Arrested Development

Originally published June 4, 2013

After the weekend news and some personal stress, there are many topics I could write about today: drone strikes; immigration reform; student loans; Obamacare; “disappearance” of bees; high cholesterol; hormones and weight issues; etc., etc. In fact, my cholesterol and weight issues have been top of my mind these days, but I guess I’m not ready to go there. And the other, more serious, topics are … well, too serious for today’s mood.

I’m in the mood for entertainment … as in the popular TV show, Arrested Development.

Arrested Development

After hearing all the hype about the resurrection of the award-winning (but cancelled) series on Netflix (the entire fourth season released May 26, 2013), my husband and I have just recently begun watching Season One and are now understanding its rave appeal. Produced by Ron Howard and originally airing on the Fox network 2003 – 2006, Arrested Development developed around the time of the Enron corporate accounting scandal and centers on the “riches to rags” story of the wildly dysfunctional and formerly wealthy Bluth family of Newport Beach, California.

The Bluth patriarch, George Sr., is sent to prison for stealing gobs of moolah from the family’s real estate business and for illegally building houses in Irag for Saddam Hussein. His middle son — Michael, fairly normal and responsible — takes over running the business and “managing” his very irresponsible family, who are always trying to spend money that they no longer have. His mother, Lucille, is cold-hearted and manipulative (she also has some of the most outrageously funny lines in the show). His older brother, G.O.B. (George Oscar Bluth Jr.; his name is pronounced like the Bible character, Job), is a part-time magician who’s disliked by almost everyone — including his family. Michael’s twin sister, Lindsay, is superficial but good-hearted. And, his younger brother, “Buster,” is a highly-neurotic mama’s boy. Other characters include Michael’s teenage son (a “good boy,” like his father); Lindsay’s husband (a doctor who prefers to be an actor, even tho’ he’s ridiculously bad at it); and, their teenage daughter (who Michael’s son has a guilty crush on … “guilty” because they’re cousins).

What’s not to love about this family?! When I think about my own family, and I begin to exaggerate personality traits and situations, I can relate. Except for the money and lavish lifestyle. We’ve never had that, nor is there any chance of that. So, that part is in the category: “living vicariously.” (Hmmm, could I be adopted? And, my real family will someday acknowledge me by leaving me tons of money and a house in St. Tropez? One can only dream.) ***

So, after watching about half of Season One, I’m “addicted.” I could easily stay up all night watching “just one more,” but my husband needs to get up for work the next morning, so I wait. Two days ago, I wondered aloud, “What is it about this show that is so much better — more genius, if you will — than others?” I likened it with other TV series that I’ve become “addicted” to; among them: Mad MenBreaking BadHomelandDownton AbbeyThe SopranosSix Feet UnderAlias (this one and Downtown Abbey, I literally binged on past seasons to catch up).

Interestingly enough, the Universe answered my question (sort of) the next day with the Writers Guild of America’s “101 Best Written TV Series of All Time.” (Why 101? Must be that “just one more” syndrome.) The Sopranos tops this list, and — except for Alias — the others I mentioned were there. Also, there are many more favorites on that list, a lot of sitcoms for instance. It was fun to be reminded of good TV (I’d forgotten about how much I loved Moonlighting … and Bruce Willis, who I still love.). Like a lot of others, I bemoan that there’s a lot of bad stuff saturating the networks these days, such as countless reality shows that spawn even more of their ilk. But of course, one person’s “junk” is another’s “treasure.”

Still, I’m wondering about THEE ELEMENTS that separate the “cream” from the rest. Brilliant writing is paramount, of course. But, other factors play into which series are “critically acclaimed” and which are panned.

Take Arrested Development, for instance. Brilliantly written and excellently cast, it also benefits from having Ron Howard as a creator/producer. But, there were/are some production elements that set it apart as well, according to Wikipedia: The way it’s filmed is similar to techniques used for documentaries and reality TV. And, the “omniscient third-person narrator (Ron Howard) ties together multiple plot threads.” Still, all of the best elements — including praise from critics, multiple Emmys and a Golden Globe — could not save it from cancellation after three seasons. Viewership does matter. Afterall, that’s what keeps those darn reality shows on the air.

Personally, I like a break from reality. Which is why I chose to write about TV, rather than my cholesterol and weight issues. I wish there was some arrested development going on there.

* Photo credit: Fanpop
*** Note to my family: I love you all; I’m just using my “creative license.” 😉

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