Arrested Development: Season One

"Essential"

Arrested Development: Season One Review


Arrested Development is the defining television comedy of the decade. Its influence can be traced through several of the more popular network comedies that debuted since its sad, premature cancellation, most specifically shows like The Office, My Name is Earl, and especially 30 Rock. Created by the now-cult comedy legend Mitch Hurwitz, the show completely redefined what a "sitcom" could and should be -- shot on a single handheld camera, written as a quasi-documentary with a deadpan narrator (a fabulously matter-of-fact Ron Howard), focusing on a family that is barely likable, and telling stories so ridiculous they strain credibility. Yet the show is oddly endearing -- these characters are so fully actualized and the writing so brilliant that every element of the show works seamlessly.

The series made such a mockery of the traditional, homogenized three-camera sitcom with cheap sets and canned laughter, to the point that very few of them even exist anymore. Most TV comedies now chase after the off-the-wall genius of Arrested Development, with its sly, easy-to-miss references to every aspect of current pop culture, and its uncanny knack for testing the devotion (and the memory banks) of its viewers with severely high-risk inside jokes. The show was a bold concept, a sharply radical turn from the ordinary, and the funniest damn program to appear on television before or since its three-season run.

Arrested's inaugural, Emmy-winning season sets the stage for these delirious oddballs from the moment the pilot begins. Michael (Jason Bateman) is the family's only well-adjusted member, a widower raising a teenage son on his own, and a good man who values strong work ethics and anxiously awaits taking over the Bluth family business, a conglomerate that has made the family famous simply for being rich and powerful. As season one opens, Michael is prepared to take over the company from his retiring father, George (Jeffrey Tambor), and starting a new life with his 13-year-old son, George Michael (Michael Cera, in the vehicle that foisted his comic genius onto the masses). But Michael's goodwill is seemingly betrayed when George hands the company over to his wife, Lucille (Jessica Walter), the classic drunken-buffoon socialite. The loyal son is shocked, but this betrayal is merely the tip of the iceberg; George is promptly arrested for fraud and embezzlement, leaving the family's assets frozen and the company in complete shambles. It falls on Michael, as essentially the only sentient member of the ridiculous Bluth clan, to keep his family together and somehow keep the company afloat.

The Bluth family is probably the most hysterically dysfunctional ever to hit the screen. Eldest brother G.O.B. (the brilliant Will Arnett) is a horrible wannabe magician and unmitigated idiot. Lindsay (Portia De Rossi), Michael's twin sister, is a shallow would-be activist who takes up causes with names like "Neuterfest" and "HOOP: Hands Off Our Penises," and who married former psychiatrist Tobias Funke (David Cross), whose homosexuality is obvious to everyone but himself. Youngest brother Buster (Tony Hale) has been sheltered to the point that he can barely function in the real world. The shy, nervous George Michael finds himself developing uncomfortable feelings for his cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), whose only interest in the poor sap is as a co-conspirator in various acts of rebellion. Even Michael is crippled -- by his own loyalty. One of the season's best running jokes is how Michael is constantly leaving to "start a new life" with his son, only to quickly turn around and pick up right where he left off.

In many ways, the show revolutionized the style and the attention span of typical sitcom writing. While a show like Seinfeld brilliantly utilized bitter irony as its framing device in nearly every episode, not until Arrested Development did a sitcom develop such a rich base of insider references and weave them into episodes at random. Unlikely comic elements like the family's Frozen Banana Stand, George Michael's incestuous crush, and G.O.B.'s disbarment from a supercilious Magician Alliance are frequent targets that never cease to hit the funny bone, and oftentimes the crafty ways Hurwitz and his writers create laughs are just as funny as the laughs themselves.

The sublime brilliance and unending hilarity of Arrested Development is almost too nebulous to adequately describe in words. While many fans (including yours truly) have mourned its early demise, just this remarkable first season is enough to stand on its own as a comedy classic. Season two never missed a beat, and season three wrapped up the series with the same level of iconoclastic wit, but season one stands, in many ways, as the series' best. In 22 short episodes, Arrested Development left an indelible imprint on the comedy landscape that will last for decades to come.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Producer: Victor Hsu

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.