ABC’s take on life in wealthy suburbia, Suburgatory, went through a lot of turmoil at the end of its second season. Relationships changed, mostly for the worst, and an unfamiliar feeling of heartache pervaded the usually witty and irreverent comedy. Apparently, this wasn’t a vision ABC was really down with. Now returning for Season 3, Suburgatory has basically reset its vision in order to be the same series it was when it started, for better or for worse.
Mostly, I think it’s for the better. Suburgatory felt a little bit off the rails at the end of Season 2, when patriarch George (Jeremy Sisto) and Dallas (Cheryl Hines) broke up, and an unhappy Tessa (Jane Levy) went to live with her mother. Resetting the series back to its initial concept may have something to do with Malin Akerman starring in The Trophy Wife, or maybe it has something to do with the show not appearing until midseason. All we can say for sure is that through the first three episodes of Season 3, Dallas and George are as far apart as we’ve ever seen them, and he and Tessa have comfortably returned to their original living arrangements. Plus, Dahlia (Carly Chaikin) has moved a bit closer to her original mean girl personality, although she still has more than a little bit of affection for “Daddy Altman.”
Still, for some, the return to the show’s initial, charming concept might feel like a copout, and some of the main premises of the early Season 3 episodes do support this argument. The “gentle lessons” Tessa and her dad learn each episode get a tad syrupy, thanks to a burly dog and surprise visits from a few people hailing from George and Tessa’s past. Regardless, while the plots aren’t particularly tight during the first few episodes, the dialogue is. Levy and Sisto have always had particularly good rapport, but Lisa actually gets to steal a few of the scenes in the new season, thanks to a change in family dynamics in the Shay household.
Suburgatory is, during its best moments, a very engaging and joyful program. It has a likeability to it that most of its competitors cannot possibly achieve, but it’s never really able to say anything beyond its basic premise of “isn’t grandiose wealth kind of ridiculous?” Had it pushed George and Tessa in different directions and made a significant alteration, as was teased at the end of Season 2, it could have grown into must see television, but as it is, the show is designed to remain a fun way to spend thirty minutes once a week.
Is that a compliment? Is that an insult? I’m not really sure, but with an abundance of family-based jokes and a seemingly neverending supply of quips, goofy asides and ridiculous mentions of pop culture, I can promise I will continue to watch.
ABC’s Suburgatory returns to the schedule on Wednesday, January 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Tune in for the new episodes, as well as a brand new, animated opening sequence.