Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode
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The Ups and Downs of "Arrested Development"

This is my review of the pilot episode of the sitcom "Arrested Development" which originally aired in 2003.

 

Michael Holzman's insight:

            First here is some background data on the show; “Arrested Development” was a television sitcom that aired on the Fox Network from 2003-2006.  The show was created by Mitchell Hurwitz and famous actor Ron Howard was the show’s executive producer.  Despite having a cult following and tons of critical praise, even until this day, the show’s ratings forced Fox to cancel the show in 2006 after the show’s third season.  In May of 2013 however, the show will return on the digital on-demand service Netflix, as part of a new movement in television media where shows that may not survive the network or cable environment, can still get a shot on a paid service like Netflix.  It has been rumored as well for the last few years that the show will have its own feature length movie with Ron Howard as the director but nothing has been officially announced.  The show also follows a controversy over its title which is also the name of a rap group Arrested Development, known for their hit song “Mr. Wendal,” and the group got an undisclosed settlement from Fox and it is unclear what this lawsuit means for Netflix when the shows goes back on the air.

            I myself have only seen the pilot although the show does somewhat interest me.  The basic premise of the show is about the Bluth family.  The Bluth’s are a somewhat exaggerated version of the traditional dysfunctional family and provide a new twist on that theme in many ways.  First the story revolves around the extended family, the patriarch and matriarch, George and Lucille respectively, along with their four children, Gob, the oldest, who is single and a failing magician, along with a member of a magicians union.  Also there are the fraternal twins, Lindsay, who is married to the very quirky Tobias Funke, who is a disgraced psychologist who decides to become an actor along with their daughter Maeby, and Michael, the hero and only family member who does not seem somewhat corrupted, who is a widower and has a son George Michael.  Lastly is Buster, the youngest son who is very socially awkward and about as quirky as Tobias and the show implies he is that way because of Lucille being too overbearing on him as a child.

            The pilot episode jumps right in showing the characteristics of this family.  The show is mostly from Michael’s perspective and he sometimes has voiceovers that narrate what is going on.  The family is gathered on George’s yacht and is throwing his retirement party; George is a billionaire who founded his own company “Bluth Company.”  Michael explains he has not seen a lot of his family in a while, which he feels is a good thing, and is expecting his dad to pass the torch on to him.  Michael even warns the rest of his family that he will not allow them to dip into the company’s finances for their own gain, something George has mainly ignored as the new CEO.  Michael is shocked that George names his mother, Lucille, as the next CEO and feels betrayed, even though his dad says “now is not the time.”  Michael, and everyone else on the yacht, finds out immediately why, as federal agents on speedboats come flying up to the yacht to arrest George.  Foolishly, Lucille and Buster try to outrun them even though their yacht is clearly too slow but it buys George time to get his secretary to burn incriminating files to help weaken the Securities and Exchange Commission’s case against him.  Another storyline in the episode is the relationship between Michael’s son George Michael and his niece Maeby, the two of which have rarely met before.  Maeby, who has a rebellious streak against her parents, formulates a plan to make her parents and Michael feel guilty for not seeing each other enough by them making-out in-front of them at the party.  George Michael is reluctant but goes along with it and near the end of the pilot, he seems eager to do it again even though Maeby no longer sees how it would make their parents feel bad.  By the end of the episode, Lucille has named Buster the CEO and becomes the family’s patsy just so Michael can’t take the company over.  With everyone’s future up in the air with George being in jail, Michael decides to let his sister and her family, along with his mom, Gob and Buster, to move into a model home owned by the family business that Michael and George Michael have been living in.

            Just by watching the pilot episode, you get a feel why this show did not thrive on network TV and whose fans make up a small niche.  Although the style of comedy inspired future shows like “The Office” and “Modern Family,” sometimes the humor can go a little too far or may not be funny to everyone.  The clearest example in the pilot is the relationship between George Michael and Maeby who become “kissing cousins” something which falls under the taboo of incest.  There is also Tobias, who decides to dress up like a pirate when going to the party and instead ends up aboard a boat full of gay rights protesters who are protesting the yacht club’s ban on gay members.  Despite being around several men wearing women’s clothes or leather chaps, Tobias seems totally comfortable around them and just waves at everybody on his father-in-law’s yacht.  This starts a running joke about Tobias’s sexuality which may not have been as acceptable in 2003 as it is now.  Other instances that not everyone may find funny is the scene where Michael visits his father in prison, who says he put Lucille in charge because somebody cannot be charged with the same crime as their spouse, according to his lawyer.  Michael says that is not true and George breaks down saying “I have the worst (bleep)ing attorney.”  Not everybody finds swearing funny and some people may not have liked that.  Another thing which is kind of a dry humor is the use of a cold ending.  After the credits they have a voiceover saying “next time on Arrested Development,” and instead of a teaser of the next episode, it is just more gags, like Michael visiting his father again and George telling him about how much he loves it here, he is also wearing a do-rag, and then a tough looking African-American inmate, who is implied to be a gang member, walks by and George and him do a gang handshake.  Some people may find that funny, but others may find it dry.  All in all, I myself found this show pretty funny and may actually have thrived today where more inappropriate sitcoms are deemed acceptable than in 2003, but I can see why this show only suits a niche audience and does not have the broad appeal like networks want in their sitcoms like “The Cosby Show,” and other dysfunctional family sitcoms.

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USATODAY.com - 'Development': Not your father's family sitcom, thankfully

USATODAY.com - 'Development': Not your father's family sitcom, thankfully | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
Now here's an interesting development.
Michael Holzman's insight:

This is a review from the USA Today about the pilot episode made right after the episode aired.  Alot of the reviews online now are only reviews of the season 1 dvd which made a review of just the pilot a little hard to find.  The USA Today of course is very credible as it is a nationwide newspaper which has it own entertainment department.

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Brian Jansen's curator insight, March 26, 2013 10:34 PM

Good laid out article that gives a pretty good nuetral review. Being that it is from the USA Today it can be assumed that it will hold water

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‘Arrested Development’ officially back! Revived series coming to Netflix | EW.com

‘Arrested Development’ officially back! Revived series coming to Netflix | EW.com | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
Done deal: Netflix is bringing back cult classic Arrested Development. The Bluth family’s new comedy adventures will be available exclusively through the video service starting...
Michael Holzman's insight:

This source is clearly huge because it shows a new chapter in the history of the sitcom since fans have tried to get the show back on the air.  It is also interesting because if "Arrested Development" becomes a cash-cow for Netflix, it could really mainstream this new practice of airing shows in the media since other shows that are only aired on serviced like Netflix are originals with no history behind them like "Arrested Development."

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Is Arrested Development one of the All-TIME 100 Best TV Shows? TIME thinks so. Check it out.

Is Arrested Development one of the All-TIME 100 Best TV Shows? TIME thinks so. Check it out. | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
"I apologize. I know I left some of your favorite shows off this list. How do I know that? Because I left some of my favorite shows off this list.
Michael Holzman's insight:

This was a list from Time Magazine of the 100 best tv shows of all time in 2007, about a year after the show was cancelled.  This list is not done by ranking so it's unclear if Arrested Development is in the top 5 or just 99, plus would it still be on there with shows produced since then, such as "Breaking Bad" or "Game of Thrones."  This however is impressive because Arrested Development did not get a whole lot of ratings but the critics seemed to have loved it.

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R.I.P., 'Arrested Development' -- critics' fave not given room to grow

R.I.P., 'Arrested Development' -- critics' fave not given room to grow | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
Michael Holzman's insight:

This article is just as important as the article on the shows revival because this marked the end of the show, at least until recently.  This article also explains why the show failed despite such high praise from critics mainly because not enough people watched it and network tv is about getting ratings and not pleasing critics.

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IGN's Top 25 Funniest TV Shows of All Time - IGN

IGN's Top 25 Funniest TV Shows of All Time - IGN | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
What is IGN TV's funniest TV show of all time? If you guessed Homeboys In Outer Space, you'd be absolutely correct... in feeling ashamed.
Michael Holzman's insight:

This article builds on the Time magazine article because it is made 4 years later, in 2011.  Now unlike the Time article, this is a list of just comedy shows but they rank "Arrested Development" at number one despite not being on the air for five years.  It even beat out shows still on the air then and now like South Park, Family Guy and the Simpsons.

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Arrested Development Files Lawsuit Against Fox Over Infringing Their Trademark - HipHop-Elements.com

Arrested Development Files Lawsuit Against Fox Over Infringing Their Trademark - HipHop-Elements.com | Review of "Arrested Development" Pilot Episode | Scoop.it
Michael Holzman's insight:

I know this isn't the best source but I really could not find this on a major news site.  I have heard of this before that before the show "Arrested Development" there was a rap group called Arrested Development, known mainly for their hit song "Mr. Wendal," and they filed a lawsuit against Fox and the writers would put lines in the script making fun of the lawsuit.  Fox settled with the group and they and the show continued using the name.

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