Caralyn Green thinks you should be watching ABC’s new sitcom Suburgatory mostly because you miss Daria and wish you could’ve been this snarky in high school or, well, ever.
Remember in the fall when everyone was obsessed with lady-led TV shows, and crap like Whitney and 2 Broke Girls was dangled in front of us as some model of female accomplishment? And we were told that men were being emasculated en-masse because Chelsea Handler drinks vodka, and Zooey Deschanel farts cupcakes and jizzes pixie dust weekly on Fox?
Somehow, fall’s female sitcom frenzy managed to ignore the Emily Kapnek-created Suburgatory—a fortunate oversight that’s allowed this feministy comedy to find a comfortable home sandwiched between The Middle and Modern Family, 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays on ABC.
IMDb succinctly describes Suburgatory as, “A teenage girl moves from the city to the suburbs.” I’d describe it as the best show you’re not (yet) watching.
Mean Girls + The ABC Family Version of 10 Things I Hate About You x Daria – Trent
The premise: A single dad I’d love to French uproots his 16-year-old daughter, Tessa, after deciding she needs a more wholesome, city-free lifestyle. Tessa is none too pleased to find herself transplanted from Manhattan—where she’s friends with a homeless trans sex worker, mind you—to Chatswin, a hyper-stylized caricature of the ‘burbs that is pretty much exactly how I imagine Celebration, Florida.
The joy of Suburgatory is watching snarky Tessa and her dad navigate and negotiate this plastic new world. It’s not always laugh-out-loud hilarious, and its not always perfect in its gender roles, but there’s something undeniably familiar and funny about Tessa’s angst to any chick who’s ever had to make it through high school as an outspoken outsider who favors motorcycle boots to a “nice heterosexual dress shoe” (a line of Suburgatory dialogue basically ripped from the first season of 30 Rock, but I’ll let it slide).
Your New Favorite Redhead
Like Angela Chase, Lindsay (in Mean Girls), Emma (in Easy A), Anne of Green Gables, and Pippi Longstocking before her, Suburgatory‘s Tessa—played by newcomer Jane Levy—has got a crop of shocking auburn hair that perfectly complements her fiery wit. Tessa is bright and blunt. She’s sassy. She’s strident. She’s the kind of brassy protagonist we need to see more of in prime time. Sure, she’s totally judgmental and at times needy and petty, but show me a 16-year-old who’s not. The pleasure is in watching Tessa realize the world is not as black and white as she thought, and emerging even more opinionated and confident from her foibles, whether making out with a dumb jock or alienating her friends at her Sweet 16.
Elton from Clueless kinda disappeared from my radar after rollin’ with his homies and leaving Cher to get mugged at gunpoint in Amy Heckerling’s generation-defining masterpiece. After hiding out on TNT Law & Order reruns for awhile, Jeremy Sisto is back—as Tessa’s dad George. And guess who’s signed on to do a four-episode arc this spring as George’s love interest? Alicia Silverstone. Get Paul Rudd to make a cameo at this party, please, oh please, Emily Kapnek. It would be, like, totally classic.
Cheryl Hines and Ana Gasteyer and Carly Chaikin
Where Tessa and her dad play the straight men in this comedy, Hines, Gasteyer, and new-to-the-scene Chaikin handle the show’s outrageous satire with ease, and some help from SNL’s Chris Parnell and Joss Whedon staple Alan Tudyk.
Hines is in her element as a Real Housewife with a heart of gold. Gasteyer brings a deliciously manic restraint to her Stepford-ish next-door neighbor Sheila Shay. And Chaikin—as vapid-on-the-outside queen bee Dalia Royce—does the best ditzy deadpan since Heather Morris on Glee.
This Theme Song!
When I don’t have time to listen to my Ingrid Michaelson-Lenka-Zee Avi-Priscilla Ahn-Meiko-Zack Attack Pandora station for an entire afternoon, but still want that fizzy-femme-with-an-edge upper, this is the 10-second version.
Caralyn Green got her masters in media studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her pop culture analysis has appeared in Philadelphia Weekly and Venus Zine. She watches My So-Called Life in its entirely at least once a year. Follow Caralyn on Twitter @caralyngreen