Fox // 2003 // 512 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 24th, 2004
George Bluth, Sr.: Michael, this is my brother! Do you know what it's like to have a sibling who has no source of income except for you?
Michael Bluth: Just one? No. No idea. It sounds wonderful, though.
The funniest show on television comes roaring into its second season accompanied by a DVD of its immaculate first season. You'd be crazy not to pick up this 22-episode account of the most dysfunctional family not preceded by "Manson" ever to hit the airwaves.
The Bluths were one of the richest, most powerful, most publicized families around. George Bluth, Sr. lorded over the Bluth Company, a mega-real-estate corporation that garnered a steady stream of cash, all of which was needed to accommodate the spending prowess of the family members.
However, all of that changed when the SEC cracked down on the Bluths; arresting George Sr. for fraud and other corporate chicanery. From rags to riches, all splayed over the evening news and tabloids, went the Bluth family; a splintered chorus of self-involved personalities all vying for some portion of a nest egg that doesn't exist. And only one man could hold them together.
* Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, Teen Wolf Too)
Michael is the calm within the storm of quirks and insanity that is the Bluth family. A loyal and competent employee in the Bluth Company, he had hoped to assume control one day. But when his father awarded the Presidency to Michael's mother, that dream died. George's prompt arrest, and the disarray the Bluth family was thrown into, compelled Michael to stay and hold the family together.
* George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera)
One of the main reasons Michael opted to stick with the family. George Michael is Michael's son, a naïve, over-sensitive, hard-working boy who is just getting to know his family. He and his father are rebounding from his mother's death two years ago, so the sight of kin is inviting -- especially his cousin Maebe, to whom he taken a guilt-inducing fancy.
* George Oscar ("Gob") Bluth Jr. (Will Arnett)
The eldest Bluth son is also one of the more clueless. A failed magician who yearns only for his father's approval, Gob (pronounced "Jobe") wiles away his time either lounging on the family yacht, scarfing free frozen bananas from the family's Frozen Banana stand, cavorting with sleazy women, or generally wallowing in utter self-involvement.
* Lindsay Bluth Fünke (Portia de Rossi, Ally McBeal)
Michael's twin sister. Lindsay moves in with Michael and George Michael, bringing her family with her. Lindsay is consumed with causes, often going overboard with her charitable work, even if it's not entirely clear what she's supporting. She has expensive tastes -- which are hard to meet, considering her aversion to working.
* Tobias Fünke (David Cross, Mr. Show)
Lindsay's husband, Tobias, was once a renowned psychologist who lost his license due to an unfortunate CPR accident. He now floats along, siphoning off the wealth of the Bluth family while pursuing his newly-discovered dream of becoming an actor.
* Maeby Funke (Alia Shawkat)
Tobias and Lindsay's overly rebellious, underachieving daughter. Maeby often involves the gullible and smitten George Michael in her acting-out schemes.
* Byron "Buster" Bluth (Tony Hale)
he youngest of the Bluth offspring, Buster still lives under the strict auspices of his mother. (He spent 11 months in her womb; "there were claw marks on her uterus.") Emotionally stunted and socially inept, Buster finds himself in awkward positions that he never asked to be in.
* Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter, Play Misty For Me, The
The family's controlling, selfish, conniving mother; Lucille is, in a word, diabolical.
* George Bluth Senior (Jeffrey Tambor)
The imprisoned patriarch still manages to pull strings from behind bars. Flaky and dishonest, sure; but George is also manipulative.
Season One's 22 episodes document the challenges of this crazy family as they try to deal with the prying eyes of the Federal government, the ludicrous circumstances in which they find themselves, and -- mainly -- each other.
Arrested Development is the funniest show on television now, and, in my opinion, bows only before The Simpsons as the funniest show I've ever seen. How dare I make such a brazen claim after only a season? I challenge you to acquire this first season set by any means necessary and watch it. If you sit stone-faced throughout these episodes, I would submit you are either (a) in a coma or (b) wouldn't know what funny is even if it sat on your head and peed on you.
Granted this strong language is frowned upon in our post-modern society of self-esteem bolstering and back-patting, where tastes are deemed relativistic and subjective -- but screw it. This show is a breath of fresh air, Actually, strike that; it's a typhoon of goodness that blows away the mildewed, formulaic flotsam that poses as thirty-minute comedy these days. If you're offended when I call you stupid for not liking Arrested Development, tough. That's what you are -- stupid!
"Why the angst, Dave?" you may ask.
Well, in this age of decaying television, where a sewage-ridden onslaught of half-assed reality shows seems to be slowly overtaking quality, innovative scripted television -- if this show isn't topping the ratings, then something is rotten in Denmark.
Arrested Development barely survived its first season. Shockingly Fox, a network known for jumping ship on quality shows at the first sign of sub-par ratings (R.I.P. Firefly), took a gamble and renewed the show. Arrested Development went on to nab five Emmys to go along with the yacht-load of critical accolades it's received. However, all the positive write-ups in the world means nothing if the show goes unwatched.
Hey, I'm all for capitalism, but that doesn't mean I can't lament some of the drawbacks, e.g. the unfair demise -- or in this case, the constant necessity for life-support -- of great shows that fail to bring home the advertising bacon. Perhaps state-controlled television would force people to watch Arrested Development, whether they like it or not. (If not, refer back to "stupid, if you don't like this show you are.")
As it stands, just know that that this DVD set contains 512 minutes of hilarity.
What separates creator Mitchell Hurwitz's baby from the rest of the pack is the premise of the show: it doesn't play by the rules. There is no formula. There is no laugh track. There are no sweet, sappy-song-driven morals at the end (though they are lampooned).
What you do get is:
The best ensemble cast working on television
From Bateman's deadpan-perfect timing, to Arnett's supernatural sleaziness, to Cross's self-effacing nebbishism, the cast is money. Portia de Rossi's Lindsay, though quite funny, is the only weak link; her character is too one-dimensional. But she would nonetheless be the stand-out in any other series. And that's the most illustrative comment I can say about this cast -- each character is so great, they could individually anchor shows. Besides Gob, my favorite is Michael Cera's George Michael. The hardest gut laughs always come from scenes involving this clueless kid.
As with This is Spinal Tap, repeated viewings of Arrested Development reveal new gags and jokes. The writers pack so much stuff in their 22 minutes, you might miss something the first time through. They do this by sloughing off the sitcom formula -- the show is filmed like a documentary, a creative approach that just opens up the options for the creators to go wild.
Anything is possible with the Bluth Family. How about a faux drug bust featuring male strippers dressed as cops? An on-the-fly marriage resulting from a series of dares? A "blind" attorney who's faking being blind -- but her seeing-eye-dog really is blind? Each episode introduces outlandish plots. Some carry on for several episodes -- Buster's relationship with the vertigo-stricken best friend of his mother (Liza Minelli), the shady dealings of the family attorney (a hilarious Henry Winkler), the impossible crush George Michael has for his cousin -- and some wrap themselves up by episode's end. Again, a testament to the innovative style.
As for the set itself, Fox delivers a fantastic offering. The episodes look great, presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and are devoid of any striking visual flaws. This transfer is a real gem. The show also sounds good, with a strong Dolby Digital 2.0 mix.
Each of the three discs contains a separate batch of special features. Deleted scenes accompany each disc, and they are funny and plentiful. You also get a cast panel discussion form The Museum of Television and Radio, a making-of featurette, Ron Howard (who narrates the show) giving a brief plug, a TV Land featurette, a look at the show's music, and some raucous audio commentaries featuring the cast insulting each other.
Buy this set. Now.
Hey, stupid! Don't be stupid! Bid farewell to your stupid ways! Track down Arrested Development and watch it! Stupid!
Not guilty. Not by a long shot.
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Golden Gavel 2004 Nominee
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 512 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind the Scenes Feature
* Audio Commentaries With the Cast
* TV Land Spots
* Cast Panel Discussion
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Series Music Feature
* Ron Howard's Inside Look
* Official Site