Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Pilot #11: Suburgatory

FALL PILOT #11: Suburgatory
SUPPOSED SELLING POINT: Teen angst, snark, and brightly colored satire.
POSSIBLE SELLING POINT FOR ME:  Teen angst, snark, and brightly colored satire.

It should come as no surprise that there's little I love more than a smart teen angst comedy.  Those satirical seasons of Popular (when Ryan Murphy was still fresh and uninhibited), Freaks and Geeks, Daria, MTV's delightfully wry Awkward (watch it, seriously); get it right and the rewatchability factor leaps through the roof.  So, you should have no doubt that I've been harboring secret, very high hopes for Suburgatory, just another in a long line-up of ABC's snarky peeks at the American middle class. The network seems to have the suburban satire market cornered. They're the land of Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, Cougar Town, and soon, Good Christian Bitches (I kid you not).  

Amid the standards, Suburgatory seems special.  While it still boasts the bright color contrasts and perfectly manicured cul de sac lawns of those other shows, the story (at least in this first taste) feels preternaturally focused.  Our fish out of water tale knows where its going, has found its voice, and has pegged its targets in ways that may not be unique, but that are spectacularly charming.  Like a cross-pollinated clone of Emma Stone, Lindsay Lohan (in her prime), and Ashley Rickards, Shameless kid Jane Levy has all the right stuff to make her instantly recognizable to the average high school hater. The show is indebted to Mean Girls, and portions here play as a competent riff on Tina Fey's comedy; complete with a ginger-haired protagonist in ass kicking boots and an army surplus jacket.  As Tessa, though, Jane Levy is far more self-assured than Cady Heron was.  When an unopened box of condoms condemns her to life in a world of teenagers with nose jobs and bottle-blonde text fiends, she doesn't immediately bend over backwards.  No one's there to really show her the ropes, and this time, her single dad (Jeremy Sisto) is sucked into the mayhem too.  

A lot could destroy Suburgatory.  Canned laughter, for example, would be quite unwelcome here.  Luckily, Suburgatory doesn't have that.  What it has is a thus far perfectly cast Cheryl Hines, a constantly watering Ana Gasteyer, a creepily enthusiastic Alan Tudyk, and a dead eyed plastic teen houseplant embodied by relative newcomer Carly Chaikin. Thus far? Um yes, yes, it's good. How good?  In the pilot episode we not only get a Fellini reference (!) and the sort of Lynchian yards you expect to find an ear in, we also get this completely ridiculous outfit.  If it continues like this, I could probably love this show.  Stake that suburban mall culture, kids.  Go for it. 

SECOND EPISODE?:  Absolutely. 
WILL IT MAKE IT TO A SECOND SEASON?:  Thus far, I hope so.

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