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Arrested Development: Season 1

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/B+/A-

Directed by: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Greg Mottola, Jay Chandrasekhar, Lee Shallat-Chemel, John Fortenberry, etc.
Written by: Mitchell Hurwitz, John Levenstein, Richard Rosenstock, Brad Copeland, Barbara Feldman, etc.
Produced by: John Amodeo, Barbara Feldman and Victor Hsu
Starring: Jason Bateman, Portia De Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!

Since the first sitcom, there have been many brilliant shows with fake laughter. MASH, Seinfeld and Fawlty Towers all rank as some of my favourite shows. However, since the start of the twenty-first century, I have not encountered a single multi-camera show with laugh track that ranks up there with those classics. Instead, I am getting most of my laughs from single-camera sitcoms sans background laughter. My Name is Earl, The Office and Scrubs have all impressed me a lot. The show that I have enjoyed the most, however, has been the poorly marketed Fox show Arrested Development. This is witty satire at its best with completely memeorable characters and one great script after another.

After housing company CEO George Bluth (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for stealing money, his son Michael (Jason Bateman) is called upon to run the company and get his father out of prison. He also has to deal with his wild relatives who are so used to being rich. His twin sister Lindsay (Portia De Rossi) is too lazy to get a job, while her husband Tobias (David Cross) a former theapist attempts to become an actor. His older brother Gob (Will Arnett) is a blacklisted magician trying to get back into the alliance that he created. His younger brother Buster (Tony Hale) suffers from panic attacks and is constantly being baby-sat by his mother Lucille (Jessica Walter). Michael has to deal with all of them while also taking care of his son George-Michael (Michael Cera), who has since fallen in love with his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat). It's one big happy family.

Reading the above description, you might think that this is your average sitcom about a dysfunctional family, but it completely destroys the usual cliches. The jokes are clever and (mostly due to not having the distraction of an in-studio audience) come at break-neck speed. The writers aren't the only ones who deserve credit. The producers have gotten a great ensemble of actors for the roles. Will Arnett, David Cross and Tony Hale provide the majority of laughs, but that doesn't mean that the rest of the cast can't chime in. Jason Bateman, playing the straight man, uses dry wit as does Jessica Walter who makes you laugh and cringe at the same time. The various guest stars, most notably Henry Winkler (as the Bluth lawyer) and Liza Minnelli (playing one of Buster's girlfriends) also add to the fun. Despite the many flaws of the characters, you can't help but love them.

Arrested Development also manages to stand up well on repeat viewings. You discover new jokes and ones you enjoyed before never get old. In fact, going back and watching this season again after seeing the sophomore one, I noticed many references to it (showing just how clever the writers are). This series is completely flawless and shame on Fox for not advertising it properly enough. However, they have taken very good care with this three-disc box set, which is done with nice easy to slide out thin cases (those who have the Family Guy sets know what I'm talking about). The video and audio are also much better than they appear on television. Kudos to the network for at least making the DVDs very watchable.

Moving on to the extras, we start off with disc one which autimatically begins with an introduction by the show's executive producer and narrator Ron Howard (you know, Richie from Happy Days). The first real special features are some enjoyable deleted scenes (which also appear on the other discs). They're rather amusing, but somewhat because it's not Ron Howard providing the narration (Apparently he was just filling in on the pilot, but his voice worked so well that he stayed in that role for the remainder of the series). Next is an interesting documentary on the making of the show and you can also listen to the show's original songs.

Disc Two has a very funny Q&A with the cast, but one major problem is its way too short. It would have been nice if we were given a longer piece similiar to the ones found on Kevin Smith's DVD, but I'm glad it's here though, because it still provides a wealth of valuable information. On the final disc, there is a featurette on the cast and crew responding to TV Land naming Arrested Development a future classic (and believe me, it deserves it). There is also a clip from the TV Land Awards with Liza Minnelli presenting a special award to the cast of the show. Finally, there's a clip of Ron Howard explaining want to expect for the second season and a series promo as well.

On each disc, you can also find one commentary track. They're all very funny and enjoyable listens all around. With marvelous extras, a terrific tranfer and many rewatches, it's hard for me to not give the first season of Arrested Development a Buy it! rating.

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