Arrested Development

Comedy gold, which should be enough. But me being me, satisfaction eludes. I have problems, both within my psyche, but for present purposes, with the show itself. Because comedy isn't enough, as Scott Pilgrim found out. 100-carat comedy gold needs a PURPOSE.

Ostensibly, the point of Arrested Development is the clash between responsible adulthood and unrestrained delinquency -- order and chaos. And while the show usually positions us behind the straight-man (in every possible sense of the word) Michael Bluth, you can't help but be won over to the opposite point of view by his disturbed, infantile family, who burn through money and pursue the most insane and inchoate projects. Actually, irresponsibility is more fun. It's the spice of life. Granted, Michael's family are all frustrated in some way. Lindsay and Tobias are in a loveless marriage. Gob envies the respect his brother receives, and seeks similar approval. Buster doesn't want to leave his mother's wing. His mother desperately does. Maeby wants real parents. George-Michael wants Maeby. But the frustration of keeping this pack of clowns together is greater still. You start to wonder if Michael really is more fulfilled trying to control the uncontrollable.

That's all great. My problem is, there are three (more like two and a half) seasons of this. JUST this. We leave the Bluth family pretty much as we found them, and I wanted something more. Why couldn't these characters have GOT somewhere -- better, worse, different? Couldn't the non-stop jokes lead to something, some small thing, that was earnest, moving, gods forbid... unfunny?

The comparison I would make is with The Office, probably the finest comedy of the last decade. And it was genius precisely because it went that little bit into the realm of drama. Brent's moments of generosity. Tim and Dawn's snatches of intimacy. Hard-earned, through all the idiocy and horror, but all the more satisfying for it. Arrested Development ran away from that. It's a great show, one of the most inventive comedies America has produced. But I think it could have been even better. It could have been perfect.

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