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TV Series Review

The suburbs have become one of the entertainment industry's favorite geographical whipping boys. Scriptwriters can't stand 'em, it seems, despising all those cookie-cutter homes and manicured lawns and neighbors sporting phony smiles. The suburbs are infested with fake, these scriptwriters tell us—shiny home-association-approved veneers that cover angst and despair and desperate housewives.

And, don't you know it, if there's one thing Hollywood can't stand, it's fake stuff!

Welcome to Chatswin, N.Y., home of ABC's comedy Suburgatory. George Altman and his teen daughter, Tessa, moved to this alarmingly charming suburb from Manhattan after George found condoms in Tessa's room. Everyone knows that teens in the suburbs never have premarital sex, so George decides Chatswin will give his daughter more congenial, less conjugal surroundings.

"It's pretty ironic that a box full of rubbers landed me in a town full of plastic," Tessa tells us in the pilot. Clearly, this worldly teen hates the place. A crazy night on the town in Chatswin? Tessa thinks it'd start with a pedicure at the mall and end with watching Jersey Shore.

And, given the stereotypes that abound on the show, Tessa would likely be right.

It's not that Suburgatory glories in the greatness of city life. It repeatedly stresses that Chatswin is a safer, "nicer" place. And we can assume that, as the series trundles on, Tessa will gradually grow to like Chatswin—even if she never stops feeling vaguely superior to it. Mere episodes in, she's already made friends—real, honest, kinda geeky friends, which conveniently separates them from the blingy blondes who seem to rule the town's teen social circuit.

But even as the aforementioned scriptwriters half-heartedly attempt to admit that maybe the suburbs aren't all bad, they do so with noses still firmly in air—while simultaneously embedded in gratuitous stereotyping. This reliance on stereotype is one of the things that makes Suburgatory incredibly annoying—if only because the trope is so well-worn as to be past the point of cliché. And Tessa, in her own way, may be just as misunderstood, according to The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger. He posits that Suburgatory's creators don't know anything more about urban teens than suburban ones.

The show doesn't just feel false, though. It feels foul. Genzlinger wrote, "The setup—single parent, cheeky kid—feels Disneyish, but what comes out of these characters' mouths isn't anything Disney-endorsing parents would want their tweeners hearing." Indeed, conversations can be flippantly sexual (Tessa refers to someone's vagina in the pilot) and pocked with both profanity and sacrilegious-sounding goofiness. Costumes are skimpy.

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Episode Reviews

Suburgatory: 10262011



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Jeremy Sisto as George Altman; Jane Levy as Tessa Altman; Cheryl Hines as Dallas Royce; Carly Chaikin as Dalia Royce; Allie Grant as Lisa Shay; Rex Lee as Mr. Wolfe; Maestro Harrell as Malik






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Paul Asay

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