Arrested Development

Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything - and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together. It's Arrested Development.

The familiar refrain, by the omniscient narrator (uncredited Ron Howard) kicks of every episode of this hilarious sitcom. The story revolves around the seriously dysfunctional antics and relationships of Bluth family. A successful entrepreneurial family, the show begins as the patriarch is arrested for financial malfeasance, that evolves into borderline treason. Matters then fall to the one good son, Michael, who tries to take control of the business, put an end to nepotism and corruption, and continue to feed off familial dysfunction.

Michael's snobbish mother, Lucille, finds herself unable to maintain her lifestyle without the easy checkbook of the business to sustain it. Michael's two brothers, GOB and Buster, find themselves absolutely incapable of being helpful, and unable to realize that. His sister Lindsay with her husband Tobias and her daughter Maeby move from Boston to be part of the family, mostly because loser Tobias decides to become an actor. And finally there is George-Michael, Michael's son, who is struggling to balance his admiration for his father, with his own growing physical and emotional needs.

The show is great because of its deeply flawed characters. And through the three seasons of the show, the characters don't evolve much. Yet somehow the flaws are examined and clarified enough to make you accept them for who they are. Justifying the flaws of the characters, to make the audience discount them is, in my mind, the biggest achievement of the show.

Seeing beyond the flaws of the characters, allows the subtle situational comedy to shine through. The show is shot is quasi-documentary style, with hand-held cameras, no laugh-track and an intrusive commentator. A rapid back-and-forth dialog rich in wordplay ties it all together. Conversations and misunderstandings, do more to move the story forward, than dramatic plot elements. Of course the undercurrent of the taboo - incest and infidelity pitch in to help with the story when nothing else seems to happen.

There are several recurring hilarious elements in the story. One of the best is the "Chicken Dance" practiced by the family members. Each family member has their own unique interpretation of the dance when they decide to employ it to bait someone into attempting something that is bound for failure. And when failure does come to pass, there is always the confession "I've made a huge mistake".

The show suffered from classic slow uptake by the audience, in spite of critical acclaim. Eventually success however came, when the show went to DVD and lately to Netflix instant watch, which is where I got to watch it. With the rumors of a feature film, this is probably the best time to watch the three seasons of the show in preparation for the upcoming grand finale.

October 01, 2010

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