Suburgatory: “Independence Day”
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Suburgatory: “Independence Day”

When I was a senior in high school, we got a new varsity soccer coach. Before the season started, he absolutely kicked our asses with a bevvy of conditioning drills, which most of the team hated. He was trying to emulate the Dutch style of “Total Football” where any person on the team can take over the role of any other, but more importantly, he tried to give us a conditioning base upon which to build more complex tactics. We may not have been the most talented team, but we’d certainly be the most fit, with a strong foundation. That’s a roundabout way of saying that I think Suburgatory is showing real potential to take off and operate on a higher level next season, and that right now it’s continuing to build a strong base for its world, which will help keep the show grounded when it gets wilder in the future.

I group Suburgatory into the same small circle along with Happy Endings and New Girl, the type of show that I don’t like to over-analyze, but just enjoy watching with friends after a long day. Sure, there’s the whole implausibility of moving a half-hour outside of New York City and ending up in a suburb that has more in common with Tim Burton’s vision of Burbank, CA in Edward Scissorhands, or the afterschool special voiceovers laying on the theme of each episode just a bit too overtly, but again, trying not think about it. I’m not asking for a lot of unique insight or complex characters I’ve never seen before, just some outlandish cartoony gimmicks that make me smile. Suburgatory provides that in spades.

“Independence Day” isn’t on the level of “Fire With Fire” or the other standout episodes of this first season, but it still has enough of those moments that make me smile and laugh such that I don’t consider this a failure. My favorite scene is between George and Alan Tudyk — much like Brandon, I don’t really know his character name, I’m much more likely to start calling him Wash — as they discuss the fallout of George investigating Tessa’s bad mood by talking to Rex Lee at the school. When George sees the emotional poem Tessa wrote about the absence of her mother, George doesn’t know how to handle it, neither does Tudyk, and to avoid talking about heavy topics they keep digressing into ordering Thai food. Almost every interaction between those two characters takes that same sort of madcap approach to dealing with heavier emotional topics, but when I’m laughing while getting the message that George is trying to better understand his daughter instead of just block her maturation, it’s a good scene.

I like that Tessa and Dallas traveled along different short paths in their attempts to achieve independence. Tessa’s more immediate financial barrier towards getting a car is solved a little bit too easily when she crosses path’s with Dallas’s store opening and the crystal Help Wanted sign. Seeing as how this is a 20-21 minute sitcom, and that first payday with an advance and a bonus for a manicure comes out of Dallas’ Chatswin nature, it’s easier to shake off. Dallas is still dealing with being on her own, so her sorority sisters visiting was an attempt to rebuild some lost camaraderie. The uninvited competitor for the drama queen spotlight is Tulsa, who starts off as just a petty rival trying to one-up everything Dallas does, then turns into a M/L sized problem once it’s revealed she may be the cause of Dallas’ lifestyle change.

As usual, Dalia plays up the materialistic end of things, unsatisfied with a motorcycle jacket from her father until she learns about the motorcycle that comes with it, taking it for an illegal spin around town, and then asking her mother for a “Hangover monkey”, then texting her father about it once Dallas offers some more emotional comfort Dalia appears not to want or need. That’s my one sticking point from this episode, and the divorce plotline as it continues. Dalia isn’t totally fine with how things are going, and is trying to fill her disappointment with material items by playing her parents off each other, but Suburgatory allows almost all of its other characters the freedom to change, even just slightly. I wish Dalia would be afforded that same opportunity in light of this more dramatic situation, instead of always knee-jerking towards an unintentionally comedic response.

Stray observations:

  • Brandon was traveling this week, but he was nice enough to let me drop in and spend some time Chatswin.
  • Lisa wants to light up a cigarette in East Chatswin, the wrong side of the tracks that still has lawn gnomes. “When in Rome…”
  • That bit of soccer condition helped — we won our league championship that year, and it’s still the sports memory I have from participating personally in the results.

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