Arrested Development: Season 2 (DVD)

“Ice might be my best friend.”

When we last left the Bluth family, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, Dodgeball) decided to take his son George Michael (Michael Cera) away from the rampant dysfunction that is his family: Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), the whiskey-drenched matriarch, GOB (Will Arnett) the sleazy washed-up magician, Buster (Tony Hale) the emotionally stunted mama’s boy, shallow, clueless Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), her oblivious actor wannabe husband Tobias (David Cross) and their feisty daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat).

And then there’s George Bluth Senior (Jeffrey Tambor) the embattled former CEO of the Bluth Company, arrested for corporate malfeasance. It is his escape from custody that prompts Michael to finally head for the hills.

Season Two documents the further pitfalls of being a Bluth. Michael is forced to resign his post as the president of the company during an investigation into his father’s criminal past, abdicating his seat to GOB who immediately abuses his power; Lucille enlists Buster in the Army; Maeby lands a job as a Hollywood producer; Tobias repeatedly fails in his bid to join the Blue Man Group; Lindsay stays ever-vigilant for an alternative to her idiot husband, even if that person happens to be bounty hunter/caterer; George Michael, much to his father’s chagrin, has underachieved socially and started dating a girl named Ann Veal; and George Senior resurfaces as a fugitive from the law, holing up in the family attic.

Yes, it is as off-the-wall as it sounds.

Disc One:
* “The One Where Michael Leaves”
* “The One Where They Build a House”
* “Amigos!”
* “Good Grief”
* “Sad Sack”
* “Afternoon Delight”

Disc Two:
* “Switch Hitter”
* “Queen for a Day”
* “Burning Love”
* “Read, Aim, Marry Me!”
* “Out on a Limb”
* “Hand to God”

Disc Three:
* “Motherboy XXX”
* “The Immaculate Election”
* “Sword of Destiny”
* “Meat the Veals”
* “Spring Breakout”
* “The Righteous Brothers”

For my review of Arrested Development — Season One I wrote the following:

“If you’re offended when I call you stupid for not liking Arrested Development, tough. That’s what you are — stupid!”

I continue to stand by that statement today. This show is funny on a bladder-rupturing scale. In terms of narrative structure, insane storylines, and characters that are-off-the-charts nuts, it is unlike any show that has come before it.

That being said, I will be up-front at the start of this review: you may not find a bigger fan of this series this side of Neptune than me, but I will confess that this second season was not as good as the first.

Okay, there are a couple of caveats I need to mention. First off, in my opinion, the weakest episode of Arrested Development is funnier than the funniest episodes of almost any other sitcom out there. Second, the maiden voyage of this series represents a true gold standard in television comedy, and for a collection of episodes to exceed that stunning level of quality — even episodes from the same series — the planets would have to be aligned.

For their sophomore at-bat, the show’s writers created a different tone in their storytelling: basically, these shows are far loonier than the first season’s. The plots are more outlandish, the characters behave in increasingly more bizarre ways, and the jokes are much bawdier.

Yes, season one was crazy, but there was always a looming feel of realism embedded in the shows. The Bluth family is out of their collective minds, but Michael offered us a grounded portal into this bizarre world, and the juxtaposition of his kin’s insanity to the relatively straight world around them proved to be very funny. For this season, it seems like everyone and everything had taken a flying leap off the deep end. Of course, these episodes, while not as subtly hilarious as the prior shows, are hilarious nonetheless. Thankfully, these outrageous set-ups pay off in gut laughs. Tobias as an English nanny from a town called Black Stool? Great. GOB and his controversial black puppet Franklin? Great. George’s love affair with his son’s dead wife’s maternity clothes? Great. Buster’s hook-for-a-hand after a rogue seal attack? Great. Ed Begley Junior as the hairless Bluth competitor, Sitwell? Er, creepy.

The list goes on. Each episode brings premise after ridiculous premise, and it’s all executed with the trademark wit of the writers and the timing of the cast, which, for my nickel, is the funniest comedy ensemble since The Muppet Show. Everyone does great work throughout the season, though the stand-out goes to Will Arnett as GOB, who’s never been sleazier (with an honorable mention to David Cross for enduring all that blue make-up).

In addition to the regular cast, a slew of guest stars pop up in this season: Liza Minelli returns as Lucille II, Martin Short has an absolutely wacky role as the invalid multimillionaire Uncle Jack, Julia Louis-Dreyfus shows up again as Maggie the formerly-fake-blind attorney that may or may not be pregnant, Ben Stiller guests as a big-name magician with a thing for pulling bread out of his body (starring in the upcoming “Use Your Allsuion”) and Henry Winkler continues his stint as the Barry, the family’s useless lawyer (who actually jumps a shark in one episode).

Are you convinced yet? Will you trust me that this is the funniest show you’ll see in a long, long time? Then again, maybe this isn’t your cup of tea. If that’s the case, well, you’re stupid.

As is the norm with its television sets, Fox has produced a slick set for the Bluths’ second go-round. All 18 episodes are presented in fantastic 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and a decent 2.0 stereo mix powers the audio.

Unfortunately, the extras aren’t quite up to the high standard of last season’s set, but the offering is still solid. Each disc contains a batch of deleted scenes that are more often than not just as funny as the stuff that made the cut, as well as an episode commentary track by creator Mitch Hurwitz and actors Will Arnett, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, and Jessica Walter. These commentaries are all hilarious, with the cast frequently laying into each-other and just coming across as having a good time.┬áLastly, there’s an adults-only blooper reel featuring uncensored gaffes, buttressed by a throw-away promotional spot for the season one DVD.

Not Guilty of light treason.


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