The Real Suburgatory

Jane Levy as Tessa AltmanLast night, the pilot of ABC’s new Suburgatory opened to both strong numbers and critics. And with good reason; the sitcom performs a perfect balancing act between cynical and heartfelt letting the viewers simultaneously mock and appreciate suburban life.

In case you missed it, Suburgatory follows the move of teenage Tessa Altman (Jane Levy) and her father, George (Jeremy Sisto), to Chatswin, NY from Manhattan. George wants to give Tessa a better life; Tessa doesn’t quite see it that way. Instead she finds herself facing ‘Stepford’-like moms and girls who receive rhinoplasties for their sweet sixteen. Eventually, Tessa starts to see that suburbia does indeed have a heart albeit under a ‘synthetic chest’. Throughout the season, I expect we’ll find Tessa continue to battle against the suburbanites while never really giving up her city girl charm and it’ll be interesting to see how much she lets them into her heart.

Still, Subugatory offered quite a lot of stereotypes of suburban life. As a lifelong resident of the ‘burbs (except for those two and half year where I gave college a try) I can say there are some very frightening things about life outside the city.

  • Grocery Stores. I guarantee you will run into the exact person you do not want to run into at the local Shop n Save. The mother of your most recent ex-boyfriend? Your high school teacher who had such high hopes for your future? The church lady who wants to know what you haven’t been there in over two years? Yep. They will both be behind you at checkout while you’re counting out nickels and pennies to pay for your hot pocket and tampons.
  • The Mall. Okay, this one isn’t as bad. The mall is bigger and attracts a larger crowd than the grocery store so your chances of bumping into familiar faces is far less likely. However, everyone shops at the mall. EVERYONE. The girl in the school play, the captain of the varsity volleyball team, the girl who sits behind you in French and then disappears. All of them. No matter how different you expect them all to be from you, you all shop exclusively at Old Navy and American Eagle and I can guarantee you there will be no less than three days in your high school career where you show up in the same outfit as one of them. It’s probable that this phenomenon will continue through adulthood except you’ll probably find yourself in matching threads from Banana Republic and J.Crew.
  • You have to drive everywhere (and gas is fucking expensive). The road out of your development is at least half a mile and the closest thing of interest is another half mile. In between you’ve got a four lane highway with a traffic light that’s another mile down. Have to run to CVS for some benedryl? Gotta get in the car. Want to play tennis at the park? Gotta get in the car. And let’s face it, even if they built a new ice cream shop two blocks away, you’d probably get in your car.
  • Limited Release Movies. Fan of independent British films or David Lynch? Too bad. You’re going to have to wait for a dvd or engage in piracy because that indie film you’ve been following since pre-production isn’t going to show up in a theatre anywhere near you. Unless you’re willing to take three trains and a bus.

Still, the suburbs aren’t that bad. Schools are good, you have a Target. It’s just nice to know that there’s life beyond those white picket fences. I’m sure Tessa Altman won’t ever forget that, and the suburbs aren’t forever.


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Filed under Comedies, Suburgatory, Television

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