The best comedy of the last who-knows-how-many-years is on DVD. Judge David Johnson implores you to check it out!
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.
Facts of the Case
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)
• George Michael Bluth (Michael Cera)
• George Oscar ("Gob") Bluth Jr. (Will
• Lindsay Bluth Fünke (Portia de Rossi, Ally
• Tobias Fünke (David Cross, Mr. Show)
• Maeby Funke (Alia Shawkat)
• Byron "Buster" Bluth (Tony Hale)
• George Bluth Senior (Jeffrey Tambor)
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.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Behind the Scenes Feature
Review content copyright © 2004 David Johnson; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.