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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Arrested Development shines in third season DVD set

After an unceremonious and much-debated cancellation, "Arrested Development" now has released its third and final season on DVD. The Emmy-winning series went from critical darling to cult favorite during its short run but never achieved the widespread viewership it so rightly deserved.

The FOX Network did little to aid the success of the comedy by continually switching its time slot, cutting Season Three down to 13 episodes and airing the last four episodes opposite the Torino opening ceremonies. FOX practically ensured the demise of the offbeat series produced by Ron Howard. In the process, television lost its best comedy on Feb. 10, 2006. Thankfully, "Arrested Development" will forever be preserved on DVD in 53 flawless episodes.

The 13-episode third season continues to follow the exploits of the Bluth family, a dysfunctional bunch whose patriarch, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), was arrested on multiple counts of fraud and light treason in season one. At the start of the first season Michael (Jason Bateman) - the only sane member of the family - establishes himself as the new leader of his family and the Bluth Company.

This season begins with George Sr. being put under house arrest and Michael meeting British bombshell Rita (Charlize Theron), who is painted as spy that pretends to fall in love with him.

The episodes continue with Tobias getting hair plugs only to have the transplant reject him (not the other way around), Maeby's relation to George Michael finally being revealed, the introduction of new lawyer Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio) and his Law Blog, J. Walter Weatherman returning for one glorious final lesson and the Bluth boys traveling to Iraq in search of evidence to exonerate their father.

Special features on the two-disc set include audio commentaries on three episodes. Also included are 19 deleted and extended scenes, a bloopers reel and a look at the final shooting on location.

"Arrested Development" is far from a failure, with three Emmy nominations and one win for Outstanding Comedy Series. The smartest show not on television employs a massive amount of self-reflexivity, endless pop culture references and a continuous recycling of jokes and sight gags from earlier episodes, not to mention using Ron Howard as the spectacular narrator. The series joins the ranks of "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" as amazing shows that couldn't find an audience.

For months, speculation circulated that Showtime would pick up the series, but when creator Mitch Hurwitz quit the show, that possibility died. There is now renewed buzz that the show will instead return as a feature film, a prospect Ron Howard himself addresses in the series finale. While most of its actors have moved on to other projects, "Arrested Development" is still fighting for its life.

Shrouded in dysfunction, the series is actually a celebration of traditional family values. Family unity remains paramount over women, money and loose seals with a taste for mammal blood. Its themes never caught the eye of mainstream America, but the fan base is spreading, particularly among college students.

With its use of handheld cameras and abandonment of the laugh track, "Arrested Development" helped pave the way for shows like "The Office" and "My Name is Earl." The series could not find an audience while on the air, but the Bluth family will live on through DVD, further establishing "Arrested Development" as one of television's all-time great comedies.