For die-hard New Yorkers, moving to the suburbs is wrenching.
Manhattanites can live without laundry rooms, cars and privacy. But they need the city's smells, stores, traffic, noise, impromptu concerts and parades of people to feel alive.
In the pilot of ABC's "Suburgatory," premiering Wednesday, Sept. 28, dad George (Jeremy Sisto, "Law & Order") forces daughter Tessa (Jane Levy, "Shameless") to leave the city for a colonial in Westchester. This changes the worldview of a sardonic teen, gives a single dad a new chapter in his life and opens the world to more of those manic moms in the burbs.
"If someone asked me the biggest difference between the suburbs and Manhattan, I'd have to say the moms," Tessa says in a voice-over as a montage is shown of the moms getting their teeth whitened, attending Lady Gaga concerts and toting enormous caffeine drinks.
The pilot does a great job of showing stereotypes of moms prevalent in New York suburbs. They're sleekly muscular, with glowing teeth, straightened hair, enhanced breasts and size 2 jeans, and are very intent on creating perfect offspring.
"These girls are horrible," Levy says of the show's incredibly nasty teens, who torment her character. "Someone needs to give them a good slap in the face."
Tessa's mom left when she was a baby. Fast forward to George finding a box of condoms in Tessa's room, and he moves them to the suburbs. All he wants is the best for her.
"I see him as really optimistic," Sisto says of his character as he relaxes on a couch in a Beverly Hills hotel. "He's going to get into this life 100 percent. In general, he's embracing it and committing to the final decision. He is very accepting of all people."
Among those is a very friendly neighbor, Dallas Royce. Cheryl Hines is terrific as the sex kitten mom who has indulged her materialistic, nasty daughter.
The daughter's opening line to Tessa is, "Are you a lesbian?" To which Tessa responds, "You mean because I am not dressed as if I have a pole in my locker?"
Dallas is definitely interested in George, and in her own way, she wants to help Tessa. Tessa is so aggressively badly dressed, it's hard to believe she's not from a country where good taste was considered a felony.
In a terrific scene, Tessa persuades George to go to the mall, and Dallas tries to get the fashion-averse girl into what she considers a smashing outfit of short shorts, pink glittery goggles and pink top.
When Dallas sees Tessa's utilitarian bra, she says, "Oh dear Lord, who did this to you?"
"I ordered it from a sporting goods catalog," Tessa says. "What's the problem? What's wrong with it?"
"It's downright orthopedic. It looks like a giant Ace bandage, something a burn victim would wear."
Tessa's furious with her father and acts out a little, but it's clear they have a good relationship. Levy considers her character and says, "Sometimes I think your parents drive you crazy and you are mad at them. Deep down you trust your parents. She finds humor in ridiculous situations and laughs at it, and that's how she gets through life."
Had this role come along earlier for Sisto, he says he's not certain it would be as natural as it is now. As the father of a daughter, 2, he says he understands a parent's encompassing love.
"It's fun and interesting pretending to be the father of a teenager with the very uncomplicated love," he says. "Probably I am perfect for it right now because I can bring uncomplicated feelings to the role."