Say What You Will About America; Thirteen Bucks Still Gets You a Hell of a Lot of Mice.
I don’t often get requests to review TV shows, which I generally regard as a blessing, since a review of a TV show can take quite some time and I’ve never found myself particularly good at it. But, when today’s TV show was requested, I was actually quite happy about it. Not happy about getting to write a review of it, as I’m not nearly as practiced at it as I am with movies and even video games. What I was happy about was getting to watch the TV show. I’d never seen a single episode of this show as I tend to not keep up with television that much, so much so that I actually cancelled my cable service because I could do without the greater majority of them. But I’d heard so much about how awesome this TV show was I was happy to have a reason to watch it. So happy, apparently, that I actually bombed through all 22 episodes of the first season in one day. Let’s see if it can live up to the hype as I review the first season of Arrested Development, created by Mitchell Hurwitz, and starring Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, David Cross, Henry Winkler, Judy Greer, Liza Minnelli, Patricia Velásquez, Carl Weathers, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jay Johnston, Jerry Minor, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Justin Lee, Jane Lynch, James Lipton, and John Michael Higgins.
George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) retires as the founder and CEO of the Bluth Company and is promptly arrested for spending the company’s money on personal expenses. Bluth’s wife, Lucille (Jessica Walter) takes over as CEO, naming her extremely sheltered youngest son, Buster (Tony Hale), the president. The middle son – and the only son actually equipped to run a business – Michael (Jason Bateman) leaves the company as a result, but comes back when they all realize they need him, and because his own son, George Michael (Michael Cera) wants to stay with the family. Mainly because he’s developed a crush on his cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), daughter of Michael’s sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and her husband Tobias (David Cross). The majority of the family lives in one of the Bluth model homes, with the rest of them, including the oldest brother Gob (Will Arnett) the aspiring magician, visiting frequently to try to borrow money from Michael as he tries to save the company while not even knowing what his father got into.
I don’t know if I’d say that this show has lived up to the hype so far, but it’s certainly not the fault of the show. From what I had heard, I half expected to be laughing non-stop while watching. That wasn’t what happened, but I found the show to be extremely well written, very funny, and even funny enough to get me to laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The first episode was a little disappointing, but it seemed to mainly be all of the setup to get all of the backstory out of the way, but they pick up their speed pretty quickly after that. The jokes mainly come from how ridiculous the family are, and are often shown in quick cutaways, almost like a live action Family Guy. And, more often than not, my favorite part of the episode was actually the very end, where they show scenes from the next episode that may or may not actually happen, but they work very well as rapid fire jokes. And a lot of the jokes were pretty smart too. I liked when Gob got literally stabbed in the back as Michael was figuratively stabbing him in the back. I was also a fan of the part where a guy said to Michael, “If you care about your brother, you’ll get in the car,” and Michael said, “Which brother?” and then, when the guy answered, “Gob,” he kept riding away. Later, when George Michael was trying to find out if he was actually related to Maeby and he asked Gob if Lindsay was ever pregnant, Gob answers, “Oh yeah, dozens of times.” I also like the part where George Bluth was talking about his twin brother and says, “You should’ve seen his face,” but then remembers that they’re twins and shows him what the face looked like. A lot of the jokes seemed extra smart and well thought out as so many of them come together in the final episode, though this could’ve been done without planning to do it before hand. I also liked a lot of the jokes that went on in the background, like when Gob was complaining about his girlfriend the Mexican soap opera star and saying that he’d kill someone if he ever had to smell some Mexican dish again, and the maid in the background closes her Tupperware that she was eating out of. The story was never super important to the quality of the show, but there were a couple of reveals that were pretty obvious. The whole part about “there always being money in the banana stand” could be seen coming from miles away, as well as the part about the blind lawyer being the Bluth’s opposing prosecutor in the trial. Hell, they even outright spoil one themselves in the scenes from the next episode by saying that the lawyer isn’t really blind, but they say so many things in those next episode sequences that I didn’t know if it was true or a joke. If it sounds like I’m just listing some of my favorite jokes from the show … well, I am. But the show is well-written and funny, so you should watch it.
I liked all the performances in the show as well. The greater majority of them are people that I liked going in, so it’s not really a surprise to me. Jason Bateman plays a fantastic straight man, though he’s not above getting a little wacky himself. It’s not too necessary in this show as his family does the bulk of the goofiness. I was torn on the rest of the family for a while since most of them seemed like such unlikeable people I didn’t know why I’d want to spend time with them. But you warm up to them fairly quickly. I warmed up to Portia de Rossi because she was hot, especially when she was being sprayed by water and dancing in a cage in one of the later episodes. I warmed up to Will Arnett because I’ve always liked him, and because he was one of the characters that started a lot of the funniness. He also had his real life wife Amy Poehler in a few episodes as the wife he eloped with, and I’m always happy to see her as well. I didn’t know Tony Hale before this show, but he gets a lot of funniness out of his Buster character. I liked that he was able to get laughs from things as simple as standing silently in the background of scenes. David Cross did a great deal of the comedy as well, as his character seemed totally gay and totally eccentric. I liked the little physical things he did, like when he rolled up on the stage at the school play, or when he licked the end of his pencil and then kept licking it like he liked the taste. He also got to work with Bob Odenkirk again in one episode, and those guys are genius together. Michael Cera was an odd one for me. Not because his performance in this show was not dissimilar from many of his other characters, but because of his relationship with his cousin Alia Shawkat. Even though his crush on his cousin is pretty inappropriate, I found myself kind of wishing they would end up together. I also liked Judy Greer in her few appearances as the assistant to George Bluth. She’s a pretty attractive lady and I thought it was pretty funny when Gob would have her take off her glasses and her eyes would go cross-eyed, and she’d let down her hair and it’d go all crazy, and later she got a boob job and her nipples seemed to be pointing in odd directions. Another big thing about the show is all of the guest appearances. Liza Minnelli was in a few episodes, and was pretty damned funny as well. Henry Winkler was usually funny as the inept lawyer, and he even busted the Fonze move in one episode. Jane Lynch, Heather Graham, Carl Weathers, and a bunch of other random guest appearances were also great.
I’m sure a crappy show could not have kept me interested enough to actually get through 22 episodes of the first season in one day, but that was thankfully not the case with Arrested Development. It was extremely well-written, very funny, and with fantastic performances to back it all up. I don’t want to do it too soon and have the next review follow too quickly, but I can’t wait to get into the second season. And, since you can stream the whole thing on Netflix, I don’t know why you’re not doing it right now. Turns out my Friendboss Josh isn’t so much of an asshole after all. Arrested Development Season One gets “That was a good investment” out of “It was shoplifting and I’m white. I think I’m going to be okay.”
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