Throughout the Fall TV season I will be giving my first impressions on many of the new pilots as they air. Keep in mind that these are not full-fledged reviews. One, writing about TV is not my full-time job (yet), so I simply do not have the time to invest in complete reviews for each and every show that airs this fall. Two, it is very difficult to completely make a ruling about a show based solely on the very first episode, especially when it comes to comedy. Showrunners will make changes, premises will be altered, and time must be allotted to find what works with the characters, flesh them out properly and match them with a proper tone. Bearing this in mind, I bring you my first impressions of Suburgatory.
Suburgatory - ABC (Wednesdays, 8:30pm EST)
At this point in the TV landscape, it is very clear that cable is showcasing some of the highest quality dramas of all time on a regular basis. Try as they might, the networks have a very hard time emulating their cousins in cable (a few recent exceptions, of course, FNL and The Good Wife). But comedy? The networks are killing it with comedy. Sure, there are plenty abysmal half hours that are kept on the air (Whitney, our feud continues!), but there are still a surprising number of very well-done, well-paced, smart, quick-witted comedies. Parks and Rec, Modern Family, 30 Rock, Happy Endings, Community, HIMYM, The Office, even Sunday night animation on FOXstill hits from time to time. Add to that new comedies like New Girl, Up All Night and Two Broke Girls, all of which are showing promise. And now, Suburgatory is poised to enter the club after a very solid premiere last night.
I wasn’t expecting to like Suburgatory. It was getting good buzz, but still, I was anticipating a lot of jokes about how the big-city teenager turned suburbia resident, Tessa (Jane Levy, who I was surprised to learn also plays Mandy Milkovitch on Showtime’s Shameless), plays a TV-Juno, looking down on her new neighbors in an effort to remind herself and everyone around her how much smarter and in tune to reality she is compared to everyone else. Instead, the jokes were more about how this displaced teen simply doesn’t understand her new surroundings. And they were funny. Everything is foreign to Tessa, like waking up to the sound of silence instead of garbage trucks and honking horns (a familiar feeling I also get when I return home to Central New York for a weekend). Better, Suburgatory isn’t just about Tessa in a new suburban high school - equal time is spent on her father, George (Jeremy Sisto; Law & Order). He feels equally out of place among his new neighbors and at the local club, where he is suddenly the city-boy every housewife wants to bed. Among these new neighbors is played by Cheryl Hines, who made me nervous portraying the stereotypical neighborhood mom, Dallas, at first, but by the end of the episode she appeared much more human. This gives me hope that the supporting cast will be more than empty stereotypes and will be able to complement an already good chemistry between father and daughter. Bonus points can also be rewarded for featuring Rex “LLOYD!” Lee as a guidance counselor at the school and Alan “Steve the Pirate” Tudyk as George’s first friend. The verdict: B+
PS - watch out NBC Thursday, ABC Wednesday is REALLY turning up the heat with a great Suburgatory-Modern Family-Happy Endings comedy block.