Review: Suburgatory 1×1 (US: ABC)

The best new comedy so far


In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC

If there’s one big surprise this season, apart from the sheer amount of dollars wasted on obviously bad shows, it’s that there are a few good ones out there, even on ABC. And it’s largely been the one’s that you didn’t think were going to be any cop that have turned out to be the surprises.

Suburbagatory is one of these shows. It sees Manhattan single father Jeremy Sisto (unrecognisable after his stint in Kidnapped as an action hero) discovering his teenage daughter has condoms, decides he wants her to grow up wholesome, so moves her upstate to the suburbs.

Here, their jaded, cynical Manhattan selves discover a realm of happy, smiling people of overwhelming, horrifying, oppressive normality. Are they prisoners, surrounded by Stepford husbands and wives? Or are the inmates of Suburgatory just as much prisoners of convention as they are?

Here’s a trailer.

Single father George Altman is doing his best to raise his sixteen-year-old daughter Tessa in the big city. When he discovers a box of condoms in her bedroom, though, he decides the time has come to move her to a more wholesome and nurturing environment: the suburbs. But behind the beautiful homes and perfect lawns lurk the Franken-moms, spray tans, nose jobs, and Red Bull-guzzling teens who have nothing in common with Tessa. It’s a whole new world, one that makes George wonder if they haven’t jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire.

With the help of suburbanites like old college friend Noah, flirty Alpha mom Dallas and awkward classmate Lisa, George and Tessa slowly learn to navigate the pitfalls of suburban life. With time, they might even find that it isn’t so bad. Once you get past the plastic smell.

Is it any good?
While it’s not yet up there with Community or 30 Rock its in glory days, Suburgatory is already looking to be a good partner for Modern Family, particularly for anyone who’s a little unconventional.

For a little while, you worry that beyond the decent dad and the hipster daughter caught up in the culture shock, there aren’t going to be any characters you’d actually want to watch. But the show slowly and cleverly reveals depths to everyone and brings in new characters. It takes every horrifying, stultifying piece of normality US suburban culture has to offer – team spirit, glee clubs, girls wearing pink, mothers trying too hard to look like their daughters, picket fences, mean girls, jocks being douches, disengaged children, SUVs, watering the garden, country clubs, interior design et al – and sticks it all in one place to be decimated with sarcasm, precise observation and horror.

It has a great cast, with Jane Levy (Tessa) the standout, but virtually everyone from Sisto through to old college pal Noah (Firefly/Dollhouse’s Alan Tudyk) and plastic mom Dallas (Cheryl Hines from Curb Your Enthusiasm) showing their comedic chops, too.

It’s a really likeable, smart, original show that deserves your attention and 9.80 million people watched the first episode so it’s going to be around for a while. So what are you waiting for? Go watch it*!

* Except for viewers in the UK, who have their own programming. Sky – why haven’t you picked this up yet?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.