Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Wednesday, 16 February 2011
Acclaimed comedy Arrested Development (which ran on Fox for three seasons from 2003-2006) is being repeated in double-bills every Tuesday on FX UK. It's a series that mostly passed me by, as it did many people in the UK, because it bounced around the late-night schedules, but its reputation means I'll be catching up now. Maybe I'll complete my viewing just in time for the long-awaited movie?

The "Pilot" of Arrested Development appears fully-formed, with an enviable sense of self-assurance, pace and skilled writing. Given the fact the show's about a large, extended family, there are many characters to introduce, but this premiere did a good job painting the broad strokes and setting up the premise. Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is the expectant inheritor of his family's development company from father George Snr (Jeffrey Tambor) -- who's gathered the Bluth's together for his retirement boat party, where he's due to formally handover power. We're quickly introduced to the Bluth dynasty during this marine get-together: Michael's sharp-tongued mother Lucille (Jessica Walter); his naïve teenage son George Michael (Michael Cera); his older brother G.O.B (Will Arnett), a struggling amateur magician; neurotic younger brother Buster (Tony Hale); and free spirited Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), her doctor-turned-actor husband Tobias (David Cross) and their feisty young daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat).

The twist to the situation is that George Snr's arrested by the Securities & Exchange Commission for financial irregularities, shortly after surprising everyone by handing over control of the Bluth gravy train to wife Lucille. From there it's simply a case of Michael having to keep the dysfunctional family together and focused, now their patriarch has been jailed and their money's been frozen.

Here's the rub: I didn't laugh very much. But I find that's often the case with a comedy that has to introduce a great many idiosyncrantic characters that, I'm sure, will inspire giggles just looking at them once they endear themselves to me. As a latecomer to this show, I found myself more distracted with celeb-spotting in hindsight: Scott Pilgrim's Michael Cera carrying a face of puppy fat, Jason Bateman in the role that relaunched his movie career, Todd Margaret's David Cross with a coffee stain moustache, thin-lipped Will Arnett, quirky Portia de Rossi from Better Off Ted, inveterate guest-star Tony Hale (Chuck, Human Target), and the chipper narration by an uncredited Ron Howard (erstwhile member of TV's Cunningham family in classic sitcom Happy Days, but now best-known as a director of films such as Apollo 13 and Ransom).

Overall, while it wasn't laugh-out-loud material (yet), the sheer sweep of amusing moments and quirky characters ensured Arrested Development grabbed my interest. The entwined subplots were handled very well -- inspiring a feeling of comfort that the writers know what they're doing and it'll be worth investing your time, even five years after the show's cancellation.

Arrested Development, Tuesdays, FX, 9PM