Netflix review: Arrested Development – Season 1
Andrew Jones | On 25, May 2013
It’s rare to see a TV show find itself as quickly as 2003’s Arrested Development did. The story of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, as a deadpan genius) trying to keep his family’s housing business afloat when his father, George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), is arrested, and make sure his crazy family don’t do anything to threaten the company or the family name further is pretty much solid from the first outing.
With one of those great ensembles, featuring Jessica Walter, Will Arnett, David Cross, Michael Cera and Ron Howard as the narrator, Arrested Development finds no problem offering story lines to the absurd and insane Bluths – not to mention former-therapist-turned-actor Tobias Fünke (Cross) – while maintaining the highest level of intricate intelligence and convoluted plotting in a TV show since The Wire.
It’s absolutely hysterical from the very first episode.
Season one sees the Bluth family struggle with finances, while Michael and his son, George Michael, vie for the affections of one of George Michael’s teachers. The family get PR help to improve their image and mother Lucille finds she has an adopted Korean boy to look after, alongside her youngest real son, thirty-something man-boy Buster (Veep’s Tony Hale). These are but a few of the branching stories that pack season one of Mitch Hurwitz’s outlandish, silly mockumentary, and that’s without touching on the many off-colour jokes that plague the show – yet never make it any less high-brow than it ever was initially.
While perhaps not quite the peak of the show in terms of laughs, Arrested Development season one finds a lot of ground to cover in rich, white, narcissistic Orange County residents and what happens to them when their status is dropped dramatically. And yet, with every character being utterly broad and horrible, it’s a testament to each performer that we never hate spending time with them and, indeed, enjoy the antics of Tobias the actor, a magician named GOB and activist fashionista Lindsay.
With each episode running a little over 20 minutes, it’s crammed tight with in-jokes, recurring gags, allusions to later moments, character beats, meta moments, slapstick and wordplay. It’s something for everyone. And while a single episode might not be enough to satisfy your needs, Season One’s 22-long run should keep you going for a few days.
A weaker season of Arrested Development is tantamount to a strong season of almost any other TV show. The excellent cast is handled perfectly by an obsessive group of writers who make it worth watching, and re-watching, just to find jokes that reward you for doing so. Not sweet, not family-friendly, but just darn good fun, Arrested Development starts as it means to go on: with about 80-100 laughs an episode.