tek's rating:

Suburgatory, ABC
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Caution: spoilers.

The basic premise is that this guy named George Altman (Jeremy Sisto) decides to move from Manhattan to the suburban community of Chatswin, with his 16-year-old daughter Tessa (Jane Levy), after finding a box of condoms in her dresser. He seems to hope the simpler life will prevent her from becoming sexually active. Yes, it's a stupid premise, but just go with it. (Btw, I should mention that Tessa's mother had left George and Tessa soon after Tessa was born.) Anyway, neither George nor Tessa really fit in with the suburbanites, who mostly seem... odd. Though there is one girl named Lisa Shay who becomes Tessa's friend. She doesn't really like her parents, Sheila (Ana Gasteyer) and Fred (Chris Parnell), nor her brother Ryan, who is more popular than she is, and who's kinda dumb, and who her parents treat as their favorite.) A bit later, Tessa gets another friend, named Malik, who will eventually start dating Lisa. There's also a dentist named Noah Werner (Alan Tudyk), who I guess was a friend of George's, who had moved to Chatswin some time before George and Tessa did, so now they reconnect... though they seem like very different people. And George does kind of become friends with Fred Shay, as well. There's also a girl named Dalia Royce, who becomes an enemy of Tessa's. She's fairly dumb and shallow and self-centered, but of course she's one of the popular girls at school. Though her mother, Dallas (Cheryl Hines), becomes friendly with George. Dallas's husband, Steven (Jay Mohr), is away most of the time, and Dallas eventually finds out he's cheating on her. So she leaves him, which leaves a bit of a hole in her life (which she mostly fills by opening a store that sells stuff made of crystal). She gives Tessa a job at the store. Meanwhile, Dalia seems to take her father's side in the divorce, even though she still lives with Dallas. Oh, I should also mention that Dallas has a small dog named Yakult. And there's a guidance counselor at school named Mr. Wolfe, who seems pretty clueless, but quite positive. Eventually, Tessa sort of helps him come out of the closet... or maybe helps him realize he's gay, I'm not sure he even knew that about himself.

I should also mention that it always seemed like George and Dallas's friendship might turn into something more, especially after she left her husband. But it never quite did (in the first season). And toward the end of the season, George starts dating a kind of new age-ish woman named Eden, and who turns out to be a surrogate mother, carrying the baby of Noah and his wife Jill. (It's interesting that Eden is played by Alicia Silverstone, since she and Jeremy Sisto were both in Clueless.) Anyway, their relationship puts a strain on George and Noah's friendship. And for the most part, Tessa doesn't like Eden that much. There are some twists at the end of the season, including something Lisa learns about her brother, as well as the possibility that Tessa might meet her mother for the first time. (At least it looks like she meets her maternal grandmother for the first time.) So there's a cliffhanger.

Anyway... I like the relationship between George and Tessa. They're sort of more like friends than father and daughter (she even calls him by his first name). And even if she's upset that he forced her to move to this place which she pretty much can't stand, they're sort of each other's greatest ally in dealing with the weirdness around them. And they're fairly amusing. And Tessa also narrates the show. Um... some of the supporting characters have grown on me a bit, but I still am not really all that interested or amused by them, for the most part (though they continue to grow on me somewhat, and become more amusing to me, in subsequent seasons). Tessa's definitely the funniest, most likable and interesting character. George is the second most likable character. Lisa is odd, if not quite as odd as the other townies, but also interesting (and I'd say both she and Tessa are lucky to have each other as friends). Malik's a nice guy, but underused in the show. Noah is... probably my least favorite role I've ever seen Tudyk in, but he can be amusing. And Dallas has grown on me more than I expected her to, though I still don't find her terribly interesting. I probably wouldn't still be watching the show if not for how much I like Tessa as a character. But... Chatswin does have a vaguely quirky charm about it... which is mainly manifested by getting to see how they celebrate various holidays. Oh yes, I definitely like the holiday episodes best.

Season Two
This season, Tessa does meet her mother, Alex (Malin Akerman). Noah gets Dallas's maid, Carmen, to work for him, and help with his new baby, Opus. Tessa and Ryan become a couple (they'd dated at least once in season one). George and Dallas become a couple. If I recall, Dalia didn't want them dating at first, because she thought George wasn't good enough for her mom, but eventually she became surprisingly attached to him, and started calling him "Daddy Altman." Lisa and Malik break up, but they eventually get back together. Noah falls in love with Carmen (or at least thinks he does), and pursues her obsessively, though she's not interested in him as anything more than an employer. (In spite of nothing coming of that, Noah and Jill get a divorce.) And Carmen eventually quits working for Noah and goes back to working for Dallas. Ryan makes plans to attend college next year, and he and Tessa eventually break up. Dallas and George's relationship gets more serious, and they plan to move in together, though that plan ultimately falls through, and they break up at the end of the season. Also, Tessa's enmity with Dalia gets increasingly worse, and Tessa eventually decides to move in with her mother in New York. George gets a dog, which is now his only company. (The dog will get the name Biederman, next season.)

Season Three
This season was half as long as the first two, and started in January instead of fall. Tessa's mother once again abandoned her, so she had to move back to Chatswin with George. Meanwhile, things will be very awkward between George and Dallas throughout the season. Fred and Sheila, who miss Ryan now that he's away at college, adopt a 9-year-old boy named Victor Ha. George dates a pet store owner named Nora for awhile, but it doesn't last long. Ryan starts dating a girl named June (Lindsey Shaw), whom he met at college, which makes Tessa jealous. We see less of Noah this season, but there were a few eps he was in, including one where his plotline kind of reminded me of a plot point from Serenity. (I can't help wondering if that wasn't a coincidence.) The same episode had Mae Whitman guest starring as a member of a nomadic band, which reminded me of an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender (but with a major difference that I won't spoil). And... halfway through the season, Lisa proposes to Malik in an... interesting way. Malik later proposes to her in a totally epic way. They get married in the season's penultimate episode, and it's a pretty nice wedding. George and Dallas hook up after the wedding, which results in things becoming even more awkward between them. And at the very end of the season finale, Tessa and Ryan hook up, though he's still dating June.

Then the series was cancelled. I really wanted there to be another season, and there was some talk of the show possibly getting picked up by some other network, or something. But alas, nothing ever came of that.


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