Original Air Date: Nov 2, 2003
JD – Sr. Staff Writer
Us Arrested Development fans got a little hope last fall when we heard that the people and stars involved in the beloved show were making a new sitcom, Running Wilde. Sadly, the new series tanked and came nowhere near it’s predecessor’s glory. I stuck it out with Will Arnett for longer than most, but even I didn’t bother to hunt down the final episodes when they got burned off in weird time slots. The failure made me long for the original again, though, and when it came time for us to start our summer DVD reviews this year, I pounced on it.
So we’ve got eleven weeks of summer, and season one is twenty-two episode. I really tried to pick and choose the “best” to showcase this summer, but this show was so consistent, it’s hard to eliminate any episode from my coverage lineup. So I’ll just be going straight through the first eleven, and maybe next summer I’ll finish the season out. Hope you guys will watch along with me!
The pilot of any show has the same goal: to introduce the characters and the basic premise, while still keeping the audiences interest. It’s not really an easy task to do, and many shows fail at it. Given the large number of central characters and subplots introduced in Arrested Development, the pilot could have been a disaster. But somehow, it isn’t.
Right away it establishes a “one of these things is not like the other” frame of reference in Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the son of the wealthy George Bluth Sr. (Jeffery Tambor), the President and CEO of The Bluth Company, which builds upper-class housing, among other things. As the episode opens, Michael is happy. Why? Because he’s decided never to speak to his highly dysfuntcional family again.
You would be too if your mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) was was usually drunk and out of touch with the world, your twin sister Lindsay (Portia DeGeneres, aka Portia de Rossi) was a shallow wanna-be socialite, your older brother Gob (Will Arnett) is a failed magician that just won’t give it up, your younger brother Buster (Tony Hale) is a “professional student” with severe social ineptitude (due to your mother’s smothering), and your father is a criminal. Oh, and that last bit is something Michael doesn’t even know until after he’s decided to leave. These guys make my family look like the Waltons.
On top of that, they’ve all been recklessly using company money (Gob on a fancy “Aztec Tomb” magic trick, Lucille on furs, etc.), which Michael had intended to put a stop to once he was made partner in The Bluth Company… which didn’t quite happen. Now Michael only has the one sane person in his life to worry about, his son, George Micheal (Michael Cera), who works at the family’s frozen banana stand. Or at least that’s what he thinks until his father’s retirement party on his yacht gets crashed by the cops.
Everyone panics. Lucille, Lindsay and Buster head up to the helm to try to sail away, but despite Buster’s $80,000 worth of cartography lessons, he’s unable to say much more than that obviously the blue on the map is the land. Obviously. George Sr. is on the phone having someone destroy files, while Gob is shoving him into the Aztec Tomb as a hiding spot. Oh, and George Michael, who let his cousin Maeby talk him into making out with her to teach their parents a lesson about how they should see each other more (they would have known better otherwise!), starts to freak out because he’s convinced the cops are there because him kissing his cousin was illegal.
Meanwhile, Tobias, Lindsay’s husband, wound up on entirely the wrong boat. He spent the afternoon in a boat full of gay activists who were protesting the yacht club. And the former psychiatrist, thinking the other passengers were all just actors, found his calling for the theatre.
When George Sr. gets put in prison, Lucille quickly appoints Buster to be the new president of The Bluth Company, because his studies in 18th century agrarian business must be good enough to cover what he needs to know, right? Michael quickly gets a job at a competing firm who wants to move him to Arizona, and says his goodbyes. Lindsay guilts him into saying goodbye to his father too, and when he demands to know why he didn’t promote him, he gets a surprising answer. George Sr. was under the mistaken assumption that a man and wife could not be arrested for the same crime, and he did it to keep from making Michael an accomplice.
Wow. And that sort of a wow both at the twist and at the stupidity of George Sr. Those sorts of wows are pretty common in this show.
It’s still too late to make up for it though, and Michael holds to his plan, heading back to the model home he lives in to get his son so they can leave… which is when he walks in on George Michael telling Lindsay that he’s sad they’re moving. Since his mother died, it’s been lonely for him.
Okkaaayyy… Michael may have been able to overlook that his father was ineptly trying to save him after everything else that happened, but being a single father, he can’t overlook the happiness of his son. After talking to his sister, he decides to stay and help the family out of the mess it’s gotten itself into.
Man, there is SO much crammed into this pilot. There is eight main characters and several ongoing plots (I didn’t even try to count those). I’m already well over the amount of space I’m supposed to take up here, guys, and I haven’t even gotten started. Next week, when we get into an episode with less information dump, I’ll be able to really delve into what makes this show work.
Up next, episode two: Top Banana
If you’d like to follow JD’s TV stories from TTC and beyond, you can follow her on Twitter at @JDeckerTV.