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December 21, 2005

Last neovox article

Sorry for the lateness of this. I was waiting to get the paper back from a professor. But anyway.. here it is.

Once in a long while a television show comes along that redefines the genre. In the early 1990’s Seinfeld redefined the half-hour sitcom. It tagline, “the show about nothing” mean that the plot revolved around the seemingly mundane acts of the cast of characters in everyday life. What made it so interesting were the personalities of the characters. A whole generation of sitcoms followed this same formula. These have had varying degrees of success.
Reality television was a short-lived fad. Don’t get me wrong, it is still everywhere, but the novelty has worn off. They have succumbed to the same problem that faces sitcoms: lack of innovation. Both have contrived plots, obvious endings, and not so surprising twists. Reality TV continues to flood the airwaves. Sadly, I think it’s because they really don’t know what else to put on the air. It’s cheap to produce, they don’t have to pay actors, and the production values are far less.
Great television is layered. It has a surface humor that is pretty obvious (a laugh track often helps) and below that ever more complex humor, satire, and pop-references that all may or may not get. Family Guy abounds with spoofs on all sorts of shows from the past three decades. The Simpsons is full of references to film, literature, and pop culture that can require more than a rudimentary knowledge to fully get. The beauty of these two shows is that you don’t have to have a degree in philosophy to find them funny.
In 2003 Fox launched a new sitcom airing on Sunday night: Arrested Development. As far as this writer is concerned, the Seinfeld of the new millennium. Unfortunately after two and a half years, it’s been put on the chopping block. Perhaps the public en masse is not ready for such a fresh and original show.
Produced by everyone’s favorite red head, Ron Howard, who also narrates the show, Arrested follows the trials and tribulations of the Bluth family. The show pokes fun at politics, the media, the military, and every part of the spectrum of American life. In one memorable scene Lindsey, a typical wealthy ditz, akin to a Paris Hilton maybe, decides to protest the war in Iraq. They are allowed to do this only in a “freedom zone” a six by six cage outside an army base. When some locals come by and begin spraying the protesters with water, they all leave, but Lindsey remains and does some cage dancing.
The cast is full of seasoned actors and actresses; Jason Bateman, Jeffrey Tambor, and Portia de Rossi are probably the most recognizable. Each character is unique, and probably the first shows to have a main character lose a hand.
Arrested moves very fast. There is no time to sit back and think if something was a joke or not. There’s no laugh track so you can’t depend on them to tell you what’s funny. Either you find something humorous or you don’t. Then it’s on to the next one. The writing is extraordinary. Often times it seems like the actors are ad-libbing but the writing is just that good. But regardless of all of its stellar qualities it will be gone before you know it.
Sadly by the time people catch on to Arrested it will be gone. Then who knows how long it will be before the next sitcom comes along that is in the same vein as Arrested. When it does come, I hope we’re ready for it. It’s a shame to see great television come and go while such garbage as King of Queens, Joey, and every other half-hour crapshoot continues unabated.
By now it’s too late to save Arrested Development. So all I have left to say is enjoy the three or four new episodes still coming. Go out and pick up the first two seasons on DVD. You will not be disappointed. And in the future maybe, just maybe, you’ll flip onto a show that seems weird and quirky you’ll give it a chance. You might even save its development from being arrested. (I apologize for the lame joke.)

Posted by Paul Murray at December 21, 2005 11:32 AM

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