Season premiere review: ‘Suburgatory’ – ‘No Me Gusta, Mami’

“Suburgatory” is back for a third season, and I have a few thoughts on the premiere coming up just as soon as I look up pictures of Tony Danza’s grandchildren…

Comedies tend to need more time to find themselves than dramas, and we’ve had a bunch of sitcoms in the last few years that started out iffy and evolved into something much better, including “Parks and Rec,” “New Girl,” “Happy Endings” and even “30 Rock” (which needed a handful of episodes to become the “30 Rock” we know). But not every show with promising raw material figures itself out and makes the leap, and as we start “Suburgatory” season 3, it feels like the same show it’s always been (even with Rex Lee and Alan Tudyk being demoted from the main cast to recurring status): clever and warm in some areas, overly broad and stupid in others, on occasion capable of balancing everything just right for a strong episode, but consistently inconsistent as a whole.

“No Me Gusta, Mami” is a fine example of this. On the one hand, it’s an episode that offers us Dahlia’s friendship with the twerking accountants, and a run of dog names jokes that included Buckles Stuart Masterson and Buckles Elizabeth Mastrantonio (an homage to two ’80s actresses frequently confused for each other due to their names).

On the other, it had Sheila Shay shooting people with tranq darts without consequences of any kind, and pretty much everything involving Tessa and George was a mess.

It’s the latter part that’s most disappointing, even though part of it couldn’t be helped, because the show had to deal with Malin Akerman being too busy on “Trophy Wife” to come back for the premiere. I don’t know what the plan would have been had Akerman been available, but I would hope it was something that wouldn’t simply wave away just how awful George was to his daughter at the end of last season because Tessa had to be living with a parent by the end of the premiere.

George and Tessa’s relationship was the bedrock of the show, the part that always felt real no matter how bizarre or shrill the rest of Chatswin got. There have been stretches where the writers kept them apart too much in an attempt to put Tessa in kid storylines and George in inevitably weaker grown-up storylines, but the strength of their bond was still there as something the show could lean on. Then things massively fell apart in the finale, with George choosing to move in with Dallas over Tessa’s very understandable objections, and not being especially troubled that he had driven his daughter to run away from home. It was a bad storytelling decision, but it was one the show made and one it had to be prepared to deal with when it returned, taking some time to rebuild the two of them into a workable family unit again. Instead, it happens almost instantly, in the midst of Sheila being dialed up to 17, and it all rang incredibly false.

I like so many of these characters, and the actors playing them, and some of the material they’re given, that I’m going to keep watching “Suburgatory,” though I don’t expect to write about it again anytime soon. But we’ve reached the point where I have to stop expecting it to be anything more than it’s always been.

What did everybody else think? And how do you feel about the new animated marionette version of the opening credits?