“Arrested Development” Season 1 (2003-04, Fox), episodes 1-5 – “Tru Calling’s” Eliza Dushku is welcome to fill my 27-inch Sony whenever she wants, but so far, I’ve been enjoying the company of Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, David Cross and the other wackos on “Arrested Development” a bit more.
“Arrested Development” no doubt will be canned as well (before you can say “Andy Richter”), but it will be missed more than “Tru Calling.” The Mitchell Hurwitz-created comedy, narrated in deadpan fashion by executive producer Ron Howard, chronicles a family so dysfunctional they make the Simpsons look like the Cleavers.
Michael Bluth (Bateman) is the only normal one, reluctantly letting his siblings stay with him in his display house in the middle of the California desert while they attempt (or don’t attempt) to find their first real jobs. Their dad, George (Jeffrey Tambor), had acquired the family fortune through illegal business practices, and he’s now having the time of his life in prison.
Michael is saddled with his shopaholic sister Lindsay Funke (de Rossi from “Ally McBeal”); Lindsay’s husband Tobias (Cross from “Mr. Show”), who decides on a whim to be an actor; and the Funkes’ daughter Maebe (Alia Shawkat), who kisses her cousin George Michael (Michael Cera), which leads the shy lad to develop a crush on her. There’s also Michael’s failed magician brother George Oscar (Will Arnett) and seriously arrested brother Buster (Tony Hale) — he spent 11 months in the womb and left claw marks on the way out. Frightening mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) rounds out the family.
Lacking a laugh track, “Arrested” has a dry tone similar to BBC’s ultra-realistic work-sucks comedy “The Office.” It screams, “We are not like any other comedy on network TV!” But unlike “The Office,” “Arrested” isn’t interested in being real. It’s not even all that interested in jokes. It just wants to be weird, and on that count, it succeeds.
Half of the time, it’s funny (George’s love of jail is a gem). Half of the time, it’s not (Buster destroying a chandelier while swatting at a bird doesn’t do much for me). But it’s original and intensely watchable. When the fall’s other exciting new comedy is that Norm Macdonald dud (the title of which I’ve already forgotten), watchable is good enough.
If you watch
Title: “Arrested Development”
Airtime: 8:30 p.m. Sundays on Fox
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Portia de Rossi, David Cross
Created by: Mitchell Hurwitz