Whatcha tryin’ to say to me?
Sitcom situational humor and lightning-quick witticisms came together for a brief span of three years as Michael Hurwitz’s Arrested Development was on the air. It ran from 2003 to 2006, and, like many things beautiful and awesome, was snuffed out in its prime.
It was cancelled after a paltry three seasons. However, due to the surge of support from its cult-status, it has been green-lighted to shoot a fourth season of ten episodes and a film.
The show plays on sitcom themes with subtle and brilliant tongue-in-cheek humor, and became popular posthumously thanks to hindsight word-of-mouth and booming DVD sales.
Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is a real-estate salesman who has been working for his family’s successful company for ten years. As his father George Bluth, Sr. (Jeffery Tambor) is arrested for embezzling and other mysterious charges, Michael finds he has to keep his eccentric and oblivious family together to save everything.
Producer Ron Howard (also the uncredited narrator) and creator Michael Hurwitz developed the show based on the recent scandals that were heavily in the media in the early 2000s, and even drew from Wes Anderson’s recent film The Royal Tenenbaums for inspiration with the family relationships. From episode one, the show’s premise, characters, predicaments and actions made for smart and hysterical comedy.
For instance, George Bluth, Sr. is stuck in prison but is enjoying it. As Michael tells him the woes about what’s happening to the family, George consistently says, “Eh, there’s always money in the banana stand,” referring to their boardwalk chocolate-dipped frozen-banana stand.
After Michael and his son cathartically burn down the stand, Michael returns to gloat over his small victory at claiming power from his father. Of course, like many of the show’s characters, George was being literal, and had been referring to the $250,000 with which he had lined the walls of the stand.
It’s interesting to talk about this show with a fan. Their favorite character jumps from failed analrapist (pronounced uh-naal-ruh-pist) Tobias Fünke (David Cross) to the cousin-loving George Michael (a young Michael Cera) to the panic-prone Buster (Tony Hale). Their favorite episode can jump dozens of times in a single conversation.
Every single performance of the show is amazing. Critics have always praised it. In fact, essentially every aspect of the show is amazing. So what the hell happened to Arrested Development?
The biggest issue was probably its Nielson ratings. In its second season, the show only managed to cull 6 million viewers while the third season received about four.
The “bad” ratings mixed with shortened seasons (the second was dropped from 22 episodes to 18 and the third to 13), Arrested Development was quickly given what some refer to as a “death slot,” airing opposite Monday Night Football.
The last four episodes were aired as a two-hour block at the same time as the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics. Little more than 3 million people watched the series finale.
Unlike other cancelled shows such as Firefly (another cult-classic killed by Fox), the final episodes wrapped up the series. The Bluth family is given minor denouement and meta-mockery ensued as Michael’s mother Lucille (Jessica Walters) is being taken into custody for the similar crimes to her husband (now acquitted).
The show incorporated current events along with trends, popular culture and a bitingly witty metaphysical approach to comedy for those already in the know.
For instance, at the beginning of one episode, Michael is on the phone complaining to an investor that he should have funding for 22 houses and not 18, a reference to the shortening of the second season.
Thank goodness the show will be coming back. A horde of old fans along with newcomers will have the chance to see some favorite characters muddle through their deservedly uncomfortable lives.
The biggest downside of the show is that it lasted for only three seasons. Until now.