In the Name of the Father

Batman Begins explains how a traumatized orphan became America's superhero.

By Leo Charney
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 12, 2005

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The show is one of those TV foundlings that some viewers cherish and most viewers ignore. Winner of two Emmys in a row for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series, and last year's winner of Outstanding Comedy Series, it weaves the ongoing saga of the wacky Bluth family, who together run (into the ground) a family business.

At one level it's a classic family sitcom, in which pathologically people-pleasing son Michael (raspy-voiced Jason Bateman) parries the corrosive screwballs around him, from oversexed sister Lindsay (Ally McBeal's Portia de Rossi) to martini-swilling mom Lucille (Jessica Walter) to sweetly confused son George Michael, who's tragically in love with his cousin Maeby, a high school student who's a movie studio executive in her spare time.

Deadpan yet manic, the show has a can-you-top-this structure that makes its writers almost into characters, pushing themselves to come up with more outrageous situations each week while still advancing a unique storyline for each of their 10 main characters.

While other sitcoms repeat the same formulas week after week, Arrested Development sustains believable emotional arcs for even its nuttiest characters-like hapless Tobias, who aspires to make himself a member of the Blue Man Group while struggling to hang on to his sexpot wife; or sad sack Buster, in thrall to his domineering mother, who loses his hand to a seal and gets involved with a doppelganger of his mother called Lucille 2 (played by an insanely self-parodying Liza Minnelli). Even the narrator has a personality-no surprise, since he's the voice of sarcastic yet levelheaded Ron Howard.

This second season is the show's best, burning a hard crust of mockery on top of intricate plots, with heartbreak and pathos seeping off the edges. It's a tone the show owns, as if surrealist Luis Bu´┐Żuel remade I Love Lucy by way of Fawlty Towers. In common with all the best TV shows, it's like nothing else yet like everything else, deeply familiar while deeply unsettling, and it lodges inside your consciousness like a fever dream. A

Includes: Surprisingly unenlightening commentary tracks, deleted/extended scenes, blooper reels and more.

You'll Like It If You Like: Family sitcoms, absurdist humor, zany comedies.


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