Judge David Johnson laments, for here is the final season of Arrested Development. And the sky turned as black as sack-cloth.
"Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb"
And so it came to pass that one of the funniest half-hours of television ever conceived winked out of existence, leaving only three DVD sets and a fond memories in its wake. Season three of Arrested Development, for my money the funniest sitcom ever, has landed and if you had a modicum of gray matter swirling in your skull you would buy it—along with any other season you have yet to purchase.
Facts of the Case
Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, Dodgeball) has just learned that his Uncle Oscar has been falsely imprisoned and that his father George (Jeffrey Tambor) put him there. So he embarks on a mission to track down his escaped felon father. His trip takes him to Reno, where he runs into his estranged brother-in-law Tobias (David Cross), nursing his broken heart that resulted from the separation with his superficial wife Lindsey (Portia de Rossi). Back at the homefront, Michael's mother and the cynical matron of the Bluth clan, Lucille (Jessica Walter) is tripping out, driving one-handed seal-attack-victim Buster (Tony Hale) crazier than ever. Michael's son George Michael (Michale Cera) feels the sting of parental disappointment when a trip to the cabin is cut short, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) continues to fake it as a studio executive and GOB (Will Arnett) is stunned to discover he has a long lost son.
This all sets the table for a season fraught with betrayal, magic tricks gone awry, malfunctioning Japanese jet packs, a rare hair plug disorder, a gorgeous British girl hiding a secret, Justine Bateman and Scott Baio's triumphant return to broadcast television, dead turtles, fake comas, a Christian magic show in Baghdad, and the final, shocking revelation of who was behind the Bluth hardships from the beginning.
That's it. No more Arrested Development. And all the children cried and cried. After three years of low ratings, schedule bounces, critical acclaim, and "Save Our Show!" petitions, the Fox network ignominiously laid the show to rest. Actually, I'll retract the word "ignominiously;" that's too harsh. I will give credit to Fox for a) running with a risky show to begin with and b) sticking with it—as unevenly as they may have—for three seasons. So, maybe "laid the show to rest in undeserving fashion."
When season three premiered, the Bluths made their home on Monday nights, moved from their usual Sunday timeslot. Unfortunately, the time shift did little to boost its ratings, as the viewership actually declined. This sealed the show's fate, setting it on a path of swirling unknowns and frantic pleas by fans. After sporadic airings, Arrested Development delivered its swan song on February 10, in a two-hour block on Friday night. Rumors of a pick-up by other networks, most notable Showtime and ABC evaporated in the void of cyberspace and when showrunner Mitch Hurwitz publicly declared his separation form the world of the Bluths, the last nail was officially driven into the show's coffin.
A lamentable saga, for sure, but let us not consume ourselves with grief in this eulogy. Instead, let's talk about this season, yet another colon-cleansingly hilarious collection of insane, ridiculous, bawdy awesomeness. While the first season, to me, stills stands as the pinnacle of the show's greatness, make no mistake: this season, like the season before it, is superb comedy. It is millions of light years ahead of any half-baked sitcom-of-the-week you'll find on other networks, and the only recent show that can maybe carry AD's jock is Curb Your Enthusiasm. Both of those shows are similar to each other, utilizing single camera filming, zero laugh track, and overblown plotlines. But where Curb adopts a slow-burn-to-a-big-payoff comic formula, AD is littered with laugh-out-loud moments.
This show demands to be watched over and over, as jokes are so fast and fierce, a once-over will not pick up the delicious nuggets Hurwitz and crew have lodged in the episodes. This season struck me as even more frantic than prior seasons, as if the writers sensed impending doom and hustled to cram as many of their ideas in as possible. While this lends to a hectic pace in the storytelling, you will no doubt be laughing too hard to notice.
And about that storytelling. Wow, was the writer's stable hopped up on some controlled substance or what. Among the plotlines: Michael hires a hooker to manage the Bluth office, Gob encourages his puppet Franklin to take the witness stand (wearing a sign that says "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black Puppets"), George Michael wears a jet pack and battles his Uncle Tobias (who's dressed like a mole), the Bluths go on a fake courtroom show hosted by Judge Reinhold and William Hwang, and, well, it gets weirder than that. Said zaniness is executed to perfection by the cast, which establishes itself as one of the greatest comedy ensembles ever in TV sitcom-land.
Look, just go buy the @#$%&*$# DVDs.
Fox delivers another swell set. Episodes receive a crisp 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer, supported by an effective 2.0 stereo mix. The extras lack compared to previous release. The cast's (minus Jeffrey Tambor, who does make an appearance through an impromptu phone call) raucous, but very funny commentaries on episodes "Forget me Now," "Mr F," and "Development Arrested" are the highlights. A handful of deleted/extended scenes, an adults-only blooper reel and a brief "Last Day on Location" featurette top off the offering.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Season 3 is stuffed sideways with inside jokes. As an obvious nod to fans and committed viewers, these gags will appeal to the devotees, but newbies will likely be in the dark. Well, guess what—quit your whining. Go buy the first two season and join the enlightened.
Funny and great and funny. Go. Buy. Be happy.
Not guilty. R.I.P.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentaries on Selected Episodes
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