Arrested Development is returning 26th May. If you didn’t know this, where have you been for the last ten months? If you don’t know what Arrested Development is, where have you been for the last ten years? Fans of the cult hit meta-comedy are sadly a rare bunch, even in Oxford – I am always thrilled to find other viewers, having found the box set, or trawled through FX late at night.
To the uninitiated, AD centres on the diverse characters of the ludicrously wealthy Bluth family, and their extravagant lifestyle. This does not begin to explain the myriad of madcap plots, chaotic personalities or hilarious running gags involved. Storylines, characters, locations came and went, some straddling multiple seasons, some for brief and memorable cameos. Broadly, the show follows Michael (Jason Bateman), but largely jumps between his son George Michael (pun most definitely intended), a cruel mother, an amateur magician brother, a truly mummy’s boy brother, a wasteful sister with a desperate thesp husband and rebellious teen daughter. And that’s just the lead cast, each of whom could fill an episode with their own wit and personal quirks.
The popularity of each of the individuals seems to have somewhat directed the ideas of Mitchell Hurwitz and Ron Howard in creating this new batch of 15 episodes, which will all be available simultaneously on Netflix. The production team have announced that each episode will focus on a certain character, seeing plot lines emerge from several vantage points. There is the more thrilling news of a film to follow the season, which will tie much of the story together.
It was a show that favoured the attentive and compulsive viewer, much ahead of its time in many ways, and suitable for a Netflix outing. Hurwitz has written on the manifold reasons the show received low ratings whilst on Fox from 2003 to 2006, and its eventual cancellation by the network: that there were too many characters, a convoluted title, jokes too surreal. These may all be reasons not to appeal to a mainstream common denominator audience, but it was these features which made the show such a joy to watch. Critical acclaim consistently held the show in high regard, Time and The Guardian have since referred to it in lists of the best comedies, and indeed shows in TV history. Few other shows are so daring as to continue with repulsive characters and nigh-on-impossible stories, that require notepads and repeat viewings to make sense of it all – Lost tried, and went probably too far, Heroes similarly pulled it off for one season, then sank into a hellish muddle.
There is such a wealth of material to draw on, for the return of Arrested Development. Fans could wax for hours on their funniest memories of the show; some might say Tobias’ never-nude condition, Gob’s “Come On!” and the Final Countdown music, or Annyong. Maybe it’s George Michael’s girlfriend Ann, the racist puppet Franklin, or the literal doctor – “We’ve lost him..”, causing consternation as Michael’s father has gone missing, rather than dead.
Much of the cast have gone onto bigger things; Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett all made their names on the show. In fact, part of the reason it has taken so long for a reunion is due to the cast. More risqué than Community, less contrived guest appearances than 30 Rock, and a family as loveable and as sprawling as Modern Family – perfect for any American comedy fan.
PHOTO/Ethan Anderton, Jamie Frevele