|Arrested Development: Season Three (2005)
Starring: Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, Potia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Tony Hale, David Cross, Jessica Walter
You’d think being recognized as one of the all-time best comedy series would be enough to keep a show on the air, but alas, FOX finally pulled the plug on “Arrested Development” after teasing its audience for three years with reduced episode orders, asinine time slots and irregular scheduling. And if all that wasn’t enough, rumors of a possible jump to Showtime gave viewers hope of seeing their favorite show once again, only to have it squashed by creator Mitchell Hurwitz’s unpopular decision to let sleeping dogs lie. Of course, more recent rumors point to a potential “Arrested Development” feature film (it’s even mentioned in the series finale), but there’s really no need to tarnish the spirit of the Emmy Award-winning comedy by whoring it out, is there?
Obviously aware that the smell of cancellation was in the air, Hurwitz and Co. have gone completely balls out in this third (and final) season of the show. With the real George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) on the run from the law, and his twin brother Oscar (Tambor, again) serving time in prison, Michael (Jason Bateman) sets off on a mission to clear the Bluth company name. Meanwhile, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi) attempts to rekindle lost love with Tobias (David Cross), Lucille (Jessica Walter) begins dating the prison warden (James Lipton), Buster (Tony Hale) fakes a coma to avoid having to testify, and George-Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) accidentally get married. Unfortunately, Gob (Will Arnett) isn’t given much to do this season, but he still participates in all the fun.
Perhaps the best thing about season three, however, is the introduction of Charlize Theron as Michael’s girlfriend, Rita, who is initially believed to be a British spy, but merely turns out to be a little retarded; literally. Recurring guest stars like Judy Greer and Henry Winkler only return for one episode, and Ben Stiller revisits his role as Gob’s magician rival, Tony Wonder, while fresh faces like Justine Bateman, John Michael Higgins, Gary Cole, Judge Reinhold and Andy Richter make their first appearances on the show. Also featured in more prominent guest roles are Jeff Garlin as the Hollywood executive and Scott Baio as the family’s new lawyer, Bob Loblaw, but it’s the outstanding writing and ensemble cast that have continuously made the comedy series an absolute joy to watch.
As usual, every episode can be considered an instant classic, but the final five are particularly hilarious, if only because the show’s cancellation had been all but finalized by that time. The writers utilized this bad news for some truly comical moments, namely the episode entitled “S.O.B.s,” where the family holds a Save Our Bluths fundraiser much in the likeness of the real-life internet petition of the same name. Of course, rumors of the show moving to another network were already popping up around the industry, which only makes the following exchange that much more amusing:
George Sr.: So, what's going on with the fundraiser?
Michael: Well, I don't think the Home Builders Organization is gonna be supporting us.
George Sr.: Yeah, the HBO's not gonna want us. What do we do now?
Michael: Well, I think it's "Show Time." I think we have to have a show during dinner.
You can tell exactly how much confidence FOX had in the series, though, just by looking at how this season three DVD release was put together. Case in point, the two-disc set hasn’t been packaged in a box with individual slimpacks (like previous seasons), but rather a generic DVD case, while the disc art is just plain dull. All thirteen episodes still appear in the customary 1.78:1 widescreen presentation, but the special features have been callously downgraded yet again. Audio commentaries featuring Hurwitz and most of the principal cast appear on only three episodes (“Forget Me Now,” “MR F” and “Development Arrested”), while the rest of the bonus material consists of over 15 minutes of deleted/extended scenes, a short blooper reel, and a behind-the-scenes featurette on “The Last Day of Shooting” that’s essentially just an interview with star Jason Bateman.
It may not look like much, and its not, but what more are we to expect from a network whose business plan thrives on canceling promising (and more importantly, original) television series that don’t pull in the same kind of numbers as soul-sucking reality shows like “American Idol”? Have our imaginations gone completely down the drain? Let’s hope not, or next year we might be saying goodbye to some of our other favorite shows like “Scrubs” and “The Office.” And if we’re to learn anything from the cancellation of “Arrested Development,” it should be that good television is hard to come by.