Your Next Box Set: Arrested Development
What is it?
First airing on the FOX network in 2003, Arrested Development is a sitcom following the lives of the wealthy but dysfunctional Bluth family. Originally conceived by director Ron Howard, who wanted to create a sitcom in the style of a reality TV show / documentary, the concept for the family was created by writer Mitchell Hurwitz. In the wake of the Enron scandal, Hurwitz had the idea of a family that went from riches to rags. Howard liked the idea, so he and Hurwitz served as executive producers on the show, with Hurwitz as the main writer, while Howard himself provides the show’s narration.
Who’s in it?
Well, it boasts quite a star-studded cast as it happens. Jeffrey Tambor plays George Sr., patriarch of the family and founder of the Bluth Company, which builds and sells mansions. While he may be head of the family tree, he is also incarcerated on charges of embezzlement following a scheme to build houses in Iraq for Saddam Hussein, so it is Jason Bateman’s character, Michael, who serves as the show’s main protagonist and assumes control of the company while his father is in prison.
Michael is the second oldest of the Bluth offspring after his older brother Gob (pronounced ‘Jobe’ and standing for George Oscar Bluth), played by Will Arnett. Portia de Rossi plays Michael’s ‘twin’ sister Lindsay, with the runt of the litter, Buster, being played by Tony Hale.
Is that it?
Not quite. The show also stars Michael Cera as Michael’s son, George Michael, and Liza Minnelli also features regularly as Lucile, Buster’s sometime love interest and a social rival of George senior’s wife Lucile, played by Jessica Walter. The other main character is Tobias Fünke: husband of Lindsay (who married him out of rebellion and little else) and aspiring-but-failing actor, played David Cross. Oh, and Henry Winkler makes regular appearances as the family’s inept lawyer.
Why should I revisit?
Arrested Development was the first American sitcom to use the single-camera, ‘reality’ format (perhaps inspired by the success of UK series The Office), which has since been emulated by numerous acclaimed shows such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Parks and Recreation. Aside from being a pioneering show in this sense, the writing is excellent and the characters are brilliantly dysfunctional. Michael is the most ‘normal’ of the bunch, but is more than compensated for by older brother Gob whose career as magician repeatedly stalls thanks to a combination of selfishness and stupidity. Lindsay spends most of her time openly soliciting men for sex – even when husband Tobias is present, who either does not notice or thinks she is play-acting – while the over-mothered Buster is perhaps the star of the show, with his childlike ineptitude for…well…everything really.
If it’s so great, why isn’t it on TV any more?
Good question. While receiving almost universal acclaim from critics, the show never performed well for FOX in the ratings and suffered repeatedly from reductions in episode numbers and changes in timeslot, with the network eventually calling it a day after Season 3, back in 2006. However, the show is now being given a new lease of life courtesy of Netflix, who this year ran Season 4 on their online streaming service, with a DVD release in the UK rumoured for next year. So start catching up now, and you’ll be done in time for the release of Season 4, by which time you will be thoroughly addicted.