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Arrested Development: The Netflix Generation

By Edited Jun 24, 2016 0 0
Arrested Development
Credit: IMDB

Quick forewarning: this article will contain a few spoilers.  If you have not watched Arrested Development and you want to, I suggest you find another source for more information.  I will say, that I really enjoyed the original series.  Past that, if you don't mind spoilers, please read on!  If you would rather see some must-watch TV shows on Netflix, check out this article by another InfoBarrel author.

In 2003, Arrested Development kicked off on a strange journey into the life and times of the dysfunctional Bluth family, as the patriarch of the family, George Bluth, Sr. (played brilliantly by Jeffery Tambor) is being arrested for treason and various counts of fraud.  

The premise of the show is that they have built their wealth from the proceeds of an empire that started with a single frozen banana stand, and has become a worldwide company.  Somewhere along the way, George builds houses in Iraq, and that is considered treason, so the company is investigated and thrown asunder.

The show explored all sorts of ridiculous exploits of the family, including George Sr's conversion to Judaism, from which he attempts to sell video tapes to make money, to GOB's (George Jr, or George Oscar Bluth) illusion act (which, it turns out is an illusion all its own), to the creepy antics of the semi-oedipal Buster Bluth.

While the humour was often unpredictable and unusual, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the first three seasons, from the first episode right to the last.  I had not watched it while it was on network television, but once I got my Netflix membership, I saw it and decided that it was time.  Many people had said what a wonderful show it was, and that it should never have been cancelled, so I needed to see what all the fuss was about!

The Amazing Cast

Jason Bateman is one of those actors that people my age remember from the very popular sitcom, Valerie.  Known for his dry, self-effacing wit, he is the perfect actor to play the role of Michael Bluth, who is trying to keep his family together, and keep the family business running while the evidence and cases against his father mount.  He seems the only one in the family (other than his son, George Michael, and occasionally his niece Maeby) who has any sense at all, and the rest of the family make you want to just keep facepalming yourself as you watch the stupid things they do.

Michael's son, George Michael (let the jokes begin) is played by the awkward and geeky Michael Cera.  He is a hardcore go-getter and is constantly trying to impress his father with excellent marks and by working hard at the frozen banana stand as his father had, before him. The awkwardness of his character starts early on as he develops a not-so-harmless crush on his cousin, Maeby.

GOB, played by Will Arnett, is an egocentric and completely bumbling magician (or illusionist) who can barely make any tricks work, and when they do, he seems almost amazed by it.  He likes to think of himself as a lady's man, but is much better at being a complete incompetent at everything he attempts.

Michael's twin sister, Lindsay, is played by Portia deRossi.  I had never seen her act in anything before, but her portrayal of the vapid, waifish socialite seems right on the money.  She sees nothing but what affects her, and is oblivious even to the needs of her daughter.  

Lindsay's husband, Tobias Fünke, is played by the brilliant and hilarious David Cross.  He is a former analyst and therapist (now known as an analrapist) who has a syndrome known as "never nude" which requires him to wear cut-off shorts under everything he wears, and while he never comes out (at least up to what I have seen so far), he is an apparent closet homosexual who won't even admit it to himself.

Lindsay and Tobias hava a daughter, Maeby, played by Alia Shawkat.  She is a persistent rebel, eventually quitting school when she accidentally becomes a movie studio executive.

The youngest of the Bluth children is Buster, played by Tony Hale.  I don't even know how I can properly describe Buster as anything other than a mama's boy on crack.  He lives with his mother, does everything with his mother, and has a very severe oedipal complex that borders on creepy at times.

Mother, Lucille, is played by Jessica Walter, and she is everything you would expect of a woman who has lived a life of luxury with her every whim and desire always at her command.  She drinks almost constantly and is always trying to get her kids to do things for her that she shouldn't be.

The father of these fine children is George Bluth, who had, for most of the children's life, attempted to get them to compete with each other so that they would become better and more competetive businessmen.  He is also an adulterer and has apparently had many affairs with numerous women, and he will do anything to make money from anything he can.

Finally, there is the narrator of the series, whose voice I couldn't place for the longest time.  When I looked it up, I was surprised and delighted to discover that it was Ron Howard, and while you never (well...  almost never) see him on the show, he is a great addition to the case as he narrates the goings-on of this family that puts that fun in dysfunctional.  

The First Three Seasons

I have watched the original three seasons of Arrested Development with my partner, Sarie, over the last few months.  I was immediately hooked and both of us have watched the show and loved it's humour and ridiculous plots as well as the "idiocity" (Sarie coined that word) of the individuals in the show.

There have been cameos by various and sundry pop icons from the previous century, including Henry Winkler (The Fonz) as their incompetent lawyer, Scott Baio (Chachi) as another lawyer that the family hires at one point, as well as Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Liza Minelli, Carl Weathers, Dick van Patten, and Jane Lynch.  Each has been their own level of strange on the show, portraying themselves or the particular character they had been cast as, but each has been a great addition to the overall cast.

Through the seasons, we learned about the individual characters on the show and how they attempted to move on and move up in the world while finding any way to get money from the Bluth company without doing any work, or attempting to get George out of jail.  Every episode was fun and strangely funny, and I could not even count the number of times I guffawed loudly at the various stupid jokes that would occur through the show.

But knowing that there was an end to the show, we watched it sparingly so that we could enjoy it for as long as possible.  So when we heard that Netflix was planning to bring new and original episodes to the show, we were ecstatic and couldn't wait to see them!

Season 4

At first, the show starts off by quickly recapping the previous seasons.  This is done in a fun and humorous way with the addition of a watermark that says "SHOWSTEALER PRO TRIAL VERSION" in light letters across the screen (Since this is now the creation of Netflix, and not the original network).  From here, they continue on the story after describing what has happened in the interim since the show went off the air.

While the faces are familiar, and the crazy situations are similar, for some reason, I couldn't get quite into it.  I have only seen two of the episodes so far, and I noticed that instead of "This is... Arrested Development", the narrator instead says "This is Micheal's Arrested Development" for the first one, and "This is George's Arrested Development" for the second.  I suppose this doesn't detract from the show too much, but it does more or less depict what the episiode will be about.  Instead of focusing on strange antics in general, one of the members of the family is focused on.

Now, I won't say that the stories were any less funny, but there was something that just wasn't right about it all.  Watching on Netflix, we watched the final episiode of Season 3 right before we watched the first 2 of the new season, and I noticed that I laughed FAR less for the new episodes than I had for the final episode of the previous season.  I can't place exactly what it was that made it less entertaining, but somehow, it went from brilliantly hilarious to "meh" in the space of the 20 seconds it took to go from the end of one show and into the next.

I will continue to watch and see what goes on from here, but at this point, after the two episodes I have seen, I am not enjoying it nearly as much as I did just 24 short hours ago!  I really hope that it improves over the remaining eipsodes of season 4 and I can once again truly enjoy the show!

Have you seen any epsiodes, or even the full season?  I would love to know what you think of this new take on Arrested Development since Netflix has taken over it's production.

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