If there was ever a category for a smart comedy, Arrested Development would ace it hands down. Well, Community would wrestle for that place but that’s a conversation for another time. Arrested Development first premiered in 2003 and in hindsight, it can easily be said that this show was way ahead of its time and that is probably why it suffered in its later years.
In the era when shows like Friends and Two and a Half Men were enjoying their monstrous success, the comedy of Arrested Development wasn’t as massy, rather it relied on the audience’s attention to make them laugh.
What is Arrested Development about?
For those who haven’t seen it, Arrested Development is the story of the dysfunctional Bluth family where Jason Bateman’s Michael is the sole voice of reason. Every character is more eccentric than the previous one. Michael Cera’s George Michael, Tony Hale’s Buster, Will Arnett’s Gob, Jessica Walter’s Lucille and all the characters here are independently funny and even when they come together, they don’t rely on their banter to hunt for punchlines.
There’s no canned laughter and no awkward pauses for the audience to acknowledge a joke. When it comes to callbacks, Arrested Development isn’t shy of referring to long-running gags and some of them, like the chicken dance, money in the banana stand, the blue man group, continue to be hilarious till day.
The sarcastic narrator, the preview that never appears in the next episode were all choices that were made consciously by creator Mitchell Hurwitz and added an extra element of genius to the show.
What works for the show?
Arrested Development was an instant hit with the awards circuit but not so much with the ratings. The show was quite self-aware in its nature so they mocked their unsure place at the network quite often but through it all, they never faced bad episodes (for their original run).
The writing of the show is its sharpest weapon. Not relying on slapstick humour or the kind where a particularly funny person mouths funny lines, here, the show celebrated its absurdity and it gave out comedy gold.
The casting here was top notch, with the lead as well as the supporting actors.
Joe and Anthony Russo were producers on the show and even won an Emmy for directing one of the episodes.
The Netflix revival
Arrested Development’s fan base grew manifold after the show wrapped up its original run. The show was unceremoniously shut by Fox but with the growing digital streamers, their fan base started demanding more seasons and so they delivered.
The show was picked by Netflix for two seasons (Season 4 and two-part Season 5) but this has not helped its case. The later seasons feel lethargic, don’t have as much spunk as the original episodes and they now feel like a show that is overstaying its welcome.
The idea of reboots and revamps sounds good on paper as it promises to cash in on all the nostalgia but to milk that emotion, the content has to be superlative as well which sadly wasn’t the case here.
In fact, now the show’s reputation is tainted as the new viewers chance upon those confused seasons first before landing on the original ones. The show faced a sudden death but it was probably better for them to stay in the grave than re-incarnate on Netflix.
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Arrested Development is streaming on Hotstar