Weekly Binge: Arrested Development
Arrested Development was doing that whole 'get cancelled by a network and then come back on Netflix' thing before it was cool. And if you have no idea what's hidden in the banana stand, how to pronounce "Gob," why a loose seal is dangerous, or what an analrapist does for a living, then you're long overdue to binge Arrested Development, "the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together."
What's the premise? After patriarch George Bluth goes to jail for fraud, his adult son Michael moves the Bluth clan into a model home on a construction site, hoping to salvage the family business and keep the peace among his ne'er-do-well relatives.
What's it like? Think Dynasty meets Family Guy. With rapid-fire jokes (you might need to watch this show a couple times to catch them all), funny flashbacks, dirty entendres, and absurdly dysfunctional characters, Arrested Development's multi-generational meta-sitcom pokes fun at everything -- especially itself. Executive producer Ron Howard performs double duty as the show's all-knowing narrator, giving the show a folksy, yarn-spinning feel a la The Wonder Years, simultaneously calling attention to how much Arrested Development is not Happy Days. The dichotomy of children acting like adults and adults acting like children echoes the dynamic of Lisa and Homer Simpson, while the complexity of the plot evokes some of Larry David's most satisfying episodes of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Where can I see it? All four seasons are available on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and iTunes, Netflix, and DVD as well.
How long will it take? Arrested Development is four seasons for a total of 68 episodes. In true sitcom style, each installment of the show runs 22 minutes, making your binge about 25 hours. You could do that all at once, right? If not, try watching four a day to be done in under three weeks.
What do the critics think? Arrested Development is one of those shows that people love to recommend to their friends -- including the critics. During season one, Charlie Brooker of The Guardian wrote, "It's so good I'm going to shut up about it now -- just make sure you tune in and get hooked." Jesse Hassenger of PopMatters echoed this sentiment in season two, saying "Writing -- nay, thinking -- about Arrested fosters in me two unproductive urges: to describe how hilarious the show is, and to beg people to watch it." Even season four, which came to Netflix long after the spell of Arrested Development had lifted, is Certified Fresh at 78 percent on the Tomatometer. AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff wrote of the Netflix revival, "Though this fourth season is rough in places, it's also unquestionably an important and ground-breaking piece of TV."
Why should I watch this? If for no other reason, watch Arrested Development to open your life up to a whole new world of novelty t-shirts. An assault of wordplay, long-running bits, sight gags, and quotable moments, Arrested Development feels like being a part of the world's greatest inside joke. It's the show that launched 1,000 gifs, and yet the endearing relationship between Michael (Jason Bateman) and his son George Michael (Michael Cera), keeps Arrested Development grounded in reality. Meanwhile, whether it's David Cross as the sexually ambiguous Tobias Funke, Portia de Rossi as his self-obsessed wife, Will Arnett as the part-time magician GOB (pronounced like the Biblical "Job"), Tony Hale as the Oedipal and delicate Buster, Alia Shawkat as the wise-beyond-her-years Maeby, or any other member of the ensemble, you're bound to have a favorite character. And then there's Liza Minnelli.
What's my next step? If you enjoy the lightning pace of Arrested Development, you should try HBO's Veep, which co-stars Tony Hale in a slightly dialed-down version of Buster as Gary, Julia Louis-Dreyfus's "bagman." Similarly, Tina Fey's 30 Rock is an unrelenting and hilarious series of gags with broad characters who never break type. Fans of Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) might enjoy her similar character in the FX cartoon Archer, a barrage of running jokes and verbal misdirection. Also, the British/American co-production The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret reunites Will Arnett and David Cross in a little-known cringe comedy. For self-referential TV shows, try Community, Family Guy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and the now-obscure Soap, a soap opera parody which ran from 1977 to 1981.
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