A week ago, the Fox network played out the last new network episodes of three seasons of Arrested Development. For my money, the show had obviously imploded creatively. It started out pretty strong, but it turned out to be, as my hero would say, a brilliant mistake. Ah well.
The show was given great, incredibly adoring press, and ultimately several seasons to develop, but it just flat wasn’t going over with the general public. Now, the fan base of the show is understandably disappointed that their show never caught on, but some of those people seem a bit stuck on their sense of superiority.
Judging by AD fan comments on my review of their finale, many fans of the show cite its failure as evidence of public stupidity. Anyone who doesn’t see that Arrested Development was pure artistic genius must be a Skating With Celebrities or Everybody Loves Raymond-watching retard. Heck, even the Simpsons are hardly in a league with this achievement.
I have an alternate theory: people – including the smart end of the public audience – hated the Bluth family, and didn’t wish to spend time with them. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that anyone would do so, but some fans of the show obviously identify personally with the Bluth family. They seem to take the failure of the show as a personal affront from all the big stupidheads out in TV land that don’t appreciate the (extremely overhyped) supposed brilliance of the show.
For one thing, a lot of them seem to think that getting the convoluted show biz in-jokes that others don’t makes them some kind of Hollywood insiders. But getting the gag about having Henry Winkler playing jump-the-shark in invocation of his infamous Happy Days incident makes you a Hollywood insider in about the same pathetic way in which Tobias was an “actor.”
Still, the series did start out pretty good, and a LOT worse stuff has been a big hit. Plus, audiences aren’t that stupid. Even a fairly dark, quirky family sitcom such as Malcolm in the Middle has done quite well on the same network in the same era. Plus, of course, there’s always The Simpsons.
Now, these shows are not just beacons of bliss, and these are not entirely admirable characters. You might have to think a bit to see the good points of Homer, let alone Reese or Nelson Muntz.
But the Bluth family was just pretty nearly wholly despicable. There’s very little nice to say about most of these characters. Okay, let’s leave the kids out of it. George Michael and Maeby weren’t so bad.
But nearly everything about the adult members of this family was rancid and contemptible – with very little sweetening to make them a palatable continuing presence in your living room. Basically, the Bluths are Enron incarnate, ruthless and worthless rich thieves that cared little about anyone else, and didn’t care who they hurt. That was the whole premise underlying the show, and the principle storyline of the patriarch’s ongoing prosecution for corporate fraud.
Make that corporate fraud and TREASON. Ha, ha, ha. What a lovable old treasonous bastard. George Bluth, Sr. was specifically cleared of legal charges of treason in the finale, but ONLY legally. That he was not in fact colluding with the Hussein regime was purely accidental on his part. Also, it was hi-lar-ious that they were actually trying a Saddam look-alike, and the real one was running free. But I digress.
In addition to being crooked, they’re a ridiculously weak crew. There was some disgustingly pathetic neediness coming out of some of these characters that could get real old with a quickness. You might want to be a bit sympathetic to Buster on the grounds that he wasn’t so purely crooked as other family members, but by the post-seal period, shut up with it. By the time of the closing episodes with the fake coma, I’m ready to put him down for a mercy killing.
But for disgustingly weak and unappetizing, Buster had nothing on Gob or Tobias. These were both pretty loathsome personalities. Perhaps some folks would start to find Tobias’ whole “never nude” persona simply repulsive.
Worst of all, these characters – particularly the matriarch Lucille – were distinctly malicious. They didn’t just not care who they hurt in getting their money, but routinely gravitated to taking distinct active pleasure in the suffering of others – especially their own. Consider for example Lucille Bluth in the final episodes renting out the not-really-comatose son for medical experiments.
When the writing was at its peak, a broad minded viewer might overlook the repugnance of the characters to see the joke. But as we spent more time with the characters, and the writing started to come apart, the innate distastefulness of the characters did the whole thing in for being a watchable TV show – particularly the incest theme. It eventually devolved into the aristocrats joke week after week after week.
Ultimately, the Bluths were basically a liberal sendup of Enron America. I don’t know what kind of people would identify with such a crew, but I’m glad they’re not MY neighbors. They would represent a pretty fair version of some of the worst things the most fanatic Muslims would like to accuse US of.
Hey, if I thought the Bluth family was anything like representative of America, I’d vote to turn the keys over to Bin Laden. They richly deserve him.