'Arrested Development' First Episode: THR's 2003 Review

Courtesy Everett Collection
'Arrested Development' in 2003

"Maybe this is Fox’s way, after 'The O.C.,' of giving equal time to the other residents of Orange County."

On Nov. 2, 2003, the Bluth family was introduced to Fox television audiences at 9:30 p.m. The Hollywood Reporter's original review of 'Arrested Development' is below.

Watching Arrested Development, easily the smartest, funniest and most original new comedy of the season, one thinks about timing. Specifically, one wonders what might have happened if the TV gods had seen fit for this show to have been developed alongside last year’s brilliant Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Fox had paired them. It would have been the finest hour of comedy on TV — broadcast or cable.

Instead, in this imperfect world, Arrested Development has the time slot formerly occupied by Richter, and lovers of laugh-out-loud comedy have to hold their breaths once more that audiences will discover another gem of a show.

Vaguely reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums, this is a sitcom about the hilariously dysfunctional Bluth family of Orange County, Calif., whose members, with one exception, have squandered profits from the family real estate development business in pursuit of their own peculiar interests. All that changes, though, when family patriarch George (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for defrauding investors and company assets are frozen, turning off the money spigot. Control of the business ultimately passes to son Michael (Jason Bateman), the only family member capable of running the company or, for that matter, his own life.

Michael’s siblings are twin sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), whose passions are shopping and raising funds for screwball causes; G.O.B. (Will Arnett), a mostly unemployed magician who spends lavishly on special effects; and Buster (Tony Hale), a perennial student of useless and esoteric subjects. Then there’s Lindsay’s husband, Tobias Funke (David Cross), a psychiatrist forced to surrender his license who now sees his real life’s calling in the theater. Jessica Walter plays family matriarch Lucille, whose chief concern is maintaining her plush Balboa Island lifestyle.

Maybe this is Fox’s way, after The O.C., of giving equal time to the other residents of Orange County. Whatever the case, it is hard to imagine a more comical bunch of cuckoos under the roof of a single model home, which is what most of them end up sharing.

The task of identifying so many oddballs in so little time is made easier with the use of subtitles that follow the voiceover introductions made by Michael, through whose eyes this comedy unfolds. The hand-held camera moves just enough to give this the look and feel of a documentary, which is a vital ingredient in the humor. Character quirks in the script from creator and exec producer Mitchell Hurwitz are even funnier when played out against a real-world backdrop. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo find ways to enhance the material with the creativity of their shot choices, and the entire production benefits form attentive production design and set decor. — Barry Garron

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