|Arrested Development: Season Two (2004)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Potia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jessica Walter
It’s pretty much standard practice to expect network doofus Fox to cancel all of its quality programming before they even get a chance to find a niche audience, but not every series that gets the axe is necessarily a shining nugget of excellence (i.e. the recently canned “Head Cases”). That being said, the critically-acclaimed comedy series “Arrested Development” is an even more interesting case study of Fox’s bewildering scheduling decisions. Just barely avoiding cancellation at the end of last year’s second season, despite the series’ unanimous praise, “Arrested Development” has remained the most original half-hour of television since the debut of “Seinfeld.” Dodging Fox’s erratic swinging axe didn’t come without its consequences either. The second season work order was cut from twenty-two to eighteen episodes, as if to say “You might be the entertainment world’s network television darling, but if you don’t make us money, we could care less.”
Fortunately, series creator Mitchell Hurwitz and his team of brilliant writers paid little attention to the demands of the network, and instead embarked on a second season that’s even zanier than the first. The Bluth family business is still in turmoil, with middle child Michael (Jason Bateman) doing everything in his power to keep it afloat, while his older brother Gob (Will Arnett) continues to get in his way. Meanwhile, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) and Tobias (David Cross) agree to take a break from the married life, just as Lucille (Jessica Walter) rekindles an old relationship with Oscar (Jeffrey Tambor), the hippie twin brother of her jailed husband, George Sr. (also played by Tambor). George Sr., coincidentally, knows about the affair because he’s currently hiding from the government in Michael’s attic.
Also adding to the family hijinks is mamma’s boy Buster (Tony Hale), who enrolls in the Army only to have his hand bitten off by a seal, and Michael’s own son, Michael Jr. (Michael Cera), a troubled teen who’s coping with the idea of being in love with his cousin Maeby (Alia Shawkat), while Maeby herself feels the same way. In an attempt to avoid spending time together, Michael Jr. begins to date Ann (Mae Whitman) - a girl his father would much rather him not be with – and Maeby somehow shams her way into a career as a powerful movie producer.
The show isn’t without its cast of hilarious cameo performances either, again led by Henry Winkler as the family lawyer and Liza Minnelli as Lucille’s social adversary. Also making cameo appearances throughout the season are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Christine Taylor (as two of Michael’s short-lived love interests), Ben Stiller (as a rival magician), and Zach Braff, though while many of these actors certainly add to the comedic allure of the show, it’s the sharp and courageous writing that makes “Arrested Development” so unique. The entire cast deliver award-worthy performances (with a few of them actually nabbing nominations they so greatly deserved), but Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are still stand-outs in my mind, while the young Michael Cera has continued to prove that he’s just as good as the big boys.
The DVD release of the second season is given equal treatment from the series’ last foray onto disc, with all 18 episodes evenly divided onto three separate discs and presented in 1.78:1 widescreen (one of the only shows to do so) and a Dolby Surround soundtrack. Perhaps the most enjoyable special features on the three-disc box set are the cast commentaries for the following episodes: “Good Grief” (disc one), “Ready, Aim, Fire Me!” (disc two), and “The Righteous Brothers” (disc three). A majority of the cast appears on all three audio tracks - which our absolutely hilarious to listen to - but Jason Bateman, sadly, does not; he must have been off filming a small role for the latest Frat Pack movie. Also included on all three discs are a series of deleted/extended scenes by episode, a three-minute season one recap (disc one), and an eight-minute blooper reel (disc three) that includes David Cross ranting about the show’s shitty marketing team for not being able to correctly promote a series with copious awards.
Okay, so the extras featured on the season two box set aren’t nearly as plentiful as the ones that appear on the first season, but can you really blame anyone but Fox? They more than likely didn’t want to waste money producing a handful of special features for a DVD they didn’t expect to sell well, so why bother, right? That seems to be their method of approach with this show, anyways. What’s easily one of the best comedies on television, “Arrested Development” has time and again proven to be one of the most creative, no-holds-barred shows ever created, and yet the average couch potato refuses to give anything that doesn’t consistently make sense a standing chance in their weekly line-up. But every year, millions of viewers complain about how there’s nothing new on television worth checking out, when the answer is sitting right in front of them; or rather, on Fox, on Monday nights.