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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Suburgatory: The Complete First Season
Suburgatory: The Complete First Season
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 18, 2012
List Price: $44.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted September 22, 2012 | E-mail the Author
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Suburgatory DVD Review

Welcome to Suburgatory! Try and enjoy your stay.

Suburgatory is a series about a father and daughter who move from their home in New York to a suburban neighborhood. It's a bit of a shock to their systems. The different culture, attitude, and overwhelmingly different behaviors of their unusual new neighbors is more than either of them had been bargaining for in moving to a new hometown. Not that teenage daughter Tessa (Jane Levy) really wanted to go. George (Jeremy Sisto) is the sometimes overbearing dad who had become out of touch with knowing his daughter while caring for her in New York but who is hoping to get to know her better before she is entirely grown up. Hence the new environment.

There are a lot of things that are different about Suburgatory in comparison to other television comedies. I was surprised by the positive portrayal of the father-daughter relationship and the fact that George is a single dad raising Tessa. This isn't commonly portrayed on television. It certainly is a situation that can exist in real-life but television series, and comedies especially, seem to stray from the idea. I appreciated seeing another television series that was willing to acknowledge that families can come in all shapes and forms.

There is also the unique writing on Suburgatory. This is a series with an amazing group of writers. Several of the main characters seem to be "without filters" and some of the funny dialogue from those characters is downright bizarre. You won't find another show that is remotely similar to this one in terms of the actual style of the writing. It doesn't follow a standard pattern that you normally find. The directing is also perfectly complimentary to Suburgatory's writing style in originality, quirkiness, and comedic timing. Of course, the immensely talented actors and actresses working on this cement that smart craftsmanship.

The cast make this show a stand-out sitcom. Jane Levy is a perfect lead as Tessa: she has everything you would hope for in a leading comedic role. First of all, she is hilarious and immensely talented. The role requires for her to help carry the situations of this series but relative newcomers in the acting game rarely are as capable as she is. Levy seems to be an incredible find for the show and she has more talent for surprising audiences than most performers on television and it was definitely something that aided this series' success.

Jeremy Sisto was quite surprising. I have only seen him in a few things prior to this show. Looking up his credits shows that he had a long-time part on Law and Order. Not exactly everything you'd expect for a typical lead role on a sitcom, because he does seem like an incredibly well-buffed and charismatic lead you would expect to find in serious roles. Its incredible how talented he is and how much humor he brings to the role. He's a hilarious addition to the series and when he needs to pull out any dramatic stops he's capable of it.

The best knockout performer on this show is Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm). I've considered her a huge comedic talent throughout Curb Your Enthusiasm. She was one of television's greatest comedic performers on that series. Well, because she is no longer on comedic-genius Larry David's series it's a TV miracle to find her already contributing to something so worthwhile. 

Hine's character is Dallas Royce, who at first glance might seem to be purely artificial and self-interested alone. That isn't the case at all though. Hines makes the character simultaneously the obnoxious neighbor you would probably never want to actually have around in real-life and one of the sweetest and most charming characters on TV. Dallas Royce is someone looking out for a better neighborhood, the lives of those around her, and she is a one kind character that you can't help but find yourself liking as the series progresses.

Many of the best comedic scenes are really the result of her talents (of course, the writers have given her some of the greatest lines of dialogue but she delivers them perfectly). Dallas's own daughter on the show happens to be quite different from her as a self-pitying, obnoxious, and self-absorbed person in almost every way. Actress Carly Chaikin portrays the daughter Dalia with a creative and unique way by bringing perfect deadpan comedic delivery to every line.

I would be remiss to not mention the other amazing talents on this series. Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Death at a Funeral) continues to perform comedy in such an amazing way that I am certain it makes him one of the best comedic actors in the business. He definitely deserves that level of praise and he isn't getting the same level of recognition that he deserves (even though he does have his loyal fans).

Suburgatory is a perfect series for him to be on as the writer's understand a genius comedic actor when they see one and they wrote him a part that bounces well off of the performance by Jeremy Sisto, whose character was college friends with Tudyk's character, Noah Werner. Alan Tudyk has a character that almost feels like a little kid in a grown person's body. He has enthusiasm, energy, and awkwardness you just wouldn't expect. It's a perfect role for the talented Tudyk.

The comedic wonderment doesn't stop there. This series truly has one of the best casts on all of television. Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell (both of Saturday Night Live fame) contribute some of the greatest moments as Sheila and Fred Shay. The entire Shay family plays a huge part on this series. Lisa Shay (Allie Grant) is the families daughter, and the best friend of Tessa. She's arguably one of the only people on Suburgatory to have something in common with Tessa, at least in terms of how Tessa thinks of herself on this show. She represents another character in Suburgatory-land who thinks of everything as being strange and "off" there. Before long, she begins a relationship with Tessa's one other friend, Malik (Maestro Harrell), who is probably alone as the only black kid at their school. At least that's how it seems to be presented on the show. The Shay's also consist of a football jock named Ryan (Parker Young) who acts like a total goofball around everyone.

Rex Lee is also a scene-stealer as Mr. Wolfe, a lovably hilarious and kindhearted Guidance Counselor who no-one took serious at school until Tessa showed up and started to take the school in some interesting new directions. Mr. Wolfe is a gay character who is portrayed positively (something still relatively new on television) and he's one of the nicest people populating this series. It's easy to like this character and to root for him.

This introductory season is consistently stellar from beginning to end and only has a couple moments where the show wasn't as strong. The Pilot episode was genius and set things off amazingly. A great beginning to a promising show. The plot-lines in the episodes following proved equally interesting and smart. "The Barbecue" focuses on the Tessa and George and places them within a setting of having to hold a barbecue to be welcomed within a suburban community. All of the holiday-themed episodes were fun. Every episode had something that seemed unique and different about it while still crafting a consistent series that was growing, developing, and shaping up into something special.  

I thought the season was very strong as a whole, and the only thing that maybe seemed out of placed was the Clueless reunion of Jeremy Sisto and Alicia Silverstone (who worked together previously on Clueless). The series made strides towards uniting George with a new character portrayed by Alicia Silverstone and I just wasn't entirely sure if it was working in this show's favor. Enjoyable, but not well done in the same way other episodes and story-arcs were done.  Hopefully Season 2 handles this new change of pace appropriately and connects the storyline better. I'm hopeful that it will succeed in doing so and that it will surprise me.

Of course, the final episode of Season 1 hints at a potential bombshell to this series... and I'll leave readers questioning what that is because it's worth seeing this show to find out. Who knows where season two will take audiences? All I can say is that I am excited to find out.

This series was created by Emily Kapnek (As Told By Ginger) and she definitely makes a cartoonish show out of the premise. I wouldn't normally refer to a series that way, but the creation known as Suburgatory definitely feels as though it is set in some kind of alternate dimension universe. This is one of the strangest comedic shows I have encountered and it's actually better for it.

Suburgatory is one of the best new comedies of the past television season. I recommend it and I am looking forward to seeing where the series (which is delightfully wacky and creative) heads next. This was one of the best delights of my recent television experiences, and anyone looking for something uniquely enjoyable is strongly encouraged to consider this wonderful and special comedic series.

The DVD:


Video:

Suburgatory looks splendid on DVD. The only thing that would really make it look any better is to have had it released on Blu-ray as another option (the show does air in High Definition, after all). As far as DVD releases of television sitcoms go: this one looks like one of the best. It's in part because of how strong the cinematography is. This series feels much more like a dramatic series in terms of the production side of things and it translates to a better looking series. The DVDs succeed at capturing that aspect of production. The colors are beautiful on this series. Contrast is pleasant. There are no specks of dirt or anything at all that would be considered blemishes to an otherwise impeccable looking series. Everything looks beautiful and well-presented. The series is presented in its original television broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen.

Audio:

The 5.1 surround sound presentation is pleasant. The dialogue is easy to understand and is definitely clean and clear. The surround activity isn't going to be as noticeable as it is for a production that is more serious or action-oriented or anything that has a more nuanced style. However, there are a number of things that are better with this surround sound mix. It is more enveloping, the music has increased depth, and the sound is more dynamic as a whole. This is certainly a worthwhile and well-done mix for what I was expecting from this dialogue-focused series.

Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), French, and Spanish.


Extras:

There aren't that many bonus features and I really would have preferred to see more inclusions. This is a wonderful show and I would have been interested in learning even more about how it became developed.

The featurette Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell: Life in Suburgatory is barely the length found in an episode at less than 30 minutes and it's not as in-depth as I hoped. It's still worth checking out for serious fans but it won't cover as much ground as you would possibly like to see covered. The special mainly consists of interviews with cast, crew, and writers. Everyone talks about their favorite aspects of the show and the characters. A small portion of this extra devotes time to explaining the conception of the show and what the aims were for the writers.

Several unaired (i.e. deleted) scenes are also included on each disc, and disc three contains a cutesy but mostly disappointing comedic blooper reel.

Final Thoughts:

Actually, Suburgatory isn't like purgatory much at all. This is one of the funniest and most enjoyable series that was created in 2011. It has one of the best casts on any TV series and something special is definitely happening with this show. The writing, direction, and great performances suggest that this first season is only the beginning of what could be a quality television run of several seasons.

Anyone who enjoys a good sitcom is encouraged to check out this show; a series that was straight out of comedic heaven.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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