas, Suburgatory’s quintessential suburban mother, would be proud of


Suburgatory’s protaganist Tessa Altman (Jane Levy) is uprooted from New York after her father George (Jeremy Sisto) decides that city life is leading Tessa down the fast lane. Tessa and George find themselves in the New York suburb of Chatswin, thanks to George’s college friend, Noah (Alan Tudyk), a typical suburban dad who dresses exclusively in LaCoste and completes his look with an orange glow. Tessa’s use of Juno-esque humor also gives Suburgatory a refreshing twist.

Tessa’s snide comments are complimented by her new neighbor and “frenemy,” Dalia Royce (Carly Chaikin), who, according to Tessa, “loads herself up with so much mascara that she can’t even blink.” Dalia’s style provides a stark contrast to Tessa’s assertive combat boots, and Dalia’s daily activities—which include shopping, gossiping and a whole lot of texting—aren’t Tessa’s idea of time well spent. This clash of sarcasm between the two girls is the source of many laughs.
Dalia’s character is amplified by her mother, Dallas Royce, played by Cheryl Hines. Dallas acts like a teenager trapped in the body of a middle-aged woman. With their perfectly coiffed hair and extra short shorts (which they apparently think are “boyfriend” shorts), Dallas and Dalia personify what Tessa hates most about the suburbs.
What’s unique about Suburgatory is that behind the satire and exaggeration, there’s substance. The father-daughter relationship between George and Tessa is a strong element of the plot. Although subtly displayed, George is simply doing his best to raise Tessa. Ironically, the parenting skills that George lacks are offset by Dallas. Dallas takes Tessa shopping, and hidden behind the jokes about mini skirts and sports bras is Tessa’s first experience of mother-daughter bonding. Dallas isn’t the ideal mother, but she’s the closest Tessa has to one.
Thanks to its dynamic cast and witty writing, Suburgatory stands out, even in its cliche suburban setting. It’s a sitcom that will make you laugh out loud– or, as Dalia would say, “LOL.”