First off, this is not an endorsement for the southern, smarty-pants rap outfit famous for “Mr. Wendal” from the early 1990s. This is, instead a ringing recommendation for you to watch the sharpest, smartest and most unconventional sitcom not on HBO – “Arrested Development.”
Like most sitcoms, “Arrested Development” is about a family, the Bluths. However, unlike most sitcoms “Arrested Development” has no audience laugh track, no wacky neighbors, no cute kids and no fat guy with a hot wife (aka the CBS network’s sitcom blueprint). It is much smarter and weirder than that and for some that makes “Arrested Development” perhaps unapproachable. For others that appreciate non-mainstream territory, this show is for you!
What’s it all about?
The Bluths are a wealthy Southern California brood that has their assets currently frozen as Dad, George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) sits in jail for a host of Enron-like scams. His wife, the self-absorbed Bluth matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter) is just a tad more motherly than “Dynasty’s” Joan Collins.
Their grown kids are essentially a mess: George II or “Gob” as he is called (Will Arnett), is a jobless, wannabe ladies man and magician; Primadonna daughter Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) is in-training to one day become her vapid mother; Baby brother, Byron “Buster” Bluth (Tony Hale) is a quivering hypochondriac with multiple hang-ups who still lives at home despite being at least 30.
That leaves the one bright spot and sane member of the Bluth family, the middle son Michael (Jason Bateman), a widower father of a teenage son himself, who must maintain the family business and be the straight man in a family of crack-ups.
Despite fairly low ratings, Fox has renewed “Arrested Development” and will slot it just after “The Simpsons” on Sunday nights. That should bring new viewers as will the high level of buzz currently about. After receiving massive critical praise, it managed to capture five Emmys including Best Writing and Outstanding Comedy (beating “Sex and the City,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and was awarded the hefty TV Land “Future Classic” designation in its first season. These accolades award the sharp writing, dead-on perfect performances and departure from normal TV.
Don’t worry about being fully caught up on the storyline. Fox needs to attract new eyeballs and will make it easy for them to jump onto the show. The first season, however, is available DVD and highly recommended. It has all 22 episodes plus the never-aired pilot, show commentaries, an inside look by Ron Howard, and the TV Land featurette on “The Making of a Future TV Classic” amongst its many extras.
Here are a few highlights from the Bluth family saga last season:
– Lindsay’s marred marriage to struggling actor and former psychiatrist Tobias (David Cross) with whom she has not had a physical relationship in years. Also her tendency to shoplift, wonderment at why the inmates at her Father’s prison don’t hoot and howl when she visits and her lack of common sense in raising her daughter and future bitch-on-wheels, Maeby, pronounced “maybe” (Alia Shawkat).
– Beyond his continued Oedipal complex with Mom Lucille, Buster moved out, found nearsighted love in the form of Liza Minelli, who played a socialite friend of Lucille’s, and fought against a Korean exchange student brother that Lucille forgot she adopted in a rage one night at dinner when Buster would not finish his cottage cheese.
- The good son, Michael tries to reign in the other Bluth nutcases as he attempts to forge a new life. He dates a blind attorney (Julia Louis Dreyfus), fights with Gob over a beautiful Latin soap star and tries to crush his son’s crush on cousin Maeby as well as their tradition of bringing him to “Bring Your Daughter To Work Day.”
- While in prison, George Sr. finally has heart-to-hearts with his dysfunctional kids. But we learn that he is involved in more scandals such as building faulty homes in Iraq. He managed to escape in last season’s finale and is now on the run.