October 18, 2012



SUBURGATORY:  Wednesday 9:30PM on ABC

WHERE WE WERE:  Meeting Grandma.  In the season finale, having survived her first year in the titular Chatswin, Tessa (Jane Levy) met her long-absent mother’s mom–on Mother’s Day, no less.  Also, Tessa’s best friend Lisa (Allie Grant), who had spent most of the season thinking (hoping) that she’d been adopted by parents Sheila (Ana Gasteyer) and Fred (Chris Parnell), learned that it was actually her perfect if vapid brother Ryan (Parker Young) who wasn’t in the bloodline.  Thinking of vapid, Noah (Alan Tudyk) and his wife Jill (Gillian Vignam) had their baby.  And Tessa’s father George (Jeremy Sisto) broke up with girlfriend Eden (Alicia Silverstone), probably bringing him ever-closer to his date with destiny in the person of Dallas (Cheryl Hines), mother of the dreaded Dalia (Carly Chaikin), who would be a mean girl if that didn’t require some actual effort.

WHERE WE ARE:  The end of summer, which as it turns out Tessa spent in blessed Manhattan with grandma, clubbing into the night (at the Loophole, which closes at 3AM) and gaining some precious knowledge about her mother.  When she comes back to Chatswin, she’s wearing mom’s old jacket and sunglasses, and has a yen to sign up for a local talent show and start singing the way her mother did.  (It’s not exactly an in-joke, but sort of a meta-moment when the song she sings, supposedly written by her mom, is the Suburgatory theme song.)  Meanwhile, Lisa tries to use her knowledge about Ryan to leverage Sheila, and Noah and Dallas duel over nanny rights.

Suburgatory improved once it moved past its satire of superficial suburbs and the original concept of Tessa and George as adversaries, and became a sweet if borderline surreal show about family and friends.  What works best is Levy and Sisto together, and the season 2 premiere, written by series creator Emily Kapnek, and directed by Ken Whittingham, had plenty of that, as the two of them were able to talk about her–we gather one of the rare times that’s happened.  (It’s already been announced that we’ll be meeting Mom this season, and the alert saw that the photo we glimpsed tonight looked a lot like actress Malin Akerman.)  Levy is a gifted actress, capable of being quippy and vulnerable at the same time, and she’s a believable daughter for Sisto, while he conveys a constant mixture of worry and pride in her.

As usual, the plots that lacked both George and Tessa felt weaker.  The Dallas vs. Noah battle was silliness, although there was a great sight gag where Dallas revealed the remains of a giant teddy bear Noah had sent to bribe the nanny away.  And the Lisa story felt like it was missing one more twist, as Sheila was able to turn the tables a bit too easily.  (The rehearsal for the family’s cat-themed talent show act, however, was priceless.)

This is a pivotal season for Suburgatory.  The show was an OK performer last year, with a 2.5 average that justified its renewal but not at a thriving level.  Now it’s been given a promotion to the prime post-Modern Family slot (after ABC wisely moved The Neighbors out of there), where it also serves the important function of lead-in to Nashville.  Marginal ratings won’t suffice there.  Suburgatory is more of a “smile” show than a constant LOL, but it’s warm-hearted and likable, with a great father-daughter bond at its center, and it would be nice if the series can deliver the numbers ABC needs in that slot.

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."