October 02, 2011

TV: Suburgatory (ABC, Wed 8:30)

Tessa (Jane Levy) is a New York girl, so she's not happy when her father George (Jeremy Sisto) decides to move the two of them to the suburbs for a more wholesome life. But by the end of the first episode, she's found a potential new best friend and just maybe the mother figure she's been missing, and the suburbs are starting to look not so bad after all.

That's a fairly standard setup for a sitcom, but this one looks to be a particularly good exploration of familiar ideas. Levy is a tremendously likable lead, capable of being a sullen, resentful kid while retaining our sympathy; Sisto is clearly having a terrific time getting to play comedy for a change, and if he hasn't yet figured out quite how to tone down his innate "hello, my name is Jeremy and I'll be your stalker this evening" creepiness, I think he's headed in that direction.

The new best friend Jane (Allie Grant) and bitchy rival Dalia (Carly Chaikin) are thinner characters than the leads, but you can't develop everyone to their fullest in thirty minutes. And the other principal supporting player, Dalia's mother Dallas (Cheryl Hines), is a terrific character. At first glance, she's a shallow Real Housewife type, only interested in big hair, botox, and tight shorts, but Hines gives her more depth than you'd expect, and her relationship with Tessa is likely to be the most interesting thing in the show. Dallas has begun to realize that she's turned her own daughter into just another beauty-obsessed brat, so she's fascinated by Tessa, who's smart and sarcastic and not remotely interested in those suburban cliches. Watching how these two change one another could be great fun.

There's a lot of potential here, and it's been given a time slot (between The Middle and Modern Family) that should be a good fit.

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