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Suburgatory “Pilot” 

Photo Credit: ABC

Among the many bummers when Law & Order was cancelled two years ago is that Jeremy Sisto wasn’t on my TV every week. I’m so glad he’s back, even if the vehicle, Suburgatory, isn’t exactly my cuppa. It’s a sitcom in the same style of Cougar Town, with which I think it would be a better fit than The Middle, which it follows, and uberhit Modern Family, which it precedes. The setup is simple—horrified single dad George Altman (Sisto) finds a condom in the dainties drawer of his teenage daughter, Tessa (Jane Levy) and responds by bailing way out of Manhattan to the suburbs, where he’s been invited by his buddy Noah (Alan Tudyk, playing it American style and hilariously, very, very orange spray-tanned).

Upon her arrival in the burbs, she encounters the typical brick wall—mean girls who lead and the indies who live on the fringe and aren’t looking for inclusion. Tessa narrates her plight into this world of weird, but she has the good fortune to be in a fairly open (hidden condoms aside) relationship with a dad who’s done his best by her. He makes an unlikely friend in Dallas Royce (Cheryl Hines), his first local architecture client. Judging on appearance, she’s Beverly Hills 101—too thin, too loud, too much makeup, too underdressed. Underneath it, though, she warms up to George’s very honest plea for insight into whether he’s overreacted.

She takes Tessa and her own daughter, Dalla, (mean girl #1) with a horrified George in tow, out on a mall trip that ends with Tessa showing up for dinner tricked out in cami/mini/hair extension finery and threatening to have a Red Bull for dinner to make the point that he really doesn’t want her to fit in there. We don’t know enough about Tessa to evaluate whether she tries to be friendly with anyone at school, but she accidentally befriends Lisa, the girl across the street, whose mom is Sheila, a very scarily eager Ana Gastyer, after she’s put down in the girls’ bathroom and left near tears. Lisa is played by the genius Allie Grant from Weeds, which is promising as far as outsnarking Tessa.

I liked the dynamic between George and Tessa—when they each try to apologize, they back into it with the same roundabout story about previously being wrong about something and still having it work out. The episode ends on the sweet with Dallas inviting herself into Tessa’s bedroom bearing the gift of a proper bra. While initially embarrassed and angry, Tessa accepts that everything may not be as black and white as it seems and that her new gift is the nicest thing she owns.

Not sure what the arc of each week will be, or if it will just be an ongoing thread, but I didn’t get a consistent bead on the tone. It was a little bit Awkward, but there’s not an active reason for Tessa to be on the outs at the school—she and her dad have money so she *can* fit in. It’s just a question of whether she will choose to.

Nearly 10 million people tuned in for the pilot, which is awesome for the cast, and the network, which had its best showing for a premiere in that timeslot in 8 years, so I think they’ll have time to even out the bumps. You can catch the pilot on and the next new episode on Wednesday at 8:30 pm ET on ABC.

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