The new Stepford Wives: The best TV suburban communities
White picket fences, perfectly maintained lawns, nosy neighbors, and enormous gas-guzzling cars competing to be the most dazzling . . . suburbia is a fresh hell. Luckily, that’s something that many TV shows are all too willing to explore in dark, hilarious, and sometimes literal ways.
We’ve had some amazing suburban satires on TV since the 90s and recently we’ve also been able to enjoy a couple of especially entertaining riffs on why the sticks may be rotten. Here are ten of the best TV shows to have ever satirized suburbia.
10. Eerie, Indiana
The cult 90s kids show in which a boy (played by Omri Katz) moves to a new town, in which he discovers some strange, scary secrets, providing the perfect reflection of how every kid feels about their neighborhood: a little alienating, plenty mysterious, and the adults are definitely not to be trusted.
What better way to explore suburban politics than by having a family of space aliens crash a nice neighborhood and try to assimilate human life? Starring John Lithgow (Interstellar) and a very young Joseph Gordon-Levitt (with the longest hair), 3rd Rock from the Sun played up the absurdity of social mores by allowing us to glimpse them through the eyes of the ultimate outsiders.
First & foremost, Weeds features one of the finest representations of suburban isolation in its wonderful credit sequence, showing identikit rows of houses and cars spiraling into a synchronized, cubic hell. Beyond that, Suburbanite boss bitch Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) hustles weed to her neighbors to try and stay financially afloat while keeping all of their stoner secrets safe.
When your town has as wholesome a name as Sunnydale, you know something rotten is hiding beneath it all. In Buffy, it’s a literal hellmouth, pouring scores of vampires and demons directly into the path of Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her ill-equipped Scooby Gang.
Buffy’s parody of suburbia is made all the more compelling by the fact that Sunnydale’s citizens are mostly aware of the nightmare-spewing hole consuming their town but would rather live in blissful ignorance of it.
Wisteria Lane was home to a monstrous set of Suburban families crumbling behind a facade of superiority. Starring Eva Longoria (The Sentinel), Teri Hatcher (Tomorrow Never Dies), Marcia Cross (Quantum Leap), and Felicity Huffman (Raising Helen) as women teetering on the edge of their own phony happiness, Desperate Housewives gave a shady, soapy take on what keeping up appearances in the ‘burbs really looks like (with added sex and murder, of course.)
Working as a dual parody of the original Archie comics and a vivid subversion of suburban values, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Riverdale skewers good-ole American archetypes with glee. Whoever thought goody two shoes Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) could be a cam girl? Or burger-boy Jughead (Cole Sprouse) would be a badass biker?
Plus – like every good suburban parody – it comes with the requisite volumes of sex, violence, and murder simmering beneath every scene.
Aaron McGruder’s animated series follows an African-American family from South Side Chicago as they try to settle into the white suburban neighborhood of Woodcrest. With street names like Timid Deer Lane, Woodcrest is a perfect parody of delicate suburban sensibilities, with The Boondocks providing a biting satirical commentary on racial and class politics in the process.
Following undead mom Sheila (Drew Barrymore) as she copes with her newfound cravings for human flesh, and her neurotic husband Joel (Timothy Olyphant) as he strives to maintain normalcy, Santa Clarita Diet offers a gory take on suburban secrets.
2. Twin Peaks
David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was basically the reigning champ in portraying a decaying suburbia collapsing into unseen hell. While characters like Shelly (Mädchen Amick), Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) represented wholesome, suburban values, absolute monsters like Leland (Ray Wise) and Leo (Eric DaRe) highlighted the town’s dark, unspoken horrors. Oh, and there was also this little thing about the murder of the homecoming queen, too.
1. The Good Place
In Michael Schur’s philosophical comedy, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) inexplicably finds herself rewarded with a blissful afterlife in the Good Place, despite having been a terrible person while she was alive. Ostensibly, the place is a hyperrealist version of a seemingly perfect suburbia – complete with painful dinner parties, forced smiles for Eleanor, and a million frozen yogurt stores nobody particularly wants or needs.