Wild Opinion Alert: Suburgatory is One of the Best Comedies on Television

As a genre, comedy is always taking a backseat to drama. There are a myriad of reasons for why this is so. For starters, it is believed that the best actors are on drama series. It’s a tough argument to refute, especially when you watch top guys like Jon Hamm and Bryan Cranston descend into the realm of comedy and tear up the screen. It’s not to say that some comedic players couldn’t make their way into a drama series (Bryan Cranston probably serves as the archetype), but there isn’t a long, successful history of comedic actors making the jump to starring dramatic actors.

Another reason for the lack of prestige in comedy? It can be rather cheaply made. Considering that drama series require a much more significant financial investment, some money eventually gets thrown around on production values. After all, 12 million people a week aren’t coming by The Walking Dead to watch Andrew Lincoln chase around his dead wife. Furthermore, comedies can often succeed with lesser known actors because people watch comedies to laugh a little and warm their hearts (hopefully). People have comedic actors that they enjoy, but comedies have often been a place where unproven stars have a better chance of carrying a show (Tina Fey, anyone?). Throw in the fact studios have half the ad time to sell, and you have the makings of a cheap product that can reap a ton of reward.

For these reasons, and several others, it can be difficult to find good comedy. NBC’s comedy offerings this fall have been such duds that they’ve ordered roughly 729 comedy pilots for next fall. Given the state of comedy these days, 728 of them won’t be on the air by December. CBS and ABC have monster comedies on their network (The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family, respectively), but there new offerings are often creatively or popularity bankrupt (sometimes both!). Fox geared an entire night around a hit comedy New Girl, only to watch the entire night tank. In the age of 700 channels and full-service DVRs, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find high-quality and commercially successful comedic television.

One of the underrated comedies still fighting the good fight is the gang over at Suburgatory. Three quarters of the way through its sophomore season, the show has continued to show some truly inspiring creative highs. The pairing of Ryan Shay and Tessa has yielded nothing but amusing and wonderfully sweet moments. It’s a well-written relationship with two good performances by Parker Young and Jane Levy. The chemistry between the two actors is easy to see, and the show has done a good job of keeping the relationship balanced. Tessa’s sardonic nature is often undone by Ryan’s particular brand of dopey sweetness and vice-versa. Though it’s not something that can last, the show has mined everything it can out of the relationship without making it seem like it’s overdone.

Just as encouraging to see is their continued successful use of some of their bit players. The show has found the right balance for the use of both Dalia Royce and the Shays. Emily Kapnek seems to know exactly what she has with Dalia. Carly Chaikin glides in and out of scenes stealing them from even the strongest scenery chewers on the program. Shows not as well run as Suburgatory would try to find more ways to shoehorn in Dalia Royce, but Kapnek is smart to use Dalia only when she can add something to the proceedings.

Dalia has been exceptional, but the growth we’ve seen in the Shay family this season has been fun to watch. In season one, the Shay family embodied everything that was ridiculous about the show. Now, the Shays can be the centerpiece of an emotional plotline. They’re still ridiculous, but this season it seems grounded in something far more real. The Ryan Shay adoption storyline was something that hit all the right notes. Yes, Parker Young was the leader of that storyline, but Ana Gasteyer and Chris Parnell turned in very good work. And, of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Parnell’s performance in “Chinese Chicken” which was maybe the season’s best episode. It was good see Parnell finally get something worthwhile to do. The formation of the Dad Band seemed like something that actually would happen in Chatswin.

As easy as it is to see creative highs of Suburgatory, it’s not a show without flaws, which are usually prominently on display. For starters, this season gave us the birth of the George-Dallas relationship. Given the show got its start on the backs of the father-daughter combination of George and Tessa, with Dallas mixing in as a mentor figure for Tessa, this idea seemed like a misfire from the jump. It was something that probably had to happen, but what it has done to the core relationship of the show is frustrating. These two relationships can exist on the same show, but the split needs to be something around 65/35 to Tessa’s side. George and Tessa invited us into their sardonic, excessively adult home. Now, we rarely spend time there. Granted, if I had my druthers, I would rather hang in Dallas’s house than George’s, but some father-daughter time is sorely needed.

Further complicating matters is Kapnek’s continued inability to find effective ways to utilize her adult characters. The Shays have improved by leaps and bounds, but the Werners remain just as problematic as they were in season one. Noah Werner is nothing but a caricature, and the goofy obsession with his housekeeper is hardly notable because it’s lack of effect on our main characters. We don’t care about the Werners, therefore their marital problems are of no consequence. Before that, Kapnek tried to engage us in Mr. Wolfe’s relationship with the immortal Chef Alan. Instead of cutting ties with the characters that aren’t helping the show, Kapnek seems content to try to make us care about them. I appreciate the effort, but it’s just not working.

Suburgatory is by no means a perfect show, but when you view it outside of the vaccuum of 9:30 on Wednesday nights, the show stands tall as one of the most creative and humorous shows on television. There may be shows that are more consistent on a weekly basis, but there is no artistry to it. The Big Bang Theory will always be The Big Bang Theory. That show could run for the next 20 years and not change a thing. It certainly generates big ratings, but it’s also incredibly stale. I don’t blame the people at Big Bang for making their show that way with the ratings they receive, but the show should not be considered one of the top comedies on television. On the other hand, Suburgatory has an extra gear that most other comedies on television simply can’t/won’t find. If it ever puts it all together, we could be looking at a show possible of holding the comedy title belt.