ABC’s ‘Suburgatory’ can’t follow a simple pattern

A scene from the recent "knitting" circle episode of ABC's Suburgatory.

A scene from the recent “knitting” circle episode of ABC’s Suburgatory.

I’ve been a fan of ABC’s Suburgatory since it debuted in 2011. The sitcom is about a single dad (played by Jeremy Sisto — you may remember him as Elton in Clueless) who’s raised his teenage daughter Tessa in Manhattan, but decides to move them to the suburbs to get away from the city’s “bad influences.” It mocks the pampered and self-involved lives of people in the fictional New York town of Chatswin. Tessa (Jane Levy) has an edgy, “indie” sensibility — she loves obscure films, is passionate about certain causes and sees right through everyone’s fake, materialistic personalities.

I was kinda bummed when I heard Thursday night’s episode was going to end up being the series finale, since the show got the axe after only three seasons (I pretty much expected it, though, and reserved most of my disappointment for NBC getting rid of Community). The description of the episode in the onscreen cable guide, “Tessa joins a knitting circle,” did pique my interest. If anyone could make knitting look cool it would be Tessa, I naively thought.

(OK, I’m not sure when the above video was changed from a clip of Suburgatory to a clip from Modern Family… Thanks, ABC.)

What followed was perhaps the worst, most poorly-researched portrayal of knitting in pop culture that I’ve ever seen. It was bad enough that Tessa’s “knitting” circle was a stereotypical group of grey-haired old ladies joking about hip replacements and, um, lack of moisture. But then she started referring to the group as a quilting circle and calling it a “sewing sisterhood” when what they were doing was clearly crochet. At the end of the episode, when Tessa referred to her “crochet needles,” I completely lost it.

I know I shouldn’t expect much from a network sitcom, but when writers on shows like Mad Men do tons of work to make sure that everything is period appropriate (I wrote a story last year about how they went so far as to get photos and scans of a Connecticut phone book from the 1960s to create a prop that was on screen for maybe two seconds) you would hope that a craft that has millions of passionate participants, including many in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demo, wouldn’t get such a hatchet job.

For a show that got so many aspects of suburban life right, it got knitting — and crafting in general — so wrong.

12 thoughts on “ABC’s ‘Suburgatory’ can’t follow a simple pattern

  1. Excellent post!
    I was going to comment about the grey haired ladies being a stereotypical knitter. Thankfully you are already noted that, amongst many other great points So sad that writers could not take the time to research the knitting/crochet community with a little more accuracy.

    • I’m glad you appreciated the post! It was such a disappointing end to what otherwise was a really great show. I especially loved when Alicia Silverstone guest starred (but I’m a big Clueless fan).

  2. Thanks for this post! I googled “Suburgatory knitting” to see if anyone else was annoyed as I was about the complete ignorance of the subject. What lazy writing! It certainly wouldn’t have changed the plot if they could have got their needlework terms correct. Though I was confused as to why a senior citizen knitting group was advertising on a high school bulletin board.

    • Glad you liked it! And I didn’t even realize the group was on the HS bulletin board. I agree, that doesn’t make sense.

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