Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
At today’s final TCA panel on the ABC single-camera comedy Suburgatory — the story of a bright urban teenager (Jane Levy) whose single Dad (Jeremy Sisto) moves her to the “white-picket-fence nightmare” of the suburbs — show creator and executive producer Emily Kapnek said she was not influenced by the ABC family hit Pretty Little Liars in creating the fictional wealthy suburb these characters inhabit. Rather, Kapnek said, she was more inspired by the tone of ABC’s long-running life-in-the-suburbs hit Desperate Housewives, now entering its eighth and final season. She called Suburgatory “more satirical’” than Pretty Little Liars, with its suburbia featuring a “horror, zombieland quality” similar to what she sees in Housewives. Kapnek said the town is a healthy split between a realistic, contemporary atmosphere and a “stylized, evergreen suburbia.” But Kapnek’s biggest inspiration for the show was reality: her own experience moving from an urban environment with a single parent into a suburb “where families didn’t look like ours and we didn’t’ have as much as they did … there was an economic divide, there were expensive bat mitzvahs … [the difference was] all of the fortune the kids had, and the families were incredibly intact.”
Suburgatory doesn’t feature traditional sitcom stars but actors from drama series and off-beat single-camera cable comedy series: Sisto, Levy, Alan Tudyk, Entourage‘s Rex Lee and Curb Your Enthusiasm‘s Cheryl Hines. Kapnek said she believed that would help create “a different kind of teeth, different kind of edge [that would be] fresh and otherworldly for a half-hour comedy.”
Sisto, a veteran of HBO’s Six Feet Under and Law & Order, said that in his early movie career he did some “failure movies” before appearing in the hit Clueless and had shied away from comedy since then. With Suburgatory, he said, “I’ve had the shackles removed a little bit. I’m interested in trying to be funny again,”
Hines, who plays a mom with the hots for Sisto’s character, said she is finding the rhythm of the show entirely different from her role as Larry David’s now-ex-wife on Curb Your Enthusiasm. “ ‘Curb’ is meant to feel almost like a documentary,” she said. “Everything’s low key, and with Larry, we didn’t even have a hairstylist for the first four seasons. It was an exploration of Larry’s neurosis, a completely different experience.”
Cast member Lee, who portrays a teacher after his infamous turn as Lloyd the assistant-turned-agent on Entourage, was asked if he had wanted a break from TV before jumping into a new role. “Not for me, because I am incredibly insecure that I’d never work again. … I’m joking and I’m not joking,” he quipped. And of co-star Levy, Lee cracked: “We’re going to cut her hair in Season 2. Yes, I watched Felicity.”