I discovered Arrested Development a few episodes in I think, but I cannot remember how many. I say I think, as I have watched S1-3 so many times now, the details have faded. But I know I was immediately hooked. Mostly as it had Jeffrey Tambor in it as George Booth Sr, the patriarch of the family the show was about. I had adored Tambor as Hey Now Hank in the Larry Sanders Show - my all-time favourite comedy until Arrested Development - so I knew it would be good.
Arrested Development is close to the funniest, most perfect comedy ever. Underrated and under appreciated, and cut way too soon. If you have not watched it, you must, it is so layered and meta (before meta jumped the shark - and that in itself is an in-joke for actual fans!), It requires attention to detail, but the pay off is delicious and real laugh out loud funny. In fact the jokes run so fast and thick, that it requires multiple viewing and the occasional rewind to replay something you missed! I love intelligence in comedy, I think it is the very best thing there is, you work your beautiful brain AND get to laugh...is there anything better?
AD was about a rich family, who had lost their wealth, but behaved not only as if this had not happened but quite badly as well. The lead was the seemingly unageing Jason Bateman, as the 'good' son, who stays with his horrid family to keep them together. His siblings were Porti di Rossi, hilarious as the spoilt Lindsay, Will Arnett as Gob (pronounced as Job, as in the bible), a 'magician', and the superb Tony Hale as Buster, the youngest, infantile son.
Jessica Walters played their mother, Lucille, a brassy, smoking, drinking, swearing and materialistic woman. Michael's son, George Michael, is played by Michael Cera in his usual laid back fashion. He is secretly in love with their cousin Maeby. Maeby is the daughter of Lindsay and Tobias. Tobias is an odd character played with conviction by David Cross, he is a never-nude, a would be actor, sprouts double entendres, and proclaims he is not gay...he possibly is.
Rounding out the cast is the narrator, voiced by Ron Howard, whose steadily nuanced voice lends additional thought to the layered comedy.
The supporting cast is equally as funny and wonderful. Headed by Liza Minnelli as Lucille 2, Lucille's ex best friend and possible lover to all three of her sons. She is outstanding and funny, especially with physical comedy. I must say I am a huge fan of physical comedy (but done well!), and this show has plenty of it.
Other supports are Henry Winkler as Barry Zuckerkorn, the family lawyer, and Scott Baio as Bob Loblaw the stand in lawyer. Ben Stiller as Tony Wonder, Gob's magician rival. Charlize Theron, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Christine Taylor have all been love interests for the long suffering Michael. Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, Judy Greer and a cast of many round out the rest of the characters.
The storylines and plots are way too complicated to begin to mention here. But don't let that put you off, it's an easy show to watch, but the more you put into it the more you will get out of it. This is a great thing.
Unfortunately it's style was a little ahead of it's time and it got axed after 3 seasons. However it paved the way for large casts and multi-layered storylines in shows such as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreations, Community, Modern Family and so on.
But all was not lost, it grew as a cult phenomena and they got the band back together so to speak and made S4. This was after many years of talk and speculation.
Ahhh, the expectations were possibly too high, because it just didn't meet the brilliance of S1-3. Having said that, it was still great and better than most comedies out there. I think the problem was they featured on one character per episode and the brilliance of AD is a stunning ensemble cast, not a dud in the main 9 characters and the supporting case (most of whom came back) also fabulous. So when AD works best, it is when the majority of the cast are playing off each other. I get why they filmed it the way they did, most of the cast had gone on to bigger things and scheduling must have been a nightmare. But that meant it lost it's shine for S4, at least for me.
It was still funny, very funny, I hear talk in the past week that Mitch Hurwitz (creator, writer, director) is going to re-cut it back to match the previous three seasons, this could be interesting.
I will leave you with the funniest scene from S4, Lucille is out of jail and under house arrest with an ankle alarm and in a smoke-free apartment. Lucille is a heavy smoker, so she lights up and Buster inhales her smoke for her and releases it out the balcony (where Lucille cannot go due to the ankle alarm). This continues on until she finishes her cigarette. I cannot begin to say how funny this is, not a word spoken, just facial expressions and fabulous slapstick. I saw outtakes of this scene and the script calls for one cigarette but Jessica Walters lights up a second and Tony Hale goes with it, truly the most extraordinarily funny scene I have seen. And with gems like that AD S4 isn't so bad I guess.