Coinciding with the release of the brand new season of Arrested Development on Netflix, I decided to finally check out the first three seasons of the US comedy.
The premise of the show surrounds the Bluth family and their fall from grace because of the suspect dealings of the former director of their company, George Sr., played by the excellent Jeffrey Tambor. His character spends most of the first season locked up in prison whilst awaiting trial. Many of the exchanges between his character and his on-screen son Michael (Jason Bateman), are comedy gold. Later on in the series, and in series 2 and 3, his attempts to escape captivity are both frequent and hilarious, often involving a switch with his twin brother Oscar, also played by Tambor.
The on-screen relationship between Michael and his son George Michael, played by Michael Cera (who you suspect is doomed to play the same stock character his entire career), is central to the series. Michael repeatedly insists on spending ‘quality time’ with his son, who is clearly trying to become more mature but simultaneously wanting to impress his father. This leads to many cringe-worthy moments throughout the series where it is clear that Michael is being too protective of his son. For much of the first season, George Michael works at the family frozen banana stand which is also a location of many of the series’ excellent set-pieces. The show’s staging of ridiculous scenarios and awkward moments really raise the bar over other sitcoms, with the banana stand, and the long-running joke over George Michael’s crush on his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat), being one of the many in-jokes of the sitcom.
Two of my favourite characters from the show however are Gob (Will Arnett) and Buster (Tony Hale). From the outset it is clear why Gob is a fan favourite, due mainly to his ridiculously exaggerated magic tricks, without fail always sound-tracked by ‘The Final Countdown’, as well as his over-confidence in himself. His competitive relationship with his brother Michael (Bateman) is the source of many of the episodes’ storylines and he is frequently the worse-off. Buster, another of the brothers, is conveyed somewhat as a simpleton, being very much a mummy’s boy under the manipulative mother Lucille Bluth, played by Jessica Walter. One of the most hilarious moments of the series, and my personal favourite, involved Buster and a ‘Loose Seal’. To say more would ruin the comedy of that particular moment but it is probably one of the most memorable set-pieces in any sitcom I have watched.
Other characters worth a mention are sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), and her husband Tobias, played by the brilliant David Cross. Their on-off relationship and the repeated comedic references to Tobias’ questionable sexuality are further aspects of what makes the show so funny. The narrator of the show, Ron Howard, who also acts as the show’s executive producer, sets up many of the shows set-pieces, and also gives the sitcom a documentary-style tone. In later seasons, the narrator becomes more involved with the action, and frequently interrupts in order to give his own take on the proceedings.
With many of the actors going on to greater things after the show’s cancellation in 2006, notably Jason Bateman and Michael Cera amongst others, it is clear how much of an impact this hilarious comedy made during its relatively short run. I could not recommend it highly enough.
Arrested Development season 1-3 is distributed by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and is available from online retailers, or streaming on Netflix.