When it originally aired: 2003-2006, reboot debut in 2013.
Original network: Fox (moved to Netflix for season 4 and beyond)
Where you can stream it now: Netflix
Had I seen it before: Nope.
What IMDb says: Level-headed son Michael Bluth takes over family affairs after his father is imprisoned. But the rest of his spoiled, dysfunctional family are making his job unbearable.
Why I picked it: Arrested Development is a great example of a “don’t know what we got ’til it’s gone” show. I was a little too young to be into it when it first aired, but I don’t remember hearing too much about it. Yet now, it feels like a must-watch for people interested in the tv comedy space. Maybe this is because enough other comedies came along in the ’00s that we now see how Arrested Development was ahead of its time. Maybe binging the show provided appeal that one-episode-a-week never could. Either way, Arrested Development is a beloved comedy that helped push 21st century comedies in the direction they ended up going.
What I liked: It’s easy to see how the show would be funny. It has a good assortment of ridiculous characters grounded by a perfect Straight Man in Michael Bluth. There’s a brother who has a weird obsession with magic. There’s another brother who has a weird obsession with cartography. There’s the spoiled rich matriarch. There’s an excess of comedic acting talent that makes it all work.
Enough silly things happen throughout this show that I feel like it knows what it wants to be. At no point is it walking a weird line between absurdism and reality. No, it’s committed to its tone and it makes that tone work. Ultimately, it was a fun show to watch, and I can see why so many people use it as a go-to escapist satire. Is it going to hold up to some of my more critical analysis? Probably not. Was it enough fun that I’m not sure I care? Yes.
What I didn’t like: There’s a shocking amount of voiceover that doesn’t really do anything. Almost everything the voiceover said was something that we could’ve concluded on our own or something that could’ve easily worked into dialog. I didn’t feel like it assisted my ability to follow the plot line. The voiceover isn’t even particularly funny or entertaining either. It’s literally just explaining the story as you watch it.
I also wish I could’ve gotten a little bit more insight into how this family will function together AFTER they are forced into living together stripped of their wealth. I suppose in some ways it’s a good thing that it feels like the pilot ends right as its getting good. But I also feel like what I saw here might not be all that reflective of what makes other episodes good. Yes, I get a great sense for who the different Bluths are and how they each grind Michael’s gears in their own special way. But I wish there had been a little less time spent on the boat at George Sr.’s party and more time on Michael trying to run this business or Lucille trying to function without her wealth. Schitt’s Creek has a similar premise in a lot of ways, and that pilot does a good job of showing us who the Roses were before they were stripped of their wealth while also showing what challenges they’ll face now that they don’t have it.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes. Not for any compelling narrative reasons, but because it’s fun. And that’s all a comedy really has to be, isn’t it?