30 Day Television Challenge: Day Eighteen

Best cast: Arrested Development

To say Arrested Development is one of the best sitcoms television has ever seen is beating a dead horse.

It’s exciting that a fourth is being developed by Netflix. Not just because it means more Arrested Development, but also because of its new format. All 10-13 episodes will be aired simultaneously, which means we’ll be able to watch the new season the way Arrested Development is meant to be watched, in a large dosages.

I would argue the DVD format is the reason Arrested Development eventually found mainstream success. Arrested Development is not suited for the traditional one episode per-week format of network television. Characters and narratives are developed through the series’ extensive use of cutaway gags, which creates a unique self-referentiality that gives Arrested Development its signature style. This self-referentiality is a kind of holism whose rhythm cannot be captured adequately by the traditional television format.

Having the ability to watch multiple episodes in one sitting allows viewers to better appreciate the flow of the show. Much like The Wire, Arrested Development is a visual novel that is best appreciated in extended sittings.

I believe the new format of the fourth season is going to be a game-changer for television series. People want to watch television the same way they watch movies and read books, at their own leisure and not dictated by network schedules. No wonder the industry hates Netflix, it actually gives the consumer what s/he wants (*gasp*).

Aside from all that, what really excites me about the new season is being reunited with my favorite dysfunctional family, the Bluths.

Arrested Development is so engrossing because it is a show about family, and the viewer is very much a part of the Bluth family. The camera work, cinematography, cutaways, and flashbacks give it a documentary/reality TV vibe to it, drawing the viewer in, making the viewer another member of the family.

The show centers around Michael Bluth, the cast’s straight man. He is the Bluths’ surrogate patriarch in lieu of the either incarcerated or estranged George Bluth Sr. Michael has to deal with a business that was left in tatters by his amoral father, and a family of self-entitled narcissists.

The viewer cheers for the Bluths while at the same time being repulsed by their antics, which is what makes the show so charming. To quote Leo Tolstoy, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

The cast of Arrested Development is huge. There are nine main characters making up the immediate Bluth family. And aside from the Bluths there a myriad other characters who fill out the show’s universe. These are friends, distant family members, associates, rivals, etc. Accordingly, each character is brilliantly cast, giving Arrested Development an embarrassment of riches with comedic performances.

My personal favorite is Gob, played by Will Arnett. The first born son, Gob is a sycophant who believes he is the heir apparent to the family’s business, though it is obvious to everyone else that it is Michael. Gob spends his time waiting between handouts from his family as an amateur magician or driving around on his Segway, scheming some new get-rich-quick scam. Gob’s ability to create his own reality and believe it so thoroughly is what makes him so hilarious.

A distant second would be Tobias Funke, played by David Cross. Like Gob, Tobias creates his own delusional reality. The difference is that Tobias constantly feels reality nipping at his heels. A disgraced analrapist (psychoanalyst/psychiatrist) turned failed actor, Tobias married into the Bluth family by way of Lindsay. However, Tobias is a deeply closeted homosexual whose true identity manifests in over the top Freudian slips. Bordering on the schizophrenic, Tobias clings desperately to his patchwork quilt veil. Appropriately Tobias is a never nude and is incapable of being fully naked at any time.

The timing of the fourth season feels pitch-perfect. Enough time has passed that a reunion feels creatively viable as opposed to a cash grab, but not too long that it feels outdated.

Also, I wonder if it would’ve been even all possible a few years ago. After Arrested Development ensconced itself as a cult hit, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera both moved into the mainstream with a few successful films. (They both stared in Juno, though I’m not sure if they shared a scene.) Cera was especially popular for awhile. However, they have now since been chewed up and spat out by Hollywood and are returning to Arrested Development with their respective careers having cooled somewhat.

This is appropriate given their characters’ ambivalence to the Bluths. Micheal and George Michael, like their respective actors, are returning once again to their family with their tails between their legs, licking their wounds.




~ by braddunne on October 18, 2012.

One Response to “30 Day Television Challenge: Day Eighteen”

  1. I was working my way through arrested development but stopped, I was moving back home from uni, I forgot how much I enjoyed it until I read this, I will pick up where I left off. ‘ the viewer is very much a part of the Bluth family. ‘ that’s why I enjoy it so much! Thanks

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