Starring: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter
Created by Mitchell Hurwitz
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Video: Widescreen 1.78:1, color
Audio: DD 5.1, English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Disc One – Episodes 1-7; Audio Commentary on the episode “Forget Me Now” by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Will Arnet, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Walter; Audio Commentary on episode “Mr F” by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Will Arnet, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Walter; deleted and extended scenes.
Disc Two – Episodes 8-13; Audio Commentary on Arrested Development by series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and actors Will Arnet, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Portia de Rossi, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Walter; deleted and extended scenes; season three blooper reel; “The Last Day on Location” featurette.
Length: 285 minutes
Arrested Development had a lot of things going against it. It was clever, quirky, well written, and well acted. The direction and timing of the jokes were all pitch perfect. It wasn’t afraid to layer the scenes and dialog with multiple meanings—watching what is going on in the background is often rewarding and surprising—and it wasn’t afraid to fire off the jokes fast and hot, like a first-inning pitcher with something to prove. The humor was fresh, unexpected, and unpredictable. It wasn’t necessarily highbrow and intellectual, but it was frequently topical. It was unafraid to touch on taboo subjects (or at least politically incorrect ones), it didn’t talk down to the audience, and it was always damn funny. It assumed that the viewers were adults that could read—some of the jokes and plot reveals were only written and not spoken. And all this is probably why it only lasted three seasons on Fox.
Although Arrested Development used an ensemble cast (a little larger than most TV shows with nine regular cast members), it is told from the perspective of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the only member of the Bluth clan with any degree of work ethic, who tries to keep his dysfunctional family together. The rest of the family is prone to lying, narcissism, backstabbing, and shameless manipulation. The story of the Bluth family is a riches-to-rags tale, made all the more relevant because of the Enron-esque financial scandals of the 21st Century. George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor), patriarch of the family, spends time in and out of prison for financial misdeeds and “light treason”—selling mini-mansions to Saddam Hussein.
The cast of Arrested Development is exceptionally talented with no weak links. But having said that, I do have my personal favorites among them. Jason Bateman is wonderfully earnest in the role of Michael Bluth. He goes from being empathetically supportive and solicitous to losing all patience and being on the verge of washing his hands of all his family’s sordid, yet laughable and pathetic, machinations. Michael is the Everyman in the story. Will Arnet plays Michael’s oldest brother, Gob (short for George Oscar Bluth II and pronounced “Jobe”), who struggles with his chosen career as a stage magician. Arnet portrays this character with a delicious smarminess, delivering his lines with a stentorious quality worthy of a third rate Broadway has-been. He’s utterly serious and clueless at the same time and totally enjoyable to watch. David Cross is devastatingly funny as Tobias Fünke, the husband of Michael’s “twin sister” Lindsay (played with finesse by Portia de Rossi), a one-time psychologist and now would-be actor. Tobias is obviously gay, but deep in denial, continually getting into situations that scream out his inner inclinations, but somehow he remains blissfully unaware of it all. One of the funniest bits in the entire series is a running gag about Tobias coining a new word for his method of psychology that’s a combination of “Analyst” and “Therapist.” It’s called . . . well, you’ll just have to see for yourself – I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you.
In the matter of guest stars, Arrested Development has always attracted interesting talent, which included actors from feature films (Heather Graham) as well as television (Henry Winkler). In the third season, the biggest guest was Charlize Theron, playing the British love interest to Michael Bluth. She’s featured in a few episodes along with comedian Dave Thomas of SCTV fame. This story line is a classic case of misdirection and misunderstanding played to painfully hilarious results. Other notable guests were Scott Baio and Justine Bateman, who is Jason Bateman’s real life sister.
The third season of Arrested Development brings the story of the Bluth clan to a fitting close. It’s probably one of the most satisfying series finales ever made, bringing all the themes, characters, and situations full circle; it literally ends where it began. Beloved by critics and ignored by viewers, Arrested Development is one of the best examples of what TV sitcoms can achieve. In the future, I’m sure it will be thought of as the classic it is—timeless, flawless, and very, very funny.
– Hermon Joyner