Suburgatory takes its name from the suburbs that provides the setting, and purgatory, a metaphysical plane of existence made popular by the Vatican. Like the Vatican, George Altman, a Manhattan architect and single father (played by Jeremy Sisto), panics when he finds a box of condoms belonging to his daughter Tessa (Jane Levi). But while the Vatican would be more concerned with the prospect of contraception (apparently God prefers Africa to be blighted by over-population and HIV) it’s the sex in general that he can’t handle so he ups sticks and departs for the ‘burbs.
Armed with the standard issue Manhattan hipster elitist attitude, Tessa isn’t happy to move – you can’t be cool if you’re not urban. “Do you realise your street cred just disintegrated?” she incredulously asks her father when he tells her about his breakfast at the country club. Someone that cares about a notion as vague and insignificant as “street cred” is rarely worth listening to (unless they’re an urban planner, aha), let alone identify with.
George is less annoying – effort has been made by the writers not to craft him in the image of the idiot father trope, but occasionally it slips. He’s not quite bumping into walls, but by the time the next season comes around he very well may be.
Curb’s Cheryl Hines puts up a good performance as suburb mum Dallas – voluptuous synthetic breasts and all, but again, whilst it’s convincing (perhaps using the drawl of her native Florida), it’s wasted on such a simplistic, prosaic character. A glimpse of hope is provided by Noah (Alan Tudyk, offa Firefly) who uttered the only amusing lines to grace the episode.
Like most things set in suburbs, it’s billed as a satire, ala Desperate Housewives, but regrettably, this is hardly American Beauty. Satire is incisive, enlightening, and funny. Surburgatory is none of these things, as satirical as the observation that George W Bush had a tendency to fumble.
Curiously, E4 has put this on the 9.30pm slot. A brief sojourn on Wikipedia informs me that in the states it’s broadcast at 7/8.30 (depending on time zone) which seems a more sensible bet – this is hardly adult stuff. Perhaps E4 are working on the basis that seventeen magazine readers are a bit younger then seventeen, or perhaps they just want to stick it on after New Girl. Either way, it seems odd, this is more “post Simpsons”, like Modern Family on Sky.
For all it’s efforts, Suburgatory is exactly what it attempts to subvert and lampoon. It’s as shallow as any of the soccer moms within it and as flat and dull as the endless rows of little boxes which constitute it’s scenery.