Suburgatory: ‘I Choose Hell’

In Television on September 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm

“When did the Tri-State area turn into Beverly Hills?”

I  go into new comedies with a positive attitude, hope I will be impressed with the cast,  writers, sets-and that I’ll get a few laughs. But oftentimes I  get side-tracked with the ‘wtf?’ aspects of the show, especially when they snowball, as they did in the first episode of Suburgatory.

According to the show’s (far-fetched) premise, The Altmans -Dad, George (Jeremy Sisto,who played ‘Billy’ on’ Six Feet Under’) and his daughter, Tessa (Jane Levy, ‘Shameless’) – have  relocated from New York City to the tri-state area which  I’m  guessing is Connecticut from the cartoon map in the opening. (Full disclosure: I grew up in Connecticut)

This, after Dad finds a box of condoms in Tessa’s dresser drawer.

Right off, this strikes me as an extreme overreaction for a hip guy who lives in New York City- but what really didn’t make sense was that the town he has chosen is,  inexplicably,  a weird mash-up of Wisteria Lane and Beverly Hills! It’s filled with ‘Barbie-Doll’ moms drinking sugar-free Red Bulls and doing spot exercises in the driveways of their million-dollar homes with their lookalike daughters.

One would assume that this ‘concerned’ Dad would have investigated said town (especially since it’s only an hour’s drive away) and that anyone with half-a-brain and five minutes of free time would conclude that this was a town awash in condom-filled dresser drawers, and rampant in rich-girls with fake boobs who aren’t waiting for marriage, or possibly even a second date. (Not judging the gals….because George Altman, had he been the father of a son, would probably have been proud to find those condoms!)

Curiously, Dad and daughter ( we’re only told that mom ‘took off’ when Tess was young) are savvy enough to make a life in New York City, so it makes you wonder why Dad is  buying into an over-the-top geographical ‘solution’ because his daughter might-or might not be-having sex in the first place. New York City was not the birthplace of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Beverly Hills might be. Just sayin.

One can tell that Tess-with her ‘Daria’ like attitude and dry delivery- is obviously the most grounded of the characters, and clearly doesn’t need to be blindfolded,  mugged and dragged away from her home based on a box of prophylactics and Dad’s sneaky suspicions.

What is it with dads and daughters anyway? The men engage in sex, and yet the thought of their precious female offspring engaging in natural sexual activity freaks them out! (They don’t seem to mind it when they’re banging someone else’s daughter! Because: new flash: that’s what your girlfriends and wives are!)

And yet:  their daughters being a part of the natural life cycle freaks them out enough to, say- impulsively move out of state! As if sex doesn’t exist in other locales!  Hardly anyone says to a 16 year old: ‘Hey-Go For it, Sexy!’ but doesn’t anyone have faith in their kid’s basic morals and that maybe they know what’s right for them? Maybe talk to them? Nor does having sex-or not- define a ‘good girl’ bad-girl’ despite the propaganda.

I can only conclude that a father’s insane discomfort must have something to do with his own ‘guilty conscience’ concerning the way he treated girls back in the day (or still treats them!) Which might mean that the more Dad freaks out, the bigger Cad he was- and that payback’s a bitch and karma is real? I don’t know- I’m just throwing it out there.

It is interesting how so many men are fine with their own desires except when it comes to a relative, particularly their own daughters. Narcissism is out there in great supplies. And –hey fella- contrary to popular belief, daughters are not your property.

Anyhoo-having grown up in Fairfield County, Connecticut, there were a lot of extremely wealthy people (my own family was middle class) but never once did it resemble Beverly Hills-aesthetically or otherwise  so I have no idea where the writers are coming from, ‘location authenticity’ wise in this sitcom.

Wealthy people in Connecticut are notably low-key. They tend to wear J.Crew sweaters and boat shoes,  drive expensive but subtle cars, play golf and tennis and put a premium on being refined. In fact, the longer you can hold a stick in your buttcheeks without flinching, the wealthier you are. The town in ‘Suburgatory’ is closer to ‘The Hills’ -which is quite a stretch, not unlike Taylor Lautner as the lead in a shoot ’em up’ movie.

Cheryl Hines ( ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’) plays a ‘Hollywood Wives’ type named Dallas Royce (really? Is Jackie Collins on the writing staff?) who, quite frankly, would be much better suited to- say-I dunno- Dallas? (The show or the place!) Somehow (?)- she hires Mr. Altman (an architect) to re-design her daughter’s elaborate ‘Clueless’ style closet system, and the chase is on. George being the pork-chop to Dallas’s wolf.

When  George visits the local country club, he steps into a scene straight out of the Playboy Mansion (and it’s just as dated- all that’s missing is the Grotto and Pauly Shore!) Gorgeous, bikini clad women, rife with saline and plastic, recline seductively in lounge chair after lounge chair (an 80’s MTV video staple), all eyes following him like the man-meat he is assigned to be, but- as tv characters tend to do, George pays no mind.  (By the way, what season is this, exactly? The kids are in school, so it can’t be summer, and that is the only time people can sunbathe in the north-east!  I  could swear I spotted a palm tree over by the the fresh towel station! Where is the order, people? What’s next? Dogs and cats living together?!..Mass hysteria?)

George is at the club to meet up with a male  friend -someone he knew from the past- who brags to George about his newly gotten Jersey Shore tan and blond highlights (again, this is the northeast! Possibly in the Fall!) and tries to convince George that ‘this place is paradise!’ The waitress actually offers up herself  as the only other menu item besides ‘the shrimp’ -and since George chooses the shrimp- we are to understand that George is ‘deep’ and definitely not interested in getting laid – much like he wants his daughter to be! He’s a sitcom dad of deep, upstanding character, perhaps serving penance for a myriad of teenage transgressions.

“TheTwins in ‘The Shining’ taught me to ’emote’…”

In the end, it  is the ‘shopping at the mall’ scene that pushes me over the edge.  George, Tess, Dallas and her vapid daughter, Dahlia (the poison flower?) somehow end up driving  to the mall together in Dallas’s fancy automobile.  Predictably, the teen girls  hate each other, hissing like cats under their breath -my advice to Dallas and George: Next time bring a spray bottle! Two firm squirts and watch the claws retract! (I wouldn’t actually do this to a cat, but a teenager? Possibly)

The store depicted is obviously ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ (or whatever ‘Swear at your Mother and Hi-Jack Her Wallet’ store is presently all the rage with the kids these days) where George plays the ‘I’m outta place’ card like a champ. Whining about the bad lighting, high prices and loud music (According to the article ‘How Retailers Trick You’ on my Yahoo Homepage: they do it on purpose! Shocker!) George is not a happy daddy.

Luckily, Dallas thinks quick on her Louboutin’s and quickly regales him to the ‘Dad’s couch’ because she is a professional shopper, evidently once had a man, and knows these things. Somewhere along the line, the evil Dahlia convinces Tessa to try on the identical outfit she’s picked out-something I-as a member of the female species- have never seen done in any dressing room, at any age-ever) and their get-ups include silly pink swim goggles (no doubt, at least forty-eight bucks a pair!) as a wild and inexplicably hip accessory (haha-fashion is so stupid, huh?! The things we do for our kids!)

“After this we’re going to strip down to our undies and have a pillow fight”

Since the writers are aiming to portray ‘Tess’ as the teen who has it more together, it’s ludicrous to think that she would try on this outfit at all. Ever. Not even at matching pink water-pistol  gunpoint.

And note to the writers: In real life, when someone moves from New York City-The Big Apple! to suburbia- it is they who school the suburbanites on ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ not the other way around!  This show needs a major overhaul, or it’s not going to be around for the long one!!! And if this is ‘Suburban Purgatory’ please believe me when I say: ‘I choose Hell!’- if not for real, then just to get the ball rolling one way or the other….

I give it a ‘D’ for believability but an ‘A++” for mock-ability.

  1. Having never heard of this show before (and I watch an inordinant amount of TV (albiet its “reality” tv) it sounds awful…its like a bunch of people sitting around a table, impaired by something, through out a bunch of “Hey, what if!….. and her name could be!……And, put in some hot chicks!…and a useless, uptight Dad that needs to be “schooled” on cool…” There ya have it. a sitcom..I can only guess on Fox? I laughed “out” loud at teh Taylor Lautner reference (He’s soooo macho…does anyone use that word anymore?). Here’s a even bigger laugh…he made 35 MILLION from that god awful Twilight series! I am so ahpy to have finally read something with insight and a wry sense of humor…you are smashing! PS. Dogs and Cats living together!!!!!!!! I lve love it!


    • There was one funny moment, when a middle-aged Mom pulled up next to them at a light – Tess looks over at the Mom and she’s mouthing the words to the Young Jeezy-like rap blaring out of her Hummer: ‘Cuz Imma Gangsta…yeeeaaah’ Tess goes: ‘OMG! What is wrong with these people?’…but alas- that was the first and last laugh (intentional, of coarse!)

      Plus, all I could think was: ‘How did this guy SURVIVE New York City??’


  2. Note to self…please proofread for spelling errors before posting.


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