'Suburgatory' Review: A Surreal and Wonderful Journey Through Suburban Hell
'Suburgatory' Review: A Surreal and Wonderful Journey Through Suburban Hell
Laurel Brown
Laurel Brown
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
The suburbs are weird.

As a kid, growing up in a series of suburban wastelands, I often wondered about my parents' decision to subject me to the conformity, weird expectations and dullness of suburbia. Was I better off? Are good schools really worth all that? Such questions -- and their often hilarious answers -- lie at the heart of ABC's new sitcom, Suburgatory.

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Suburgatory is the story of Tessa Altman (Jane Levy), a street-smart and sarcastic New York City teen ripped from her life and dragged to the suburbs by her father, George (Jeremy Sisto). In her new life, the unimpressed Jane finds herself in a hellish world of nose jobs, SUVs and shopping malls. Somehow, both Tessa and the oft-bewildered George must navigate the suburbs if they want to survive.

It's all very surreal. And pink. But, when it comes down to it, "surreal" and "pink" are two words that describe suburbs well. So that works.

The surreality of Suburgatory is one thing that must be remembered when watching the show. That style might not work for everyone. This is a show that makes simultaneous reference to dead goldfish and Italian cinema, after all, which might not fly for the poop-and-sex-joke sitcom lovers of the world.

But it's excellent for the rest of us.

The central relationship of Suburgatory, the father-daughter love of Tessa and George, both anchors and elevates the show's humor. The two characters have a funky and off-beat family relationship: Think Veronica Mars, only without the messy murders. The Altmans argue and banter and engage in silent warfare via self-help books, but you know that they are totally devoted to each other.

One of the things that makes Suburgatory rise above its caricature of suburban life is the pink-clad natives, particularly the mother-and-daughter team of Dallas (Cheryl Hines) and Dalia (Carly Chaikin) Royce. While they look (and often act) like Barbie dolls, there is actual heart hidden somewhere in those plastic frames. We wouldn't care about Tessa and George if they were surrounded by nothing but superficiality. But it gets interesting when they can't hate everything in their new environment.

And that environment is a scary place. With their diet Red Bulls, garden hoses and pot roasts, the suburban world depicted in Suburgatory is as terrifying -- in its own sun-drenched way -- as any inner-city hell depicted on TV's grittiest dramas.

On the other hand, Tessa's school has the nicest cafeteria and bathroom I've ever seen. Ever. Maybe the suburbs aren't so bad?

But they are. Fortunately for Suburgatory, the suburbs are also hilarious.

Suburgatory premieres Wednesday, September 28 at 8:30pm on ABC

(Image courtesy of ABC)


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