Arrested Development: Season Two Movie Review

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Season Two is when Arrested Development transcended simply being television's funniest show and became its very best. Its humor became richer and its savage cultural references became slyer and nastier. If the brilliant comedy's first season was enough to forever classify Arrested as a perennial classic, then its second season established the show as one of the great, edgy arbiters of pop cultural significance. No subject was too sacred to be humorously eviscerated by Arrested Development writers, and no uncomfortable human characteristic too dark to be viciously lampooned by their ever-complicated story arcs.

Arrested Development was always an ingenious cross between crisp satire and loopy human cartoon, but season two hit a stride from the start; the season opener, "The One Where Michael Leaves," picks up exactly where the first season left off, and enriches the already-complicated plot with hysterical new wrinkles. Family patriarch George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) has broken out of prison and escaped to Mexico, while well-adjusted middle son and our nobel hero Michael (Jason Batemen) has made a decision to break from the family entirely. As usual, he keeps getting sucked back in for a variety of reasons: with George Sr. on the lam, Michael must prove his innocence in connection with his father's shady business deal with Saddam Hussein (yes, it just keeps getting deeper), and he would also need money to post bail if he were unfairly arrested. But as complicated as Arrested can get, its themes always remain truly simple -- more than any other reason, Michael returns because his family needs him, and Michael himself has a need to be needed.

Delirious story arcs abound in season two, from Lindsay (Portia De Rossi) and Tobias' (David Cross) disastrous attempt to have an "open marriage," to matriarch Lucille's (Jessica Walter) on-again, off-again affair with her husband's twin brother, Oscar (Tambor again), who is frequently mistaken for his fugitive brother to the tune of several unfortunate clubbings from over-anxious police officers. Lucille also signs youngest son and perpetual man-child Buster (Tony Hale) up for the Army after being propositioned on the street by Michael Moore. Tobias auditions to become an understudy for the Blue Man Group and nobly walks through most of the season with ridiculous blue paint covering most of his body. Eldest brother G.O.B. (Will Arnett) becomes president of the Bluth Company in name only, but in his need to upstage his infinitely more competent brother, he thrusts himself into the spotlight, only to create more trouble for his family. He also discovers a hidden contract with both his father's and Saddam Hussein's signatures and sits frozen with the information for seven minutes, reminiscent of another infamous seven-minute delay. George Michael (Michael Cera) attempts to get "pre-engaged" to so-insignificant-she-barely-exists girlfriend Ann (Mae Whitman) while still harboring subconscious feelings for his cousin, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), who incidentally stumbles into a job as a high-powered film executive.

It may seem monotonous to rattle off subplot after subplot, but to discuss these oddball, thickly intertwined story arcs is to celebrate the wit and brainpower that went into creating and sustaining them over the course of an 18-episode season, let alone one brilliant episode. Arrested Development is a series so steeped in increasingly labyrinthine content that the perfectly-placed, wonderfully deadpan narration by Ron Howard is not merely a humorous device, it is a vital necessity. How series creator Mitch Hurwitz and his brilliant team of writers managed to fit such thickly dense material into concise 20-minute bites is amazing; how they never ceased to make each episode zany, sharp, and endlessly funny must be the result of a formula few other series were ever able to figure out.

Arrested Development is the most successfully unique comedy series of its time. It will forever live on as the daft, nimble combination of ridiculous puns, double (and triple) entendres, and shamelessly cartoony gags that have no business being as funny as they are in this show's brilliant context. Season two even makes references to Snoopy and the Peanuts gang that are just as hilarious as any traditional gag. Television is such a truncated serial format that even the most competent programs can rarely reach takeoff velocity. Season two of Arrested Development is enduring proof that the small screen can truly soar.

Cast & Crew

Director : Lee Shallat Chemel, Paul Feig, , , Peter Lauer

Producer : Barbara Feldman, Brad Copeland

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Arrested Development: Season Two Rating

" Essential "

Rating: NR, 2009

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