I may have been late to the rapidly growing bandwagon of admirers of the TV comedy Arrested Development, though it was kinda cool to see David Cross (Mr. Show) get onto a network show that would have appeared to been lucky to stay around for a whole season, in a sitcom where the main character was played by Jason Bateman. I mean, Jason Bateman! A guy who was known as Justine’s brother who bounced around from sitcom to sitcom and was virtually off the radar, playing bit parts in other harmless comedies. …nd as it turns out, the product of a great ensemble cast, including Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show) and a very underrated Will Arnett, Arrested Development has grown into appointment television.
Bateman plays Michael Bluth, son of George (Tambor), the head of a company thrown in jail for stealing money from the company he started, and maybe committing some “light treason.” Michael is the responsible one, who works to try and get his father out of jail, for his mother (Walter) to produce some of the secrets of the company, for his older brother George Oscar Bluth (or GOB for short) to regain good standing in a magician’s alliance he founded, and for his twin sister Lindsay (Portia De Rossi, Ally McBeal) to stop spending so much money, and be a wife to her husband Tobias (Cross) and her daughter Maeby. What makes things ironic is that for all of Michael’s positioning on making himself the rock of the family while George is in prison, he also screws up pretty significantly from time to time when running the business, and he looks to his jailed dad for help.
Bateman describes the show as The Royal Tenenbaums meets Cops, in large part due to the waty the show is shot for airing, as it’s largely done like a documentary, and told in a very non-linear point of view, making for hitting more storypoints during an episode. There are very few, if any, bad or slow moments in the show, and even the plot arcs with noted guest stars work superbly. I mean, Henry Winkler as a guy constantly getting strange rashes from picking up hookers, and Liza Minelli as a woman who has a crush on her friend’s youngest son despite a severe case of vertigo, that stuff makes you laugh, regardless of who you are. The creation of Mitchell Hurwitz and what started as a run of about a dozen episodes was quickly extended to 22, and Fox includes the first season spread out over 3 discs, and more recently a slew of Emmy awards, including Best Comedy Series. There’s a reason why this show has become so critically adored, and it’s because it takes chances that few other shows have decided to do. It’s phenomenal stuff and worth the time to check out on TV.
You won’t hear about too many comedy shows that are available in Dolby Digital 5.1, and this one is no exception, but the 2.0 soundtrack is perfectly capable.
Fox has given Arrested Development a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen treatment which is pretty well done here for a TV show, showing off a lot of detail and very occasional issues where the picture wasn’t well-defined.
The three disc set has got a decent amount of extra material attached to it, starting with commentaries on three episodes, one for each disc. The first is with Bateman and the creators, which the other two feature the cast altogether. Understandably, the cast commentaries are funnier and more teasing is prevalent, and the tracks are recorded after the Emmy nominations came out (and the obligatory ruling out any chance of winning anything), which is pretty funny. It’s also done after the group’s appearance on Celebrity Poker Showdown as well, so you can narrow down when this may have been recorded.
On disc 1, the extended pilot is included which also gives you a slightly darker look at the show, and the material here was cut because some of the language was TV-MA. Each disc also has some deleted/extended scenes for most of the episodes on the disc, which you can play by episode or you can play them all. Overall, some of the deleted material is pretty funny, and there are about 20 scenes that total about 25 minutes.
The musical cues for the shows are here also, almost 30 songs worth of clips which are very brief and if you’re curious, worth checking out. On Disc 1, a 15 minute making of featurette is from Fox, which includes the show style which everyone tries to explain, along with how the show is shot and how they pull It together. The cast shares their thoughts on each other and Hurwitz talks about how he got the actors to come aboard. A lot of the usual stuff here. Disc 2 features a Q & A session with the cast and creators, but nothing really of note is discussed. Disc 3 includes a couple of pieces from the TV Land channel on the show, one has got more participation from a couple of the cast members, which is nice, but it can be skipped. A brief preview from Howard on Season 2 is included, along with a promo.
The best sitcom on TV today, hands down. And arguably the best sitcom to appear on network TV in years. There’s a decent group of material here, but the centerpiece of this is clearly the feature, and you’ll rarely find a season of TV that stayed consistently at the top in terms of its quality. Since it’s after The Simpsons, there’s simply no excuse not to see it. Put the remote away and enjoy it, you’ll thank me for it.
Special Features List
- Commentary by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz, directors Joe Russo and Anthony Russo, and actor Jason Bateman on Extended Pilot
- Commentary by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Wil Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, and David Cross on Beef Consomme
- Commentary by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Wil Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, and David Cross on Let Them Eat Cake
- Never-aired extended pilot
- “Breaking Ground: Behind the Scenes of Arrested Development” featurette
- Ron Howard’s inside look at Arrested Development
- Deleted/extended scenes
- The Museum of Television & Radio cast panel discussion
- Original songs by David Schwarz
- “Arrested Development: The Making of a Future Classic” TV Land featurette
- “TV Land Awards: The Future Classic Award” featurette
- Promo spot