on July 25, 2005
Normally I hate it when people (including myself) write reviews for DVDs that haven't even come out yet. But I'm so excited for the 2nd season of Arrested Development to come out on DVD that I'm going to write one anyway! (Don't worry, I'll come back and update the review once I actually get the DVD.)
This is, in my opinion, the funniest show on television. My favorite thing about this show is how it is a "comedy for smart people." If you like dumb and "easy" humor, then there is probably still some stuff in here that you'll enjoy... BUT if you like clever/witty humor, you'll LOVE this show. The more you watch it, the more jokes you'll understand and the more funny the jokes will be. There are even jokes foreshadowing other jokes several episodes down the road (e.g. Buster's "I never thought I'd miss a hand so much" when looking at his old hand chair in "Amigos"). There's no way you could ever catch everything on your first viewing, and that's why the DVDs are so great.
While the 1st season is incredible, I'd have to say that the 2nd season might be even better. The jokes just keep building (so it's even funnier if you've seen the 1st season). The running storyline of Tobias as an "on call" understudy of the blue man group is great... even at the end of the season (well after that story has ended) you can still see blue smudges on everything in the house. The whole thing about Buster losing his hand is hilarious and contributes greatly to my favorite episode of the season, "Motherboy XXX" (which has one of the funniest endings I've ever seen). I could go on and on: the Veals, Gene Parmesan, Mrs. Featherbottom, GOB's wife, Maeby's job, "Scandalmakers"... it just never stops!
FOX cut back this season's original order of 22 episodes to only 18 (allegedly so they could introduce "American Dad"... but there are even jokes about the cut, like when the Bluth Company's order for homes is cut from 22 to 18). While it's disappointing to think we could have had four more episodes, I'm more than willing to trade those four episodes for a whole 3rd season. This is the funniest show on TV!
Warning: Some spoilers below
After a debut season that saw ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT win the Emmy for Best Comedy and just generally demonstrate that it was the most original new American comedy series in years, the show continued with a brilliant second season, more awards and critical acclaim, but still astonishingly few viewers. Fans of the show wonder why everyone isn't watching it. It has one of the most brilliant ensemble casts in memory, vastly higher production values of virtually all other American comedies (most are filmed before live audiences and minimal sets, which means few camera set ups, relatively inexpensive sets, and all around lowered costs), and brilliant writing that is genuinely funny. I don't ever remember laughing at an episode of FRIENDS or EVERYBODY LOVE RAYMOND or countless other American sit coms that elicit smiles at most. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is one of the few truly funny shows American TV has produced. Typically, as I write this review the show has had only 13 episodes ordered for the 2005-2006 season and although it has not been officially cancelled, no one imagines that it will be back on FOX for the 2006-2007 season. The hopes of fans of the show have been bolstered of late, however, by the fact that both ABC and Showtime are interested in picking up the show. While there is "many a slip between the cup and the lip," this interest in a rational world seems not merely good news but inevitable. What network wouldn't want to pick up the best comedy on TV? On various boards fans are already lusting at a scenario whereby ABC pick up LOST and puts it on immediately before LOST, thereby creating the finest hour and a half of television of the week.
If the show is not back next year, at least we have these brilliant DVDs. I never fail to be astonished at both the marvelous creativity of the show's writers and the wonderful executive by the production team. Just consider one thing: most comedies are shot on stage and feature two or three cameras situated to capture the performances. The notion of montage is irrelevant for such shows. But ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT can feature a three-minute segment with a montage of 7 or 8 completely different set ups. The time spent on producing a single episode must be extraordinary compared to a show like FRIENDS, where virtually all of the cost of the show is expended on salary, as opposed to ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, where the production costs are as large as the time expended making it. If the show does go away after the painfully truncated Season Three, these DVDs will still be there to remind us of what a high quality production that we lost.
And the cast! I've played a game with my friends who are fans of the show. I've asked them both to name their favorite cast member and the one they think was most expendable. In each cast they found the first task difficult and the second impossible. A couple said they perhaps liked Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth the most, but not especially more than the others. But no one is dispensable. Take away any cast member and the show would be diminished thereby.
One thing I especially like about the show is the way that it continues a trend in television, a trend that a large number of the best shows on TV hold in common. More and more shows are engaging in longer and longer story arcs, so that now the stories can extend over several seasons. In this case, George Bluth, the head of the Bluth clan, has been imprisoned for financial wrongdoing at the Bluth Construction Company. To make matter worse, it appears that he may have committed treason by building inside Iraq during the embargo. At the end of Season One George escaped from jail and in Season Two he is ensconced in the attic of the model home many of the family members live in. This overarching narrative holds the show as a whole together. Along the way we get a host of ongoing jokes, such as Gob's (pronounced like Job, as in the Book of Job in the OT) countless pathetic magic tricks, the icky relationship between Lucille and her son Buster, and George's secretary Kitty flashing her artificially enhanced chest (so that she can appear on the video series "Girls With Low Self-Esteem") with the warning, "This is the last time you'll see these." George-Michael has transferred his romantic intentions away from his cousin Maeby (who despite being 15 and in high school has somehow managed to become a Hollywood movie producer) to a Christian fundamentalist named Ann (whose minister father was played by the versatile Alan Tudyk, who in one calendar year played the robot in I, ROBOT, a pirate imitator in DODGEBALL, and a space ship pilot in SERENITY). Tobias, meanwhile, striving to become an actor, has aspirations of joining the Blue Man Group (throughout the season, one sees random smudges of blue on the walls of the model home), while his wife Lindsay and he have agreed to have an open marriage, though neither manages to have a successful encounter with anyone else. And poor Buster has his hand bitten off by a seal in the ocean, a seal that was accustomed to the taste of mammal flesh by none other than Gob. The great string of guest appearances continued through out the season, with Season One performers such as Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, Carl Weathers, Judy Greer, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus joined by actors like Ben Stiller, Ed Begley Jr., Christine Taylor, Martin Short, Ione Skye, Dick Van Patten, and Zach Braff. All this nuttiness has created what is for me the lone "must see" comedy show of the past ten years or so. I just hope that after this year it hasn't become "can't see" TV.
on August 7, 2005
"Arrested Development" is probably the best new series of the last few years. The show, along with other Laugh-Track Free shows like "Scrubs" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm", reinvented the sitcom world after many believed the death of "Seinfeld" meant the death of sitcoms.
In it's second year, the show doesn't disappoint, and IMHO it gets better. I found myself caring for characters I didn't really was fond of in the first season, like Buster. And my love for already-favorite characters like GOB and Tobias continued to shine.
Aside from the gut-busting and side-splitting aspects of this magnificent series, the thing I found to be most unique about this show is it's great continuity, along with foreshadowing. What other sitcom foreshadows events that will occur 10 episodes later? In an age where even serialized drama shows like "24" don't plan ahead, it's refreshing to see a comedy show that also has a great thought-out plot. This is all credited to Mitch Hurwitz, the creator and show-runner, whose attention to detail is extraordinary.
The continuity and call-backs to previous episodes are extremely rewarding to fans, but after watching the Season 2 episodes I could understand why the show may be hard to follow if you didn't watch the first season. That's why this DVD will be great aside the Season 1 set.
Fox atypically renewed the show despite the not-so-great ratings, so I hope the show will find its viewers next season like other classics found theirs in their third year. If it won't, the sitcom world would find itself in an arrested development of it's own.
on August 19, 2005
In the second season of the critically acclaimed Arrested Development, the show continues to display the clever wit, stellar acting, and overall insanity that won multiple Emmys, including the award for Outstanding Comedy Series, in the first season. The show is set in Orange County, California, and follows the exploits of the Bluth family. While they were once one of the richest families in the country, they lost nearly everything when George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) was arrested for white collar crime. However, at the end of last year, it was revealed that he had also committed "light treason" by building houses in Iraq for Saddam Hussein. George's son Michael (Jason Bateman), who is basically the only sane member of the Bluth family, was forced to take over, while the rest of his clueless family continued buying, mooching, and acting as if nothing had happened.
The year starts off as Michael and his son George Michael (Michael Cera) are driving to Arizona in order to once and for all escape the greed and corruption of their family life. However, Michael soon learns that, since his father had escaped after faking a heart attack, he is next in line to be prosecuted. His family posts bail, so while Michael is allowed to go to work, live at home, and for the most part live his life, he is banned from leaving the state, forcing him to once again help out his family. With Michael under investigation, his older brother GOB (Will Arnett), short for George Oscar Bluth, Jr., becomes the new president of the Bluth corporation, while Michael secretly pulls the strings. This of course leads to many catastrophes due to GOB's greed, arrogance, and overall incompetance (remember, GOB is one of the world's worst magicians, yet he believes himself to be the next Copperfield).
Meanwhile at home, Michael's mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) restarts an old affair with George's twin brother Oscar Bluth (also played by Tambor), and she sends poor Annyong (Justin Lee), her adopted Korean son, away to the Milford Boarding School. Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and Tobias (David Cross) decide to try an open marriage in an attempt to save their marriage. At the same time, Tobias decides to try out for the Blue Man Group (the stage show, not the depression focus group). And Maeby (Alia Shawkat) becomes jealous that George Michael is spending most of his time with his new (and very religious) girlfriend, Ann Veal (now played by Mae Whitman). Lucille is confronted by a Michael Moore lookalike, she enlists Buster (Tony Hale) in the army, unaware that there is a war going on in the Middle East. Finally, Ron Howard is absolutely brilliant as the show's narrator. He often fills us in on references made by the family members, and he even picks on a few characters.
Early on, George, Sr. returns home, and spends most of the season hiding out in the attic of the model home, with Michael as his confidante. He observes many of the going-ons around the house, many of which go way beyond bizarre. The stories this year involve Buster going AWOL from the army in order to play the crane game at a small carnival, GOB playing AGAINST the Bluth company in a corporate softball game against a rival developping company, Ann getting left in Mexico by Michael, and a dishonest campaign to try to get George Michael elected to Student Body President.
The single-episode stories are all hilarious (I can't think of a single bad episode), but it's the multi-episode story arcs that make me laugh the hardest. Buster's army training is hilarious to watch, seeing as how he is a mama's boy who is prone to panic attacks, and it gets even better when he tries to put his training to use. GOB's puppet Franklin is utilized incredibly well, especially when he tries to make a CD of his act called "Franklin Comes Alive". When Maeby conned her way into an executive position at a movie studio, the results were all hilarious, and Michael's undying dislike of Ann, as well as his inability to remember her name or what she looks like were great. Unlike most comedy shows, Arrested Development is fairly serialized, and it foreshadows many of its plots and jokes (pay extra attention when, in an early episode, Buster says, "I never thought that I'd miss a hand so much," when he refers to an old hand-shaped chair).
The season is consistently funny; I can't remember a single dull episode. In fact, the quality of the jokes increase as the season goes on, leading to the season finale, which actually had me falling out of my seat, because I was laughing so hard. Make no mistake, the early episodes are great and will make you laugh out loud (the second one features what I believe to be the greatest game of Rock, Paper, Scissors in history), but as the story develops, and there are more and more things to reference and build upon, things just explode at the end.
While the main cast are all hilarious and extremely talented, the weekly guest stars should not be overlooked. The family attorney, Barry Zuckercorn (Henry Winkler), returns and is more incompetant than ever. George, Sr's old secretary Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer) makes a welcome return and is involved in a few very unexpected plot twists. Also, a few other great side characters return from Season 1, including Liza Minelli as Lucille 2 and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the dishonest attorney Maggie Lizer. But this year, we are introduced to a bunch of new and very hilarious characters. Gene Parmesan (Martin Mull) is a private investigator who is terrible with disguises, but he is always able to fool Lucille. Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) plays one of GOB's rival magicians, while Stiller's wife Christine Taylor plays Sally Sitwell, one of Michael's old flames. We are also treated to Zach Braff, Alan Tudyk, Iona Skye, Dave Attel, Tom Jane, and Martin Short.
Sadly for the show, the ratings are not very high. Despite a rabid fanbase and nearly unaminous critical acclaim, Arrested Development is struggling (the fact that it is extremely self-referential may be a factor, and I advise everyone to see Season 1 before this, or at least a quarter of the jokes will go over your head). In fact, there are only 18 episodes this year because the network wasn't sure if it was worth keeping this show on. However, even in the face of adversity, the show was still able to joke about its predicament. At one point, Michael is shocked to learn that a customer had reduced his order from 22 to 18 houses, and in real life, FOX cut the episode order from 22 to 18. Also, a popular website was plauged by Family Guy pop-up ads (another reason the show was cut short was to get Family Guy and American Dad on quicker). Also, the show gets in a great jab at its more popular competitor Desperate Housewives.
I guess the one gripe that I have with this set is the fact that the episodes are in broadcast order as opposed to production order. Seeing as how the show is very serialized for a comedy, episode order matters more than it would on a show like The Simpsons. The good thing is that only one episode was aired out of order, and that is The Sword of Destiny. It is supposed to be the second to last episode (right before Righteous Brothers), but instead, it comes a few episodes early. While continuity isn't messed up too terribly, there are a few things that someone wouldn't understand if they didn't know about the order problem. For example, something that happens at the very end of SoD (in the "On the Next Arrested Development" segment) isn't "fixed" until Righteous Brothers, which makes sense since RB should have been the next episode (hint: look for the band-aids on GOB's fingers). But, if that is the worst problem, then things aren't so bad.
Fortunately, the FOX executives are smart enough to realize that this is an amazing show that will win them plenty of awards, and they decided to give it a third season even though its numbers continued to be poor throughout two seasons (the fact that Arrested Development won USA Today's Save Our Show poll and came in second in the E! poll probably helped a lot).
This is a collection that no Arrested Development fan should be without. And if you're not a fan, definitely start watching. No other show on television is this funny, clever, or just plain fun. Do yourself a favor and get arrested.
on September 17, 2005
Over the past few years there has been much talk about the supposed death of the sitcom on network television. And if those preparing to mourn the genre consider Friends or its ilk to be the standard-bearer, than perhaps they are right.
But maybe, just maybe, with Arrested Development we are seeing the future of the situation comedy... and if that's the case, things are looking up!
Arrested Development isn't your standard "set up a punch line, deliver punch-line, listen to the studio audience roar" show. In fact, rarely is there a set up or punchline, but rather keenly written and expertly delivered dialogue. And rather than the standard "Joey and Phoebe get stuck in an elevator while Rachel and Monica plan Thanksgiving dinner" storylines, Arrested lets each episode unfold in an intricate and intriguing manner with humor that ranges from subtle to sublime.
The basic premise? We're spending time with the Bluth family, who, to borrow a phrase, put the "fun" in dysfunctional. The characters range from maniacal (especially the Emmy-worthy turn by Jessica Walter as matriarch Lucille Bluth) to misguided (perhaps best exemplified by Will Arnett's desperate-for-attention-at-any-cost Gob). These aren't cookie-cutter cardboard characters as you'll find on other comedies. Each is a fascinating character study, with flaws and faults and quirks unlike those seen in other television households.
Best of all - and perhaps the main reason to purchase the DVD - the show is (gasp) laugh-out-loud funny and will be whether this is the first or one-hundred-and-first time you view the episodes.
Comedy, dead? Not as long as the Bluth family are around!
When this show first aired a couple of years ago, I enjoyed it more than any new TV show in YEARS. I would say there was a good, solid laugh every 30 seconds or so. When Season Two started (and thank good ness it did...I'm amazed Fox actually keeps renewing this low-rated masterpiece), I hoped it would live up to same standards. I was concerned that the creators may have poured all their best ideas into the first frantic year.
Well, my fears were quickly set-aside. I would say that now the laughs come every 20 seconds. And again, the availability of this show on DVD is almost essential for the fan of AD. You can finally get every joke. So often, the best lines are practically mumbled by the actors...they seem to be toss-offs, but in fact they are rich in comedic meaning.
One great thing about the show is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to pick a favorite character. For awhile, I thought it might be Tobias Funke, because the stuff when he tries to join Blue Man Group is priceless. Some of the jokes around this subplot will stick with me for life. But then we get to see Buster joining the army and all the ridiculous shenanigans involved with that. Then there's George Michael (can I just say that the young man who plays this nervous teen is absolutely brilliant...he has found the comedic and emotional heart of his character with the lazar beam perfection of a seasoned pro), who's clueless relationship with his new girlfriend Anne is absolutely hysterical. And we can always rely on Gob to mess up anything he touches. I just can't decide who makes me laugh the most...which is great...there's never a moment when you say to yourself, "oh, this guy, well hopefully this scene will be done soon so we can move on with the laughs." It's all good.
There are many terrific guest appearances, including Martin Mull as a private detective, Henry Winkler as the family attorney, a hysterical Ed Begley Jr. as a business rival (and an alopecia sufferer...no hair anywhere on his body!), Christine Taylor as a love interest for Michael, and of course, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as a blind (!?!), pregnant (?!!!?!!) attorney. Also, Martin Short turns up for one episode playing what some call the funniest and others the creepiest character of the season. They're both right...it's an amazingly zany performance.
And the anchor holding it all together is Jason Bateman, who has the part of "straight-man," yet has the best comedic timing and some of the funniest lines in the cast.
The show is simply a brilliant achievement in TV comedy, and the DVD is a must-own...believe me, these shows hold up to repeated viewings. I still laugh out loud the third time through! (The moment when a banana-suit clad Gob is lifted in the air by a crane operated by Buster never ceases to amaze!)
The DVD set is attractive. The extras are relatively few (some deleted scenes and bloopers...nothing unforgettable or indispensable). I haven't listened to the commentaries yet, so can't really offer an opinion there. I was sorry to discover that season 1 had 22 episodes and season 2 only 18. I hope the current Season 3 doesn't drop to 14 or something!! BUY THESE DVDs!!!! TELL A FRIEND!! SAVE THE SHOW!!!!!!
on July 28, 2005
Arrested Development is currently the best show on television. Every aspect of this show is top notch. Great humor, great writing and great acting. Perhaps what makes this show so great is that there are so many layers to the storylines and jokes, that you could literally watch an episode five times and still find something you hadn't noticed in the previous viewing(s). This ain't your traditional sitcom...
That said, Season 2 begins where season one left off (obviously...), with Bluth Family patriarch George Sr. having escaped from prison. The family has no idea where he is and son Michael (the "sane" one) is once again determined to leave his family and start over with his son George Michael. He is prevented from doing so, not only by his family, but by the police. From there, the Bluth's build a second model home, hire a bounty hunter to find George Sr., have an office holiday party turn a bit incestuous, play softball against a rival construction company, one family member loses a limb, they crash a mother-son dance, George Michael runs for student body President and engages in a smear campaign thanks to his Uncle Gob, Michael and Gob try to recover documents that may clear George Sr's name, and George Sr turns himself in to the police...(or does he?)
Again, this is great programming on Fox's part. Buy the DVD's, keep the Bluth's on the air!
on August 23, 2005
You know how Seinfeld - widely considered the greatest televison comedy of all time - didn't really hit its stride until around season 4? Well, Arrested Development got there in episode 2. I never thought the writing for the second season could top that of the first. I was wrong. It made a quantum leap, pushing the characters and comedy into a realm that can only be described as "super-funny." Maybe the threat of cancellation led them to pull out all the stops. Whatever it was, the brass at Fox should take notice: if they let this show survive for a few more seasons, it could become the biggest comedy in TV history. Maybe it doesn't matter. If they pull it tomorrow, people will still be talking about Arrested Development 20 years from now, which is more than you can say about "According to Jim."
on September 13, 2005
Think of the greatest movies, paintings, music, and writings is the history of man. Some of the great works that may come to mind are Don Quixote, Citizen Kane, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, or Stairway To Heaven. Regardless of taste, there are many to choose from and they have all added to our culture in various ways. Arrested Development is the equivalent of these in the genre known as television. Decades from now, our descendents will look back on Arrested Development as our greatest contribution to culture. The pinnacle of comedy is reached with this show - a point which God himself did not think was attainable by man until this show first emerged. So let the mindless masses talk about who will win American Idol, or who is the biggest slut on Laguna Beach. Those of us that still have minds can still turn to real entertainment, and one may argue, the best entertainment ever produced by man: Arrested Development.
on January 9, 2006
If you're not sure you wish to purchase this DVD then don't. BORROW the DVD from your local library or a friend or co-worker who is a fan. Give the show your undivided attention and I promise it will all be worth it. After going through the first two seasons (the only 2 seasons on DVD at the time this was written) you'll want to buy yourself a copy.
I wrote an almost identical review for season 1 so if if you've read something like this before you can skip onto the next reviewer who will more likely than not, have excellent things to say about this brilliant show.
I am a big fan of the show, and I believe it is on the same level if not better than Seinfeld. Most would argue this is an insult to Seinfeld, but I like to think that it's a comment on how great this show really is.
Some have said that this show has "zero re-watchability," but this is entirely inaccurate. I've gone through seasons 1 and 2, and some of season 3, and went back and started over and many who have done so will notice so many more jokes they may have missed before simply because this show is layered with jokes, some of which cannot be understood until you've seen more episodes. Perhaps some may feel this is where the show's weakpoint lies: instead of episodic one-time jokes the show sets up these long joke-arcs -- but if the audience is patient they'll be rewarded with a much bigger payoff (also this style is conducive to loyalty to the show, as you'd have to watch more episodes to understand it all).
I find the show to be unbelievably funny, every minute something funny is going on. Sometimes I don't catch onto it but I usually watch the episodes two or three times, not because I want to but because I have to simply to catch things I missed.
Some argue the cast is "no-name" and has no talent, and as a result the show is forced to bring on guest stars. Although most of the cast is new there are some regular cast members who are well known (Tambor, Cross, Rossi). The new actors are every bit as talented in their roles -- anyone who has seen the show must admit the young Michael Cera (playing George Michael) is a delight, his comic timing and acting are superb. My guess is the guest stars were brought on as tools to bring more viewers into the fold. Yet these guest stars each played a memorable role, not some 1-episode stint (except season 3's Andy Richter, well at least so far). Will Arnet's character, GOB, was briefly married and the woman was played by Will Arnet's real-life wife Amy Poehler. There are a couple of jokes which make reference to this and of course they're funny.
There are many jokes on the show which may not seem obvious at first but with a little research you'll be surprised by how much you might've missed. (example: Tony Hale, as Buster, doing the 'Robot' in his car in season 3, which was a throwback to the actor's Mr. Roboto dance in the VW commercials).
Please don't think this show is too much work, not worth the effort -- you WILL get the jokes, and you'll get them better if you re-watch the episodes.
This show has no laugh track and, to the best of my knowledge, is not taped in front of a live studio audience, and that is good: the reason this show is so good goes beyond the excellent acting and timing of the actors .. the writing, directing and editing of each episode is near genius.
I'm sorry to hear the show's been cancelled but in my opinion this is one of the best comedy show's ever made. If any of the show's crew or staff read this, all your efforts were not in vain, you've made many laugh and fall in love with The Bluths.