Quote of the Episode:
Lindsay: You’ve had $80,000 worth of cartography lessons. Get us a channel to the ocean.
Buster: Okay, okay, okay.
Buster: Obviously this blue part here is the land.
Arrested Development is one of those shows you either extremely love or extremely hate. The style of the show seemed to be one that I’d truly hate, but after some convincing from my friend Emma, I watched and fell in love. A well written pilot is no small task for creators of a show, you have to include elements that set the tone and story line for an entire season of television before those episodes are even written. Some of my all-time favorite shows have fairly week pilots, so I’m always fascinated when I find a show that has a very well written one. Arrested Development is one of those shows. Spoilers below the jump.
In this episode we meet the Bluths, a highly dysfunctional family whose only sane member seems to be Michael Bluth. Michael has worked hard in the family company and is sure that he is going to run the company after his father’s retirement. While planning the retirement party on a boat Michael talks to his brother Gob, his mother and his sister Lindsey – all of whom have been spending company money for personal reasons. Overjoyed at the prospect of running the company and stopping his family’s unethical lifestyle Michael is ready to write them all off and never speak to them again. Michael’s son, George Michael, on the other hand is enjoying meeting his family – especially his cousin Maeby. Maeby suggests they teach their parents a lesson for keeping the family apart by kissing on the boat party and pretending they didn’t know they were cousins. Michael makes a joke about the boat party being pirate-themed and Lindsey’s husband, Tobias, puts on one of Lindsey’s blouses and heads off with a group of garishly dressed gay men who he believes are pirates.
On the boat, Michael’s plans do not come to fruition, and Michael’s dad, George, names his wife as the new head of the company. Celebrations do not last long as the SEC arrives and George Bluth is sent to jail. Also arrested is Tobias who unwittingly joined a group of protestors who were in the same area. In the confusion Maeby kisses George Michael, hoping to teach their parents a lesson, but no one was paying attention.
Micheal decides he’s now had enough and accepts a new job at a rival company in Arizona, leaving his inept family to their fate. The family struggles for a little while without Michael and then decide they need him. They stage an “intervention” to ask Michael to stay, but he refuses and, at the urging of Lindsey goes to see his father and fully resign. While visiting his father in jail George reveals why he made his decision – they can’t put a man and wife in jail for the same crime. To which, Michael says, “I think they can.” Michael is even more determined to leave until he listens to his son talking with Lindsey about how great it is to have them around, since George Michael’s mother died it was nice to have family around. Michael realizes that it’s true and decides to move everyone into the model home (sans their mother who apparently still has a nice condo). Unwittingly Michael’s dream of running the family company comes true, but now he has to save his family and the company.
The pilot starts off with a simple narration (provided by Ron Howard) which gives it a documentary feeling and adds a lot to the overall charm of the episode (and series). It also allows for the plot to move along quickly, given the show’s half-hour time slot. We are introduced to each character and get a feeling of who they are, and their role in the family, almost immediately. The talented cast Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, and Jessica Walter only add to the level of dysfunctional in their portrayals of their individual characters.
Set in Orange County (California) Arrested Development follows Michael Bluth as he tries to get out of ever talking to his family again and finds himself in the exact opposite situation. Maybe because I’m the eldest in my family I have a unique sympathy for Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman). Not that my family is anywhere as insane as Michael’s, but I do sometimes get the feeling that I need to be the voice of reason and solve family problems. And who hasn’t felt like they’ve been passed over after working really hard?
As I said in the beginning of the article, this is one of those rare pilots that sets up most of the rest of the season’s major plot points. George Michael’ss (Michael Cera) conflicting desire for his cousin Maeby, Lindsey (Portia de Rossi) and Tobias’ (David Cross) relationship, George’s (Jeffrey Tambor) insane business logic (not to be confused with insane troll logic), Tobias’ intense desire to be an actor, Gob’s (Will Arnett) desire to be part of the action without actually doing anything, Maeby’s rebellious nature, Michael’s loving but odd relationship with George Michael and many more character arches are found in this one 30 minute episode.
Like many of my favorite TV shows, small moments are very important later in the episode. Towards the very beginning Lindsey notices the group of protesting homosexuals and comments, “I have the exact same blouse.” Which later we find out IS her blouse, worn by her husband Tobias. Later Lucille (Jessica Walter) mentions that her fox fur has lost a foot, and Maeby later claims she “found” it in her frozen banana.