Great TV Shows Taken Before Their Time: Arrested Development

More than any other series that will be featured in this series, Arrested Development‘s cancellation has had the most impact, being among the most discussed and most relevant, years later. This is the series that, with its awards presence, established the single-camera model that has become so critically-acclaimed in years since. 30 Rock,Cougar TownThe Office, and Parks and Recreation all owe a lot to Arrested Development. To put it in perspective, if the pop-culture heavy Community is like watching a live-action Family Guy, then Arrested Development would be South Park.

The Bluth family’s legacy has approached legendary status.

During Arrested Development‘s first season, it was offered a strong lead-in being scheduled on Sunday nights after Malcolm in the Middle. In its second season, Fox would shift the series between The Simpsons and a returning Family Guy. Whether Fox thought it could anchor its own weeknight or if it was simply just giving it a death sentence, the network once again moved Arrested, this time to Mondays at 8pm.

In spite of the yearly schedule shuffle, the show’s ratings would only suffer a slight decline. Unfortunately, it was on a network that failed to provide the effort and dedication worthy of an Emmy-award winning sitcom. Not only did Fox pull it from Sweeps in both its second and third seasons, but moving it from a comfortable Sunday night slot to going against Monday Night Football would prove a fatal mistake. Much has been said about Arrested Development‘s lack of commercial success, but Tivo, DVR, and the internet were not responsible for the show’s declining ratings.

Lucille’s reaction to Gene Parmesan is priceless

Considering how dark a comedy Arrested Development often was, it’s somewhat of a miracle that the series aired on network television at all, let alone for the better part of three years. The pervasive nature of the series featured an episode during its first season that suggested Gob was sleeping with a high school girl and that showed George Michael’s Ethics teacher openly flirt with one of her students. Of course, the two longest running suggestive themes were that the Bluthe company had close ties to Saddam Hussein (which results in George Sr. being discovered hiding in a hole) and the “will they? might they?” relationship between cousins George Michael and Maeby. Nevermind that mid-way through the first season there would be hints that Maeby might not be biologically related, the fact that a network would allow for such suggestive material was unprecedented.

Once it was official that Fox would be cancelling the Emmy Award winning series, the showrunners approached the last episodes as a loud, proverbial “fuck you” to the network. That final, 13-episode shortened season was much more in-your-face. The season 3 premiere pushed Tobias’ questionable sexual orientation with him making out with a male prostitute (who happened to be the Bluth’s former lawyer Barry) and there was a mid-season story-arc where Michael fell in love with a mentally retarded woman who was a former Special Olympics athlete. More than anything, the controversial incestuous relationship between George Michael and his Maeby became an incestuous love triangle with Steve Holt (STEVE HOLT!), who is revealed to be Gob’s illegitimate son.

A movie has to be made just to follow up on this, right?

Though there was some initial hope that Showtime would pick it up, Arrested Development went out in a blaze of glory. And that’s one reason why the series is considered by many to be the best sitcom in the history of television. With the persistant rumor that the franchise will be extended into film, here’s hoping the Bluth family takes over Hollywood a lot sooner than expected.

Notable quotes from my rewatch of the series:

Maeby: “Is there any way I can divorce them?”
Barry: “Oh, sure. It’s called emancipation, bu you’ve got to prove that you’re living in an unstable environment.”
Maeby: “Both my parents are having affairs. Of course, they haven’t succeeded yet.”
Barry: “If they do, I can have you out of this house, on the street in a month.”
Maeby: “Sweet!”

Tobias to Michael: “I know you’re the big marriage expert – oh, I’m sorry, I forgot, your wife is dead!”

Michael to Gob: “Get rid of the C-word.”
Lucille Bluth: “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.”

George Michael: ‎”They’re grown ups, they’re allowed to have fun whenever they want. We’re kids, we’re supposed to be working.”


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