Newest Review: ... manages to get her own way. George Oscar Bluth II "Gob" [pronounced Jobe] (Will Arnett) - described as a "magician (part... more
Emmy Award winning comedy
Arrested Development - Season 1 (DVD)
Member Name: CleoCat2007
Arrested Development - Season 1 (DVD)
Advantages: Witty, original - will make you feel better about the oddball members of your own family!
Disadvantages: Pilot and extended pilot both included which is repetitive
Clueless, self-absorbed, delusional or just plain weird? Yep, this is family life!
Created by Mitchell Hurwitz, this excellent sitcom was consistently critically acclaimed and won 5 Emmy Awards in 2004 (Wikipedia). Hurwitz was chosen by Ron Howard to "create a sitcom about a rich dysfunctional family" (Wikipedia) and the result is a quirky, clever and hilarious take on parenting, family and materialism, set in Orange County, California. Despite looking at wealth and what happens when you lose it, this is not the usual glamorous take on the stereotypical Californian lifestyle - there are very few pools, beaches or bikinis involved! Neither is it a fashion show, despite including amongst its cast the gorgeous Portia de Rossi. So if you're looking for glittering escapism this isn't the show for you - but it is excellent comedy that will have you laughing your socks off.
** "Now the story about a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together." **
When we first meet the Bluth family they are having a party on their yacht to celebrate the retirement of father George Snr from the family business. Things fall apart when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) boards the yacht and arrests George Snr for defrauding investors and using the company as his personal piggy bank. The family subsequently has its assets frozen and the company expense account closed. How will they cope now they have no money? It is clear that of the four Bluth children Michael is the only one who has any useful skills and who can stand on his own two feet, so it falls to him to look after his crazy family as his father awaits trial.
** "...he's decided never to speak to these people again" **
Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) - when we meet Michael he is the Manager of the Bluth Company and is hoping to be made a Partner in the firm. A widower with one son, he is a family man who prides himself on his hard work and dedication to the family business. Always hoping to win his father's approval, Michael has no idea of the corruption within the family firm.
George Snr (Jeffrey Tambor) - father to Michael, Gob, Lindsay and Buster, husband to Lucille, George Snr is an alpha male and a dominating personality. Despite losing everything when he is arrested by the SEC, George Snr claims he is doing "the time of his life" in prison and quickly fits in with his fellow inmates including T-bone the "flamer" and White Power Bill. He continues to dominate the family from behind bars.
Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter) - described as a "socialite", Lucille is well-groomed, discontented and spoilt. Played superbly by Jessica Walter whose comic timing and delivery are second to none, Lucille is consistently horrible to all of her children to great comic effect. Sustained by vodka and determined to maintain her lifestyle against the odds, Lucille manipulates the family members and usually manages to get her own way.
George Oscar Bluth II "Gob" [pronounced Jobe] (Will Arnett) - described as a "magician (part-time)", Gob is Michael's sleazy older brother who has no skills whatsoever, as even his magic act is a disaster. Will Arnett perfectly captures both Gob's self-centred delusions but also his desperate need for his father's approval.
Lindsay Funke (Portia de Rossi) - never having worked a day in her life, Lindsay thinks of herself as an "activist", although the cheese and wine parties are more important to her than whatever cause she has latched onto at the time. Lindsay is Michael's twin sister and is glamorous and clueless with an underlying insecurity fostered by her Mother. Whether it is fundraising for the Wetlands ("to do what to them?" "dry them?"), protesting the removal of a tree or deciding that this week she doesn't wear fur, Lindsay's primary objective is attention for herself and the complete avoidance of work.
Tobias Funke (David Cross) - a psychiatrist whom Lindsay married "in a youthful act of defiance". He recently lost his medical licence so is hoping the "universe will show a path" for him. Tobias' character injects a note of pathos into the show, but David Cross also gives a fantastically physical performance which could have descended into pantomime if played by a less gifted actor. Clearly in denial about his sexuality, Tobias will have you watching through your fingers as you cringe at his behaviour and well-meaning gestures.
Byron "Buster" Bluth (Tony Hale) - supposedly a "graduate student", Buster is Michael's child-like younger brother who has no social awareness and has never left his Mother's side despite being an adult in his thirties. A nervous and anxious man, there is no suggestion that Buster is mentally ill or that he has learning difficulties - it is simply that he has been coddled his whole life by Lucille. Tony Hale does an excellent job of portraying a child in a man's body, as we see Buster spend a few days in the office with Michael only to ask if they're "blowing straight through nap time" whilst in a business meeting.
George Michael (Michael Cera) - Michael's earnest and serious teenage son. Brought up to appreciate a hard day's work and to reject the idle lifestyles of his aunts and uncles, George Michael is inevitably drawn towards the more "fun" members of the family as they all spend more time together. Michael Cera is a superb "straight man" enabling the comedy around him, as he displays George Michael's constant confusion at the antics and inconsistencies of the people in his life.
Mae "Maeby" Funke (Alia Shawkat) - ignored for the most part by her self-absorbed parents, Tobias and Lindsay, Maeby has "always found unique ways to rebel". A budding con artist with a mischievous streak, she is the perfect antidote to George Michael's hard work and dedication. Under no illusions about her parents or their marriage, Maeby tries to use the family's troubles to her advantage, getting away with as much as possible with George Michael as her devoted sidekick.
** "It's family first" **
At the start, we find Michael and George Michael camping in the attic of an unfinished model home, a metaphor for the fašade of their family's lifestyle. The family spends little time together, the Funkes have been living away, but they are all thrown together by the end of the pilot episode.
The main locations are the model home, Lucille's apartment, the office, the frozen banana stand (an offshoot of the family business) and the family yacht on which Gob lives.
Season 1 is the story of Michael running the company in his father's stead and dealing with the family's legal issues, whilst simultaneously trying to limit the self-destructive or downright daft antics of his parents and siblings. We see George Michael failing to cope with his crush on his cousin Maeby, Tobias trying to launch a new career as an actor, George Snr getting accustomed to life in jail and Lucille doing everything she can to mitigate the loss of her income. Gob is constantly trying (and failing) to prove himself and Lindsay bounces from one cause to another whilst dealing with the increasingly obvious homosexuality of her husband. Finally we have Buster, who makes half-hearted attempts to prize himself away from his mother's apron strings, including an ill-advised relationship with her best friend played beautifully by guest star Liza Minnelli.
It may sound like a therapist's case book but the writing is superb, and the comedy comes from both well-observed characters and fantastic quirks such as Michael having to drive around in the "stair car" as it's the only thing left of the family's private jet. We also see the family's hopeless lawyer Barry, played by guest star Henry Winkler, who was clearly employed because he would turn a blind eye to corruption and who is now having to navigate George Snr's case which is totally beyond him.
The show is brilliantly narrated by Executive Producer Ron Howard, and the narration helps the audience to follow the zany action and character motivations, as a fair bit of the plot could be described as "off the wall". Having a narrator means that the writers can jump around from the present to the past, and it helps to keep the action moving at an excellent pace. Each episode ends with Ron Howard previewing what to expect "on the next Arrested Development" but these clips are usually extended jokes or extra scenes and rarely actually appear in the next episode - it's just another way for the writers to fit more in and to end with a few extra laughs.
"It's Royal Tenenbaums shot like Cops" **
* Audio commentary on the extended pilot by Mitchell Hurwitz, directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, and Jason Bateman. They reveal that the script was originally seen as being too ambitious to be shot; Mitchell and Ron wanted to break the mould of the traditional comedy. The style was influenced by reality TV, and is seen as a "documentary" approach. Really interesting commentary, not the usual self-indulgent conversation between actors sharing in-jokes.
* "Breaking Ground: Behind the Scenes of 'Arrested Development'" featurette. We hear from Mitchell Hurwitz, Ron Howard, and all of the central actors plus some senior members of the crew. Some interesting notes and inside information, it's what you want from a "making of" featurette as you hear from everyone rather than just a few people.
* Original songs by David Schwartz. 28 short songs by the show's composer, audio only.
* Deleted/extended scenes. Some good stuff, but no character development we don't see elsewhere.
* Audio commentary on the "Beef Consomme" episode by Mitchell Hurwitz, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross. Slow to start, not as good as the commentary on Disc 1, but nice to hear how they all get on together. Little bit self-indulgent, we don't really learn much that's new.
* The Museum of Television and Radio cast panel discussion. Interesting, some new stuff we haven't heard in the other extra features.
* Deleted/extended scenes. Nothing particularly good.
* Audio commentary on the "Let Them Eat Cake" episode by Mitchell Hurwitz, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross. They seem more at ease with doing the commentary than they did on Disc 2. Again, we don't really learn much that's new but they sound like they're having fun!
* Ron Howard's inside look at "Arrested Development". Ron talks (very briefly) about where the show can go from here.
* "'Arrested Development'" The Making of a Future Classic" TV Land featurette. Funny and entertaining, some particularly good moments from Michael Cera who is a natural comedian. Quite brief though.
* "TV Land Awards: The Future Classic Award" featurette. Liza Minnelli presents the award to the cast.
* Deleted/extended scenes. Couple of good bits that are worth a look.
* Promo spot. A Fox promo for the show, which demonstrates how badly Fox promoted it and how little it was understood by people at that company.
** "We gotta hurry coz these are gonna get all snapped up" **
The box set comes with a pull-out episode summary list, and the DVD opens with a brief intro from Ron Howard. There is an extended pilot as well as the pilot, which seems a little pointless, and is annoying as hitting "play all" will play them both which is repetitive. Just having the extended pilot available would have been better.
Summary: A superbly written comedy, brilliantly performed
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