on March 10, 2006
Unfortunately, I didn't get into Arrested Development until late in its second season. However, I was immediately hooked. I could see that it was a completely new kind of show, and far from your average sitcom. It's one of the few comedy series I've seen that is serialized, meaning that events of one episode carry over into the next episode. Also, it is probably the only comedy I know that, in addition to constantly referencing past jokes, it actually references FUTURE jokes! The show is done without a laugh track and is shot as a documentary, so the characters in the show sometimes react to the camera, and the camera sometimes reactions to situations in the show.
The second season ended brilliantly with George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffry Tambor) fooling authorities into arresting and incarcerating his twin brother Oscar (also Tambor). George's children Michael (Jason Bateman), GOB (Will Arnet), Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), and Buster (Tony Hale) vowed not to visit their "father" in prison for a few months so that he couldn't manipulate him. Meanwhile, Lindsay's husband Tobias (David Cross) left for Vegas with George Sr's secretary Kitty (Judy Greer) to join the Blue Man Group. Also, cousins George Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) shared their first passionate kiss. Season three starts off Michael going to prison to visit his "father" for the first time in 3 months to tell him that the Bluth Developing Company is bouncing back. While there, he realizes that it is really Oscar behind bars, so he takes his son George Michael on a hunt for the real George Sr. Upon finding him, the government allows George Sr. to remain under house arrest so that he can reconnect with his wife Lucille (Jessica Walter). George immediately regrets the decision. Meanwhile, GOB is unknowingly reunited with his illegitimate son Steve Holt (Justin Grant Wade), a classmate of George Michael and Maeby who began searching for his father in the previous year after GOB made fun of him for not having a father (IRONY!). This starts a great arc involving GOB and Steve who are the perfect duo until GOB realizes who Steve really is.
Soon, Michael starts dating a British woman named Rita (Charlize Theron) whom he meets while investigating his father's claim that a British building company set him up to take the fall for building some houses in Iraq. As Michael's relationship with Rita develops, we learn that there may be more to her than she is saying, especially since her creepy "uncle" Trevor (Dave Thomas) follows the couple around everywhere.
As the season develops, viewers finally find out the (most probable) cause of death for Michael's late wife Tracy, Tobias gets hair plugs, which nearly kill him, J. Walter Weatherman (Steve Ryan) makes his triumphant return, and one of the greatest "gimmick" episodes of televions ever is created. The episode S.O.B.s, which stands for Save Our Bluths, is a parody of the various gimmicks that television shows use to get more ratings. There are numerous guest stars, most of whom are only on-screen for about a second, numerous references to the much-more-popular Desperate Housewives, a live segment, some 3D segments, and even a death! In the commercial for the episode right before it aired (which is fortunately included in the set, because it adds humor to the episode and not seeing it would make one of the Narrator's lines a little confusing), announcers said that "one of these characters would die", and there was a quick montage of most of the main characters and a few side characters. Turns out that the person who died was introduced in that episode and may not have even had a line of dialogue. Also, a lot of fans were hoping that HBO or Showtime would pick the show up, and there were allusions to that speculation in the episode.
The last four episodes of the season may be some of the best in the show's history. Featuring guest stars such as Judge Reinhold, William Hung (in probably his greatest use ever), Justine Bateman (Jason's sister), Richard Belzer (playing his Detective John Munch character), and Ron Howard, making his first on-screen appearance on the show, we finally find out the truth about George Sr's crimes, and Annyong Bluth (Justin Lee) delivers one of the finest twists imaginable.
While the season started off a little slow, it became amazing, and, despite it's brevity, may be the best season of the show. Every episode from "The Ocean Walker" to "Harboring Resentment" (also known as "Development Arrested") were pure gold. The show's writers are all geniuses. I don't know where some of the jokes were coming from, but they sure know how to come up with some hilariously bizarre situations. The year, in addition to coming up with great new jokes, expanded a lot on past jokes. One of my favorites was that GOB's puppet Franklin became an actual character in a sense, as opposed to a gag. Franklin even has his own fanbase now (I'm one of them). Unfortunately, due to the fact that the season was cut down to 13 episodes, there were plenty of things that the writers weren't able to do. In the season premiere, there allusions to Buster getting a new hand, after losing it to a seal last year (pay attention to the scene when GOB and Steve Holt meet up for the first time).
After all three seasons of unsuccessful ratings, FOX finally killed the show. While I am very upset, I guess I have to hand it to FOX for sticking with the show for so long (from a ratings stand-point, it should have been killed after season 1). They believed in its greatness enough to give it so many chances (oddly, they didn't really advertise for it, which probably hurt the ratings), and at least it went out still at the top of its game. There are still rumors going around that Showtime is planning on picking it up, so we may yet see some more of this great show. If not though, at least the writers tied up all the loose ends and even hinted at a possible movie. If you've never seen Arrested Development, it is beyond worth checking out. It is my favorite comedy show of all time, surpassing even mainstream hits like The Simpsons and Seinfeld as well as the quirky and underrated Scrubs. You will not regret buying this set.
DVDs were pretty much invented so those few ARRESTED... fans could enjoy their favorite show over and over. What a brilliant series!!! Thank God I can watch it again. In Season 3, Fox moved this show around so many times, I had trouble taping all of them on my old-school VCR (although I'm sure glad I got the last 4 episodes, even though Fox buried them next to the opening ceremony of the Olympics and then didn't advertise them). BUT, you fans out there know how great it is to have them on DVD.
Season 3 was stellar. I've read a little griping that the quality slipped a little...okay, maybe from A+++ to A+. Still pretty darn good. The only story line that tired me a little bit was the stuff with Charlize Theron. She's a decent actress, but I found her British accent unconvincing, and I thought the story line went on too long.
Other than that, I've got no complaints. The episode where George Michael ends up in a retro looking flying jetpack, and flies over a miniature model home park while crashing into Tobias dressed in a monster costume was so funny I wept. No joke. I did not think it was possible to find 30 seconds of TV so funny. We watched it over and over.
The final four episodes, when the story finally wrapped itself up pretty well, include wonderful trips to Iraq, fantastic guest appearances (including a very nice turn from Justine Bateman) and crisp, crisp acting all around.
It's almost futile to describe the show. If you haven't seen it, you MUST watch it, but you must start with Disc 1. My family and I have had ARRESTED marathons...when Season 1 came out, we watched in one day, and later the same with Season 2. I know season 3 will be the same. They fly by, and you can see all the many little jokes you missed the first time, mostly because you were too busy laughing at the other jokes. This is NOT an exaggeration...the show is that packed with energy.
Yes, it is a shame to see it go. I'll miss all the incredibly talented cast and characters. But in some ways, it might be a blessing. I can only imagine the creative and logistical effort that went into it...how could that be sustained? And even though Fox kinda gave up on it mid season...they DID promote it a lot before then. And magazines raved about it. And it cleaned up award after award. But people didn't tune in...you can't blame Fox for cutting its losses (although WHY "The War at Home" or "Stacked" lasted more than 2 episodes each I don't know). Remember, Fox has stuck by "Malcolm in the Middle" and "King of the Hill" for many years past when their ratings dropped. Overall, I can't be too upset with them.
I'd sure feel different, though, if ARRESTED wasn't out on DVD!! This is a MUST OWN if there ever was such a thing!! SEE IT!!!!
on August 17, 2006
Those words are uttered almost every time I watch TV by myself or someone I'm with. It is fairly mind boggling that such a brillant comedy, with a great cast and tons of awards, could get kicked off the air... but it is utterly mind boggling how many horrible trashy sitcoms get to stay on the networks while the millons of AD fans are left with only three seasons.
Oh well, c'est la vie. At least we have DVDs to watch.
And AD is particularly suited to the DVD format as it is both highly narrative (for a sitcom) and highly self-referential. There are strong plot arcs that make you want to watch shows back to back and, more importantly, there are tons and tons of jokes that you will only get from repeated viewings. The self-referential humor (for example, how the house has blue handprints on the walls for the rest of the season after Tobias tries out for the Blue Man Group one episode) is just an example of the depth of comedy at work. Like The Big Lebowski or Mr. Show, this is comedy made to be watched again and again.
For fans of great comedy in general, Arrested Development is also exciting for its many great guest actors from other brillant comedies (including Upright Citizens Brigade, Seinfeld, Mr. Show and The Daily Show).
There really isn't enough that can be said about this show. But it and just watch.
on June 15, 2006
They say the good die young. It is annoying little cliché normally used when a young person makes a fatal mistake and everyone is too scared to acknowledge the mistake openly. This does not apply to Arrested Development. Arrested Development more appropriately mirrors the misunderstood child that is assumed to be retarded, but is actually the next Einstein.
AD could have changed the world of entertainment as we know it. It was ahead of its time. It was flawless. Yet the world shunned it as if it had some sort of disease.
It is nothing less than a crime that shows like the OC, The Simple Life, and Survivor can last year after year and yet AD could last only three.
Despite its cancellation, there is some upside. Another legendary show went only three years and became the most syndicated show in the history of television: Gilligan's Island. Deja Vu? Hopefully.
on August 7, 2006
Three seasons of witty, genre-defying, unadulterated comedic bliss is a rarity in the current tv climate, and yet somehow Mitchell Hurwitz, Ron Howard and the talented cast and crew have managed to achieve just his. Few shows hit their stride as early as this one did. Not only was this show superbly realised from the start, it only gathered momentum from season to season, reaching this season three, where meta and self-referential humour are both bountiful and side-splittingly well delivered.
The third series sees Michael Bluth still trying to keep his dysfunctional family afloat, while trying to prove his father's innocence after he was charged with treason for building homes in Iraq. That is the bare-bones of the entire series really, but the hilarity lies in the bizzare antics of Michael's deranged family: Vodka-swilling, acid-tongued mother Lucille; Wily patriarch George Senior; layabout, part-time magician Gob; twin-sister and self-proclaimed activist Lindsay and her husband, the sexually ambiguous Tobias, and their rebel-without-a-cause daughter Maeby; overmothered younger brother Buster; and finally, Michael's own timid, naive son George Michael. Thats not to mention the excellent guest stars including Charlize Theron, who plays a mentally disabled English woman, and Scott Baiao as the deadpan attorney Bob Loblaw (say his surname fast and you'll get the joke). Simply watching such an eclectic cast of characters interact with eachother is a joy to behold, with the particular standout being Will Arnett's Gob, who is always a scene-stealer.
Arrested Development covers so much comedy ground, it's hard for anyone who appreciates well-conceived comedy to be disappointed. Slapstick, character, situational, arced, background gags and self-referential humour are all delivered adroitly, and at such a high velocity, that whenever the show makes you burst out laughing - which is very often - the chances are you've missed several other equally funny gags, such is the dense layering of the comedy. How Hurwitz and co pack so much hilarity into 21 minute installments never ceases to amaze. In my opinion, this is the best offering of the current wave of critically acclaimed American network comedies which includes Scrubs, the Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and My Name is Earl.
What is also the shows biggest strength is also its biggest downfall, at least in terms of wooing new viewers. This show is uncompromising for the casual viewer. You can't settle down and switch off your brain like you can with, say, an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men. To fully appreciate how good this show is, attentive viewing is a must. I'm still picking up new jokes months after first watching the show, and I have watched these episodes pretty often in that time span. It's no coincidence that DVD sales have been through the roof; watching AD in 3 or 4 episodes blocks is a great way for a new viewer to settle into the vibe of the show and start picking up the subtlties and nuances of the comedy that would be otherwise missed to an untrained eye. Not to mention that the plots are so zany and off-the-wall, that even veteran viewers of the show can find it hard to follow the story in one-episode-per-week doses.
A prime example of the quality of this show is episode 9. The plot seems simple enough - the Bluths are running out of money, and need to host a charity fundraiser in order to keep the family afloat. However, a savvy tv viewer will quickly realise this is an all-out extravaganza of meta-humour that satirizes the concept of ratings stunts, while also making light of the uncertain fate of the show. This exchange between Michael and his father is an example of this:
Michael - Hows that fundraiser going?
George - I dont think the Home Builders Organisation is going to support us
Michael - The HBO's not going to want us. Who else?
George - I think its Showtime. I think we should put on a show after dinner. Hey, maybe we can have celebrities in! You know, Oscar winners like Nicole Kidman...
Michael - I don't wanna just round up a bunch of famous people that have nothing to do with our family as some sort of cheap stunt. What has that got to do with us?
George - Nothing...
Every conceivable type of ratings stunt other tv shows to boost their flagging ratings is satirised in this episode as well; advertising for internet petitions, the use of 3-D glasses, pointless guest stars, the Bluths purposely becoming more "sympathetic and relatable, because thats what everybody wants to see", and a cut to a 'live feed' at end of the show. Narrator Ron Howard literally begs on two occasions, saying things like "now thats a clear-cut situation with a promise of comedy. Tell your friends".
Some AD aficionados claim season 3 to be the weakest of the three, though I have no idea why. I honestly can't fault any of the episodes except perhaps "Prison Break-in". Many of the episodes from this season are candidates for my top 5 list, such as "Mr.F", an episode whose climax is one of funniest and most bizzare instances of slapstick comedy I've ever seen. Despite FOX reducing episode order to only 13 episodes, the final two episodes of the season "Exit Strategy" and "Harbouring Resentment" are a well-rounded and satisfying end to a brilliant television series.
on July 12, 2006
I know calling a show the "best" is brash given the diverse criteria people use for judging but no show has ever packed so much humor into so little time. While I thought the third season was least good, it was still miles ahead of anything else on TV. RIP AD, you will be missed.
on July 27, 2006
I will never understand why this show was taken off the air. If you have yet to watch any of Arrested Development, you have my full recommendation. Of course, start with the first season because the show must be viewed chronologically in order to be fully appreciated and understood (many of the jokes build on one another). It is most likely for this reason that show was slower to develope a large viewing audience. Although, the chronological style gives the show a very unique feel that helps make it hilarious.
This is(was, sadly) the best sitcom on tv during its airing and possibly of all time. The characters are brilliantly designed, acted and developed; and the dynamics between the characters make for many of the funniest scenes and situations that have ever been aired on television. The show's writing is also remarkable. The humor builds upon itself. Every joke not only delivers itself hilariously, but it is often subtly setting up more and more jokes and situations in the future.
I've seen every episode of Arrested Developement and it is very hard for me to swallow the fact that there won't be anymore. I'd strongly encourage anybody who has a sense of humor to check out this show.
on June 20, 2006
Truly fantastic, and so multi-faceted, it warrants repeat viewing to uncover the plethora of jokes and subtle foreshadowing.
The pulling of this show from network television is probably the worst mistake in television history.
on July 9, 2006
Many have argued that Season Three has dropped the standard of AD. While I agree that Season Three is different from Season One, "different" does not necessarily mean "worse." Occasionally, AD has experimented with changing the typical style of the show. For example, the episode Ready, Aim, Marry Me (Season 2) strayed from the traditional AD pattern, but the episode was still hilarious. Similarly, Season Three may be slightly different, but it is still packed full of great acting, great writing, and fabulous jokes. Everytime I think of lines like "the Bob Loblaw Law Blog" and "You served us cereal....in an ASHTRAY" I burst out laughing. And the scene with George-Michael in the jet pack attacking the "mole" in front of the Japanese buisnessmen is just unbelievably funny.
I urge every cool person in the world to buy every AD DVD.
Warning: A world of spoilers
We just learned on Mar. 24 that Michael Hurwitz has declined to run ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT on Showtime, which means that the show as we knew it for the past three years truly has ended. Showtime's offer to renew the show on their network was contingent upon Hurwitz staying with the show. If they stick with that requirement, the show truly is done. Executive Producer (and Narrator) Ron Howard has indicated that he would like to keep the show alive and that Hurwitz has agreed to stay on as a consultant if Howard is able to work out a deal with Showtime to continue the show on other terms. So, while things are looking bleak, the Fat Lady hasn't sung quite yet. She is, however, warming up in the wings. And to be honest, I'm not sure how I would feel about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT without Michael Hurwitz. It would be like BUFFY without Joss Whedon or LOST without Damon Lindelhof and Carlton Cuse (forget J. J. Abrams, they are the ones running the show). Still, I'd definitely give it a try. A show isn't made by only one person, and it is possible that if the cast stayed with the show and much of the rest of the creative team, the show might yet continue to catch lightening in a bottle.
With one qualification, I utterly disagree with those who saw a decline in Season Three. To me the plot lines were getting better, not worse. The episodes involving Charlize Theron were for me among the finest in the entire run of the show, funny both as a general plot line and hysterical in the almost impossible number of details. These, like those of the first two seasons, are episodes that you can watch repeatedly, picking up new details along the way. For instance, when Michael and Rita go to the "American" restaurant in Little England they are served what I imagine to be their version of "authentic" American cuisine. In front of each of them is a plate filled with impossibly sugary looking donuts. The brilliance of the show is that they don't call any attention to the absurd "meal" but leave it in the background. I will grant, however, that in the final four episodes the plot lines started feeling a bit rushed, as they were forced not only to collapse the season's plot into only a few episodes but create an appropriate ending for the series as a whole in case they decide not to continue the show on Showtime. In that sense the third season falls a tiny bit short of the others, but I have to cut them some slack here. If they had had a full 22 episodes or even the 18 that Season Two had I think it would have equaled the first two in every way.
Season Three, in fact, is in some ways the funniest of the three seasons. The jokes became even more cutting and painfully funny. Even now I can't think of Bob Boblaw (if you haven't seen those episodes say the name out loud) without snickering, let alone Tobias's comment: "Bob Boblaw's web log. Wow, you're a mouthful." Our learning of the mysterious "Mr. F" and the eventual denouement is one of the best moments in the series, as well as one of the saddest. A host of images from the season are impossible for me to forget. Gob's puppet with the sign reading "George Bush doesn't care for black puppets" hanging around its neck. Tobias's unhappy experience in getting hair plugs. Or Michael asking George-Michael, in a wonderful parody of the first episode:
Michael: What have I always said is the most important thing?
Michael: No, breakfast.
Other funny moments include Lindsay's stating that she had to finish a bottle of vodka because, as her mother had taught her, if you didn't drink a bottle once opened it would go bad. Also, that wine turned into alcohol if you didn't drink it quickly. Funniest of all, and perhaps the scene that caused me to laugh harder than I have on anything else I have ever seen on American TV, was the utterly strange, surreal encounter between what appeared to be looking out the window of the model home a fight between a gigantic mole monster and some strange massive alien with a jet pack.
One thing that wasn't always commented on was the fact that unlike situation comedies, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT did have a definite story to tell. The story wasn't the main point, but it did structure everything that was done in the three seasons. Briefly, we learn that George Bluth was falsely arrested for having committed treason through building houses for Saddam Hussein. We also learn that Michael and Lindsay were not really twins as they had always imagined and that George-Michael and Maebe, who accidentally married one another, were not biologically related. By the end of the day, it was one heck of a wild ride.
I sincerely hope that Michael Hurwitz will take Showtime's offer. In my opinion this truly is the finest comedy in the history of American TV and can only be rivaled by MONTY PYTHON and FAWLTY TOWERS in British television. The show is still incredibly fresh and full of potential for more insanity and nuttiness. With so many bad things in the world, the human race could stand a few more laughs.
The whole ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT debacle adds another chapter in the tacky history of FOX. The network has done a great job of development fascinating and innovative shows, but all too often abuses them. FOX truly has become the network that a host of people absolutely loathes and detests. I am still bitter over the early cancellation of FIREFLY, which might have become one of the most fascinating shows in the history of TV. Ditto with WONDERFALLS, cancelled after only four episodes were broadcast, though thirteen were filmed. Or going back further, the cancellation of DARK ANGEL after only two seasons, or the cancellation of FAMILY GUY and FUTURAMA (though massive DVD sales did bring FAMILY GUY back). Now we can add ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT to the list. How FOX could fail to value and promote and treasure what is quite probably the finest comedy America has ever produced is beyond me. You would think that a show that in only two seasons had won a shelf of Emmys and Golden Globes would have been immune to cancellation. But never put anything past FOX. It isn't just the shows that FOX disrespects: they disrespect us fans.