Review: ‘Suburgatory’ – ‘The Wishbone’

A review of last night’s “Suburgatory” coming up just as soon as I top streaming “Cool Runnings” to my phone…

I was talking with some TV critic friends the other day about how half the time, “Suburgatory” fills me with joy in the way that few other comedies on television do, while the other half it makes me cringe at how badly the tone has been calibrated. Every now and then, though, we get an episode like “The Wishbone” where everything clicks: where the comedy and the pathos peacefully co-exist, where characters like Noah, Fred and Sheila are still drawn broadly but not as pure cartoons, and where I don’t spend half the episode wishing we were jumping back to what was going on in the other half. This version of “Suburgatory” is one of the best comedies on television, and worth sitting through the occasional “Foam Finger” for.

Tessa’s complete abandonment by her mother has helped define her as a person, defined her relationship with George and the worldview of the show. Our introduction to Alex had a lot to live up to, and “The Wishbone” did it right. As Alex, Malin Akerman came across as someone you believe would have run away from baby Tessa, but also someone George would have loved once upon a time, and someone Tessa could feel a connection to now, even as she can’t (and shouldn’t) let go of how she feels about growing up without a mom. Whenever this show calls on Jane Levy to do dramatic work, she delivers, and she was great both in the scene where a wary Tessa realizes that her mom knows a lot about her favorite band, and then at the end when Tessa makes it clear (without the show requiring her to come out and say it, thankfully) that nothing will change in her love for George.

And while the George/Tessa/Alex end of things was fairly serious, the supporting characters nicely picked up the slack, particularly over in the Shay family subplot. This was a case of Sheila being written just human enough for the jokes to land – particularly in the scene where Sheila and a naked Malik are working very hard to tell each other all the reasons why this is not a big deal – and you could also see why Malik might like hanging out with the family Lisa despises. (And Ryan giving Lisa the wishbone he had saved to “make love to our neighbor” because he knew she needed it more was a nice touch, as part of that montage set to Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky.”) Dalia was well-deployed, whether accepting Alex’s assumption that she’s Tessa because it came with a compliment about her looks, or describing Tessa as “like a man trapped in a small boy’s body.” Hell, I even enjoyed Noah this week, as he was mainly used just to comment on the action, as the only one in the house besides George who previously knew Alex. (And his attempt to get out of the whole “Brown kid” comment was one of the funnier lines of the week.)

The last time “Suburgatory” brought in a notable guest star for an extended run, we got Alicia Silverstone as Eden. The Alex era is off to a much more promising start.

What did everybody else think?