September 28, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
SUBURGATORY –  Wednesday 8:30PM on ABC:  Potential DVR Alert

After the one-two punch of Last Man Standing and Man Up, it’s a relief to report that ABC has a promising new comedy in SUBURGATORY, a smart, appealing and funny show created by Emily Kapnek,  most recently been a writer on Parks & Recreation

The title pretty much sets out the premise:  Tessa (Jane Levy), a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker who’s been raised by her single dad George (Jeremy Sisto), is abruptly uprooted from her downtown existence and planted in the suburbs when George finds a box of condoms in her drawer and decides she needs a more wholesome upbringing.  (It’s a little cowardly that the show is at great pains to reassure us that Tessa was just holding the condoms for a friend (?), but that’s network TV for you.)  Tessa is aghast to find herself in a world of malls, nose jobs, fashion obsession and high school mean girls, and the series is about her and her father’s culture shock.
This could easily be a one-note joke, but even in the pilot Suburgatory shows signs of aiming for something more rounded.  Terrifically funny people like Alan Tudyk and Cheryl Hines are around in supporting roles, as, respectively, an old friend of George’s and a local woman a little too eager to become Tessa’s surrogate mom, and  before the pilot is over, Tessa finds there are others in the suburbs who don’t quite fit in.  It’s also encouraging that Tessa’s dad is only moderately clueless, and that the two of them seem to like each other.  Michael Fresco directed the single-camera pilot, which finds a tone that’s stylized but not too exaggerated to be a believable view (at least in Tessa’s mind) of reality.
Easy A is clearly one of the inspirations here, and along with the wry humor and voice-over narration, the show, like that movie, needed a strong, likable lead.  Luckily, Jane Levy has the right Emma-Stone-ish charisma, and if the material doesn’t let her down, she could become a breakout star of the season.  Sisto is a surprisingly effective choice to play the dad, more charming than the dark roles he often plays. 
Suburgatory has an enviable timeslot, nestled between The Middle and Modern Family, and with reality shows airing on CBS and FOX, its only risk would be if the NBC combo of Up All Night and Free Agents take off.  (Mitch Metcalf’s Wednesday night projections have the show behind Survivor and X-Factor, but well ahead of NBC.)  If Suburgatory can follow through on the potential of its pilot, it could be My So-Called Life with, to be sure, less complexity, but a few more laughs.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."