Review of the pilot episode of Arrested Development
|Scooped by Brian Jansen|
Arrested Development: The show that was to good
The 2003 Pilot Episode of Arrested Development is a new idea of sitcom thanks to Ron Howard and Mitchell Hurwitz. The show has a very extensive cast such as Little House on the Prarie’s Jason Bateman, Ally Mcbeal’s Portia de Rossi and The Larry Sanders Show’s Jeffery Tambor. The single camera concept is being carried over from its predecessor Malcolm in the Middle and the UK’s The Office giving the show a documentary type feel, which will be interesting to see how viewers will react. This new take on comedy is definitely not your fathers sitcom.
Arrested Development opens up to a instant introduction of all the main characters, usually a bit unorthodox for a show, but then again, thats not the only thing that will make this show different. Even though this show has a documentary feel, there is no direct conversation with the camera by the actors, instead the show is narrated by Ron Howard. The plot is based around Michael Bluth (Bateman) who’s father, George (Tambor) is the owner of a wealthy business but is retiring. The dysfunctional over spending family gets together for a retirement party while Michael prepares to take the reins of his fathers business. What Michael is expecting, and what actually happens are two different things, as his father hands the business over to Michael’s mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter) During the ceremony The Securities and Exchange commission comes after George and imprisons him. With the family company under investigation, instead of naming the well qualified, company manager Michael in charge, Lucille quickly names her youngest son Buster, president, who’s only experience is a class in 18th century agrarian business. Michael decides he has had enough and tries to leave town to start over in Arizona. With the family realizing their 18th century cartographer businessman was not the greatest choice for president they plead for Michael to stay and help save the family business.
Crossing the lines is a great way to describe the atmosphere of this show. By opening up basically a complete description of cast members it leaves questions as to what exactly this show is going to be about. The camera style is very similar to that of The Office, with the exception that there is no interaction between the characters and the camera, which gives a different feel of a sitcom. There however is one thing I believe could be fixed with the production aspect of this episode, that is the way the overall filming process looks. I understand Howard wanted to have a one camera sitcom, however the problem lies in just that, having a one camera sitcom is almost a paradox, most of the episode looks like it was filmed by someone with a camcorder, many of the scenes come out blurry and color contrasts at times are far from in-between.
The plot goes back to the sitcom issue, having the whole show narrated is a clever idea, however at times the viewer is left of areas with silence since the only time there is backdrop is when there is a flashback telling the story of a character which sometimes leaves a moment of confusion. The confusion comes from the witty comedy; this show undoubtedly has some good comedy that requires a bit of understanding and concentration to be able to get laughter out of. Mixing this type of comedy with the random quiet spots is what make the viewer sometimes wonder “should I be laughing, or am I just missing something?” The amount of whit will be hard to win viewers over, especially at a 9:30 time slot on Fox, which is normally home for more zany slapstick comedy. Some more potential problems from this series seems to be character introduction and development. Judging from the first episode it looks like all the characters were introduced once, and how we are expected to remember their roles and background for the rest of the season, or series. This might be a problem for future viewers that did not see the first few episodes, and since the comedy seems to revolve around the characters history this might leave new viewers lost. With the method the characters were introduced, getting to remember all of the characters will take longer than usual, just like when meeting someone’s family for the first time, the viewer was bombarded with about 10 different characters to remember. This sitcom isn’t full of negatives however, as mentioned, the comedy is superb, and extremely witty, and the story line goes well with it. Having the dysfunctional type of filming goes well with a dysfunctional type of family, and the shooting angles are quite nice for a single camera filming style, however depth and sharpness could have been improved. Overall story-line is excellent, and really quite creative. The opening scene of Lucille Bluth’s opinions toward gay’s and interfamily attractions is a bit racy, but what fox sitcom would be complete without that?
Overall Arrested Development leaves an impression of finally having a comedy that requires a little bit of thinking to watch. The problem with this idea is that the show is too good for viewers since most of America turns to evening television to let loose and free their mind, not to have to try to think to be able to laugh. With the backing of Hurwitz and Howard the show does have a professional high end feel, however the demise of this show will be that it is just plain too good.