Seven years ago, I was delivering pizzas in the evening, driving a forklift after midnight, and spending my days sending emails to my editors at The Pitch Weekly politely inquiring about the status of my most recent check. (They weren’t BIG checks, mind you—I was but a humble calendar contributor for the most part—but it was MY money, damn it, and they were terrible about paying on time.) I was dating a patient girl who later became my wife and we lived in a crumby apartment in Lee’s Summit. Most of my television consisted of late night Quantum Leap marathons, aided by the interminable haze that can only come from a gigantic jug of Carlo Rossi Chablis.
Arrested Development wasn’t on my radar.
A friend turned me on though, after the original run ended. DVDs were procured, and I watched the full series in a very short period of time because I just couldn’t stop watching it. It was simply that good.
Unfortunately, my tale wasn’t an uncommon one (well, except for the whole journalist/heavy equipment operator drinking cheap wine and watching Quantum Leap at 3am). The multiple Emmy winning show—always lauded by critics and “those in the know,”—didn’t have the ratings necessary to carry it past a third season. The show was cancelled and smart TV fans everywhere were devastated.
But as is often the case in this modern, digital era, the show caught a whole new wave of fans via DVD and the internet (see Family Guy for perhaps the most successful example of this semi-recent “post cancellation revival” phenomenon), and it was almost a foregone conclusion that a new season HAD to happen eventually. And though it took seven long years, that moment is upon us.
On Sunday, May 26th, Netflix is releasing 15 brand new, never before seen episodes featuring everyone’s favorite epitome of dysfunction, the Bluth family.
The wait, as they say, is finally over.
For the uninitiated—and I’m sure there are more than a few, sadly—I say: first, what took you so long? and, welcome aboard.
Arrested Development is primarily the story of normal guy Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his relationship with his son George Michael (Michael Cera). But this alone wouldn’t be all that interesting, so it’s also about how the ties of a family are sometimes worse bindings than an industrial chain with one end locked around your ankle, and the other around a cinderblock. (And you’re on a boat, in deep, deep water.)
After Michael’s father George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) is sent to prison for a myriad of criminally negligent business activities, Michael must decide whether to hold the family (and the Bluth Company) together, or cut bait and raise his son in a much less chaotic environment. Along the way, Michael falls in love with the girlfriend of his failed “illusionist” brother Gob (Will Arnett), George Michael fights societally unacceptable feelings for his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat), Bluth matriarch Lucille (Jessica Walter) battles alcoholism and the dependency of her youngest son Buster (Tony Hale), and Michael’s sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) struggles continually with identity, adult responsibility, AND the latent homosexuality of her husband Tobias (David Cross), a former therapist/current aspiring actor/perpetual Never-Nude.
Oh, and it’s all narrated by Ron Howard.
And if this all sounds like the plot of a tawdry afternoon soap opera, well, it kinda sorta is. But it’s HILARIOUS in the way that few other programs are, or ever have been. The writing is brilliant and jokes range from overt and ridiculously cartoonish (think: chicken dance) to subtle and nuanced—the kind of quips you only catch after repeated viewings. The characters are either shockingly loveable or completely detestable, depending on the scene, and as necessitated by storyline.
The show—created by Mitchell Hurwitz—was wholly unlike anything else before it, a unique beacon of hilarity in a recycled landscape of situational comedy bullshit. As these things go, however, it soon had multiple imitators. (It’s hard to imagine a Modern Family without the influence perpetrated by Arrested Development). And although imitation is the highest form of flattery—I think—nothing has done familial irreverence as well as the original.
And that is why I’m so excited about FIFTEEN EPISODES AT ONCE, oh my. I’m anxious to see if they’ve still got it after this long layoff; I’m curious about everything, really.
How will they explain the passage of time? (Surely they must, as this isn’t a cartoon.) Is the family still remarkably shallow, or have their attitudes about wealth been tempered by today’s more fiscally responsible environment? (Highly doubtful.) Will these new episodes be better than the original? (Almost impossible… well, except for the 3rd season, which definitely housed some of the show’s weaker moments.) Will these new episodes be better than anything else on regular television right now? (Yes, probably.) Will the fact that it’s on Netflix mean no more censored cusswords? (The bleeping actually made it funnier, one could argue.)
ALL of these burning questions that cannot be answered for TWO AGONIZING DAYS. Put me in a Buster fake-coma and wake me up on Sunday, please, because I don’t wanna wait.
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