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Suburgatory (ABC) - Series Premiere: Synopsis and Review

Updated on August 18, 2012

ABC’s new comedy series Suburgatory premiered on Wednesday, September 28th at 8:30/7:30c. The show is created by Emily Kapnek and the leading roles are played by Jeremy Sisto (playing the role of George Altman) and Jane Levy (playing the role of Tessa Altman).
The show follows a single dad, George, who moves to the suburbs with his teenage daughter Tessa after finding condoms in one of her drawers. Tessa, like any other typical teenage daughter, despises the idea of leaving her home to go live in the suburbs. She has a hard time fitting in, partially because she doesn’t really want to, but also because there seems to be something weird about the people in her new hometown.

The entire show pretty much revolves around Tessa and how much she doesn’t want to be where she is. It is one of the most used qualities in teenage TV shows, and it does in fact come off as quite a cliche. The same goes for Tessa’s character; growing up without a mother has apparently made her a downright tomboy. I’m not saying this isn’t possible, or probable. I’m just saying it’s quite a cliche.

Tessa, reluctantly making her way through Suburbia
Tessa, reluctantly making her way through Suburbia | Source

The pilot episode focuses on mothers a lot. Tessa, having had no mother around when she was growing up, seems to be stunned at the sight of all the typical soccer moms. However, there actually seems to be something off about the women in this town, other than just Tessa’s ignorance. For instance, they practically throw themselves at George. One person who might have some success with him in the future is Dallas Royce (portrayed by Cheryl Hines). Her daughter Dalia (Carly Chaikin) is Tessa’s ‘buddy’ at school, but they’re not likely to become friends. Dalia’s mother on the other hand seems to have found herself a way into George’s life by giving him parenting advice and promising George that Tessa can come to her for motherly advice.

Dallas is a weird mixture of things. On the one hand she is a typical Barbie doll, a superficial mom who buys her daughter loads of make-up and fake hair so she can look pretty. On the other hand, she’s able to give George some really good advice about how to handle a teenage daughter. Furthermore, she really does make an effort with Tessa, and even buys Tessa her first pretty bra. (This did strike me as odd though, because how did Dallas know Tessa’s measurements?) So on the one hand we’re supposed to believe she is just another superficial blonde going after the single dad, but on the other hand she turns out to be quite a good mom who is actually interested in Tessa. This contradiction is basically the main theme in this show; things seem to be one thing and simultaneously seem to be the exact opposite.

The characters are laid out quite well for a pilot episode. I do feel like I know their basic traits already. However, they are all very over the top. The overprotective father, the tomboy ‘I don’t care’ teenage daughter, the popular girl, the girl’s hot mother, the annoying next door neighbor woman, they’re all there and they’re all so stereotypical that it’s unbelievable. It just makes the show less entertaining because you can pretty much predict every one's motives and reactions.

Dalia and a teacher from Tessa's new school, "I'm available whenever you need me, between 12:00 and 12:45"
Dalia and a teacher from Tessa's new school, "I'm available whenever you need me, between 12:00 and 12:45" | Source

Overall, there are a lot of cliches in this show, but it doesn’t make the show annoying to watch. What does make it annoying is the weirdness that just doesn’t follow through. It is almost as if ‘Stepford Wives’ has a sequel in the form of this new series, but they didn’t take the weirdness all the way. What’s left is a strange mixture of women burning baby shoes on a barbecue and throwing themselves at George, and women who look and act like Barbie dolls but who are actually nice and smart, in their own way. The show is quite nice if you don’t mind the whole ambiguity, but for me, it’s just too confusing. I don’t know what to think about the characters; they have one specific trait and the next minute their personalities change completely.
Maybe future episodes will show there is actually something weird going on with these women or maybe their weirdness will just die a silent death as the story continues. As for now, it could go either way. One thing is for sure though, I won’t be around to find out.

What do you think about 'Suburgatory'?

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    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 6 years ago

      Who knows, maybe she'll come back later on in the series to spice things up a little ;)

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      That's interesting. It usually states that the mom died. That's an interesting twist.

    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 6 years ago

      @Alecia: it actually reminded me of her as well! The explanation about Tessa's mom is quite vague; they say she just left when Tessa was a baby. Maybe they'll go into it some more further on in the series.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I'm interested in watching this because it does kind of look like Mean Girls/Easy A and the actress does remind me of Emma Stone. Did it say how Tessa's dad became single? Great Hub!