“Arrested Development”: Third Season’s a Charm

The cast of Arrested Development

The critically-acclaimed television show Arrested Development, which premiered in 2003 on the Fox Network, is quaintly described in Ron Howard’s introductory voice over as, “The story of a wealthy family, who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.”

But it’s really a post-Enron Soap, with a large cast of oddball family members taking irreverent potshots at one another, the upper-class, and at the monolithic notion of family.

The clan is held together by Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the most functional member of a whacked out wealthy family that is thrown into economic crisis when their father, George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is sent to prison by the SEC for fraud. George’s imprisonment brings the Bluth family gravy train to a screeching halt, and Michael must curb his family’s outrageous spending habits while raising his own teenage son, George Michael (Michael Cera) to be a hard-working, law-abiding citizen.

Battling Michael every step of the way are his manipulative socialite mother, Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), older brother and “illusionist” (aka magician) G.O.B (Will Arnett), his mother-loving younger brother Buster (Tony Hale), and Michael’s narcissistic twin-sister Lindsay (out lesbian actress Portia de Rossi).

Lindsay has a family of her own, her husband and wannabe actor, Tobias Funke (David Cross), and their teenage daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat)–the object of cousin George Michael’s burning desire. When the family business goes belly-up, Michael and his siblings must live together in one of the poorly-constructed model homes built by the Bluth Company in planned community, Sudden Valley.

To say there’s nothing else like it on television is an understatement. How many comedies have you seen make a running joke out of an Oedipus complex?

LUCILLE: You know I always get this way around Motherboy.
MICHAEL: Oh, God, it’s Motherboy time already?
LUCILLE: Normally, I’d go with Buster but he doesn’t want to go. But with you, I think I’ve got a shot.
MICHAEL: Buster, for the first time ever, doesn’t want to do this?
NARRATOR: [voice over] Motherboy was the name of an annual dance promoting mother-son bonding. Lucille has gone with Buster over 30 times, and on many occasions, won cutest couple. But as one entered sexual maturity and the other one left it, it became increasingly difficult.
[Cut to a flashback of a previous Motherboy dance. Buster and Lucille are being photographed as a couple.]
LUCILLE: I’m so hot.
BUSTER: If you were hot, mother, we would win!

In it’s first year, Arrested Development was nominated for seven Emmys and won five (including Outstanding Comedy Series ) and Bateman won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor In A Comedy Series in 2005. In its second season, the show has been nominated for 11 Emmys, including acting nominations for Bateman, Walter, and Tambor (the only win for the show at the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards was for best writing).

The show is driven by smart, strange writing (think Christopher Guest’s Best in Show), and acted with the sort of mischievous lunacy you find on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show.

Unfortunately, Arrested Development is the funniest program on television that no one has been watching. “The academy has twice rewarded us for something you people won’t watch,” creator Mitchell Hurwitz quipped to the TV audience during his Emmy acceptance speech last night.

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