Arrested Development: Season 2
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In the Emmy(R)-winning comedy's hilarious second season, Michael Bluth, once again determined to be free of his dysfunctional family, packs up the car and his son George-Michael and heads for Arizona. But he's soon pulled over by the police who tell him that his father, George Sr. has broken out of prison. Due to the company's shady business deal with Iraq, Michael could face prison time, so he returns home to clear his name even as George Sr. secretly flees to Mexico, Tobias decides to be an understudy for the Blue Man Group, and Lucille begins a torrid affair with her husband's twin brother, Oscar.
The axe of cancellation dangled perilously over Arrested Development during its second season, but the award-winning comedy fought against fate to deliver a hilarious if scattershot 18 episodes (reduced from the original show order of 22), and stayed alive for the beginning of a third season. Most likely, the creators and actors knew the clock was ticking down, so they didn't hesitate to throw their all into these manic, hilarious episodes, which have only the thinnest of plot arcs but an electrifying energy that makes them hard to resist. Some of the story antics were more of the same: good son Michael (Jason Bateman) tries to keep his company afloat, but is often foiled by older brother Gob (Will Arnett); the precarious marriage of Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and Tobias (David Cross) undergoes a trial separation; and young George-Michael (Michael Cera) fights his attraction to his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat). Other show developments, though, were new and stunningly, uproariously bizarre: Buster (Tony Hale) joins the army, but later finds his hand bitten off by a seal (yes, a real seal), and Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor), the hippie brother of jailed George Sr. (also Tambor), rekindles an affair with sister-in-law Lucille (Jessica Walter), which may have resulted in Buster's conception years ago.
Jokes flew fast and furious, as did guest stars--Ben Stiller, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Christine Taylor, Thomas Jane, Ed Begley Jr., Ione Skye, and Zach Braff among them--making it hard to keep straight who was doing what and why. No matter, as each of the episodes was in and of itself was a perfect gem of comedy, strung together by sharp writing and fantastic performances. In addition to the regular cast, both Liza Minnelli, reprising her role as "Lucille Two," and Martin Short, as an, um, eccentric family friend, deserve special mention, with the episode both appeared in, "Ready, Aim, Marry Me," a frenetic exercise in slapstick farce. Typical examples of the show's offbeat humor were found in "Afternoon Delight," in which various members of the Bluth family discover the true meaning of the '70s ballad, "Meet the Veals," wherein the Bluths encounter the conservative parents of George Michael's girlfriend, and "Motherboy XXX," surrounding an unsettling mother-son traditional dance. The entire cast cohered perfectly through this season, and their give and take provided a perfect balance among the actors, all of whom were even better than the previous year. However, it's Bateman who should be singled out as the show's anchor, mixing dry sarcasm with impeccable comic timing. Despite plummeting ratings, Arrested Development didn't just keep its head above water, it swam with grace and hilarity. --Mark Englehart
- 18 episodes on three discs
- Commentary by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Will Arnett, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, and Jessica Walter on "Good Grief," "Ready Aim Marry Me," and "The Righteous Brothers"
- Deleted/extended scenes
- "Season One in Three Minutes" overview
- Blooper reel
- "The Immaculate Election" campaign videos
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The acting is, once again, brilliant, and the scripts consistently deliver unpredictable and hilarious plot twists. I was extremely amused by the interactions of Gob (Will Arnett); and Buster (Tony Hale) which led to Buster's hand being bitten off by a seal, and the interactions between Lucille and Lucille Two to be wonderful. The presence of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Maggie was also a strong point, as was the cameo by Dick Van Patten. By far the best of the guest appearances was by Ed Begley, Jr., who, thanks to alopecia gets to wear a hilarious assortment of wigs and fake eyebrows which detach at the most unseemly of times.
The DVD set has a variety of extras including deleted scenes, a blooper reel and several commentaries, which are, in some places, overtly hostile and condescending to conservatives (the "Red State" discussion is particularly revealing of the views of some of the cast members, notably David Cross.) The blooper reel is definitely rated R for language and is far coarser than the intelligence of the show would have you otherwise believe.
Overall I think "Arrested Development" is great, and should still be on the air. While this is not my favorite season, I still recommend this DVD set with the caveats that it is somewhat cruder and more politically inflammatory than the peerless first season.
Comedy is a skill, an art, and a craft. It takes patience, timing, and intelligence to produce something truly witty. It is clear from Season 2 that the cast and writers of Arrested Development have the synergy and vision to do it together.
I guzzled down the first two DVDs in a marathon overnight session. I sorely missed the show in the yearlong gap between the DVD releases, and I wanted to know what happened after George Bluth Sr. escaped from the hospital. Would he be found? Was Michael really leaving the family? And what incredibly bizarre situations would the Bluths find themselves in?
I can't count the number of times I had to pause the DVD because I was laughing too hard to catch the rest of the dialogue. From the abundance of puns ("Watch out for loose seal!" "I'm not afraid of Lucille!") to the presence of over-the-top guest stars (Ben Stiller, Martin Short) to the little attentions to detail (blue hand marks around the house during Tobias' Blue Man phase), this show demonstrates time and time again a genuine love of humor. The audience will appreciate it too.
I think the most telling part of my reaction to this show is how impossible it is to pick a favorite character or episode. Each character is so well-acted, each installment so well-written, that picking a favorite is folly. I love every moment of this show. Two too-short seasons and I'm already a fanatic.
I've purchased 4 more copies of this DVD as gifts for my friends. I am voting with my dollar on this show. Fox, keep Arrested Development alive!