Thursday, March 03, 2005

Arrested Development

From the moment you hear Ron Howard's narration and the seemingly familiar music composed by David Scwartz (maybe best known for scoring Northern Exposure) you know this is a different show. Not just an updated version of some classic concept, but something truly different.

Created by Mitchell Hurwitz, Arrested Development chronicles the life of the Bluth family following the arrest of their patriarch, George Bluth, at his own retirement party. Middle son Michael ( Jason Bateman) is forced to stick around longer than he'd wanted following the events and attempt to rebuild the company that his father all but ruined with shady practices. Then there's the rest of the family; son George Michael (Michael Cera), who comes to have a crush on his cousin Maeby and runs the family's frozen bannana stand trying to win his father's approval and prove his love; twin sister Lindsay (Potia de Rossi), husband Tobias (David Cross) and daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat) come to town for George's retirement only to wind up staying indefinitely due to lack of funds; oldest child Gob (pronounced "Job" and played by Will Arnett) is a magician who can never seem to get his act together; youngest child Buster (Tony Hale) is the typical mother's boy, never seemed to get away from the nest and live his own life; finally there's the mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter) who manipulates her children as if they were nothing, never above lying and cheating to get what she wants and always knows more than she lets on. They're spoiled brats (except for Michael and George Michael, but even they have their moments) who are oblivious to anything outside their immediate world and will do anything to avoid actually doing something with their lives. They (again, possible exception for Michael and son) are the worst the human race has to offer, and it's hilarious.

The show is cast brilliantly, each character is fully fleshed out by the actors, they are all able to play off eachother as if they've been working together for years, though the show is only halfway through its second season. The writing is unique, it feels very much like improv (some of it likely is), the dialogue is very down to earth, nothing ever feels like its there to justmove the story. Most of the jokes are written in a bizarre manner, you often get the punchline before the set-up, working backwards from the standard sitcom format, which works suprisingly well. It also doesn't have a laugh track or a studio audience, prefering to let the dry wit linger in the air as long as possible, almost saying if you don't get the joke that's your problem. It's filmed in a documentary style, with hand held camera's, also groundbreaking for a US Network (read: non-cable) TV sitcom, which lends a tremendous amount of style to the show.

Jason Bateman has finally found a role that brings out the talent he's always had. David Cross' scenes are almost always awkward to the point of hilarity. Jeffrey Tambor plays George like no one else could, he's playing Marlon Brando in the Godfather as an idiot. Somone who tries his best to get ahead through wrong doing and fails miserably at every turn. Will Arnett is probably the most likeable of this group of unlikable miscreants you can't help but like. His over-the-top antics (often used to try and get the love of his family, especially Dad) are almost always the highlights of each show. The list can go on, but I've bored everyone enough I suppose.

Arrested Development is that rare gem, the perfect marriage of acting, writing, directing, editing, music and style. Not since Seinfeld has a show been so perfect. And with Jerry's crew it took almost halfway through the first season before things fell into place, it's there from Day 1 on this show. It's perfect comedy in every sense of the word, and if you aren't watching it maybe the joke's on you.

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