Sunday, May 05, 2013

Arrested Development. Again.


When I wrote my first piece about Arrested Development, I said that my plan was to watch the final episode of S3 the day before S4 is released on Netflix. Thanks to a hiatus I did manage to stretch out my viewing rather longer than I genuinely expected (I finished up last week), but I’m now actually pretty pleased that I have time to revisit some of the early episodes before we all settle down to devour the new ones.

Reading it back, I gave a pretty luke-warm reaction to the show, and that was basically because I hadn’t quite got my head around it yet. I *saw* that there was a silly, farce-y side to it, but I didn’t really *feel* it. It all felt pretty low-key and, well, luke-warm in itself. This despite the fact that I’d already seen Tobias “blue himself”. Because that’s not silly at all.

The fact is, I wasn’t looking beyond the straight face.

Luckily, even I couldn’t fail to see an absurdist side to the show when Buster got his hand bitten off by a seal in a yellow bow-tie, or a character called Bob Loblaw was introduced. But in reality I was hooked way before that. The show, clearly, does indeed have a sense of the ridiculous, and more than that, real heart - all those things that make me really fall for a comedy.

And in fact, there’s proper joy to be had in these surreal plot-twists being sold completely straight. And when - occasionally, but increasingly in the 3rd series - they *do* metaphorically wink at the camera? Well that’s just beautiful. The little discussion about where Gob actually lives is an audience-pleasing delight - “I always pictured him in a lighthouse”.

The one element of the show I did speak rather evangelically about was Will Arnett’s portrayal as Gob - and I do still have a real soft spot for that performance. In lesser hands, the ‘dumb philanderer” character would be fun, but unremarkable. Arnett makes him a lovable, infuriating, hilarious anti-hero.

But one of the main reasons I now agree with everyone else that AD is, frankly, a bit of a masterpiece, is the reason I would happily say the same about Blackadder, Friends, Frasier, Spaced and Community: the whole ensemble cast is *exquisite*. There are no weak links. There is as much fun to be had with Maebe working as a studio exec as there is with George going slightly mad in the attic; as many laughs from Lucille getting hammered as there are from a Gob illusion going predictably wrong. I know it’s clever, and ambitious, and layered, but without these performances, all of that would count for nothing.

On one hand, it’s a real shame that it’s taken me so long to get round to watching Arrested Development - all those years of enjoying a stupendously entertaining show missed out on. On the other hand, what better time to be in the early stages of adoring a show? With brand new episodes just around the corner, there’ll be, presumably, loads of interviews and features to read, and apparently the banana stand in central London was only the start of the marketing stunts being planned.

Series 4, then. COME ON!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Arrested Development

(Here's one of those "cross-posted from my Tumblr" updates I mentioned....)

Never knowingly ahead of the curve, I'm currently in the middle of watching the first season of Arrested Development. For the first time. I know, it's Mean Girls all over again. You'll all be envious when I'm watching the last episode of season 3 the day before it starts up again on Netflix, though. (That's genuinely the plan, but whether I can really stretch my viewing out until May is, let's face it, doubtful.)

Coming to the show completely cold - I didn't even know the premise when I started watching - I don't think AD is particularly easy to connect with in the first few episodes. I now see that that's partially intentional (I've got used to the fact that I'm going to have to find some of the gags myself) but it's in stark contrast to, say, Community which, for all its smarts, is perfectly happy to shout "love me" at the top of its voice.

My experience of watching Arrested Development has so far been a case of "come for Tobias, stay for Gob." Is that pretty much par for the course? David Cross gets the first big laughs, but ultimately Gob is just magnificent, and Will Arnett insanely watchable. Gob could easily be one-dimensional and - 99% of the time - pretty much is. Arnett's triumph is leaving that 1% that makes you believe one day Gob is going do something massively sweet and heroic and you're going to punch the air with delight. I'm only 15 episodes in, though, so you'll have to be gentle with me if it transpires I've called him completely wrong...

On one level, I love the fact that I've almost certainly missed a healthy percentage of the jokes so far, and I get that that's part of the show's charm and genius. But at the same time... I *like* it when it's overtly gaggy. Gob struggling to use his Segway on the Bluth building site? That's just funny.

I appreciate, by the way, that picking apart a decade-old show based on relatively few episodes must be an intensely annoying read for those who have been fans for since it first aired and know the whole thing inside out. Sorry you guys; I'll be all caught up soon enough (way before May, no doubt). Til then, I'll look forward to the honour of getting to know this clever, increasingly likable and occasionally absurd show a whole lot better.