Is Arrested Development the best US sitcom ever? Maybe not. I'll always be partial to Seinfeld, though AD accomplished as much in three short seasons as they did in nine, so it's a tough call. What the heck. Yes. It's the best US sitcom ever made.
It's in all the little things. You never quite know what you're going to get with Arrested. From the evolution of the narrator (Ron "I'm awesome" Howard) into an omniscient, fourth-wall-breaking bastion of the show's excellence to the shift in relationships between George Michael (Michael Cera off of Superbad) and his maybe-cousin Maeby or his once-girlfriend Anne (aka "Bland", "Annehog" or "Egg") ending up with his uncle Gob (pronounced Job, like in the bible and the start of Mission Impossible), there's few developments over the three years that anyone could see coming. Jeffrey Tambor's characters George Sr. and Oscar (twins, natch) and their various identity crises alone are hard to keep up with.
The cast is the best ever assembled for comedy, no exceptions. Jason Bateman excels as straight man Michael, all worried expressions and listless disappointment in what may be the least functional family ever to grace the small screen. Will Arnett's Gob is just priceless, a magician oblivious to the fact that changing a hundred dollar bill into a hundred pennies is a 99-dollar loss to the businessmen he's trying to impress. Tony Hale is Buster, the soft spoken- I hesitate to say simpleton- heart of gold son constantly put down by booze-swilling Jessica Walters. The dynamic between these two in particular is thrilling, because it encourages Buster to every now and then rebel (with often destructive consequences). David Cross' every homosexual innuendo is a joy, and it's a marvel to watch his excruciatingly awkward physical comedy. Michael Cera's style I'm sure you're now familiar with (he has yet to break form ONCE in ANY of his movies), but here it's mixed with a greater degree of youth and is as such twice as appealing. As a son fond of his father, he's top notch. Also Portia de Rossi and Alia Shawkat are there.
Other little touches include fantastic wordplay. Scott Baio's lawyer character is named Bob Lablaw. Say that out loud. Also, the family's adopted Korean son's name is something of a mystery, as what they THINK is his name is actually 'hello' in his native language. Much mirth ensues.
Of course, the show was simply too good for TV and was axed in it's third year. Perhaps this was a good thing, perhaps not; the series' only fault was the dreadful Charlize Theron-starring Rita subplot early in season 3 (see my review of that set for uncut vehemence), one more of which type would have ruined the whole thing. Still, the rest of the episodes were great and the end was marvellous, so whadda I know? When it was good (which was all but these five episodes) it was concisely plotted comedy gold. Martin Mull as Gene Parmesan, the Private Eye who's rubbish at finding people BUT is a master of disguise manages, in only one appearance, to become one of my favourite comedy characters of all time. Posing as a doctor, he turns; "I have some bad news. I'm... Gene Parmesan, private detective". Funniest thing ever.
So, you have David Cross in head-to-toe blue makeup. You have a frankly racist black puppet. A magician dejectedly hurling a dove into the sea. Ben Stiller with a 'w' for a goatee. An airport stair-car as a primary mode of transport. Liza Minelli not being able to stand up straight due to vertigo. An entirely family of idiots dancing like what they THINK chickens dance like, each different, each completely ridiculous, all at once, to try and make someone ELSE feel stupid. If ANY of these things appeal to you, Arrested Development's your show.
I must point out that at £50-odd quid the price tag is ridiculous- I recently picked up all three sets for £9 apiece. I'm sure this will come down in time though, and Christmas will almost certainly see a fair few of these picked up. A new release of a classic show will hopefully spark considerable interest for the long-touted movie version. I'm not a fan of TV shows making the small-to-silver leap (one reason;why?) but if it gets us more, so be it. Like Ron Howard says in one of the interviews, you may not get it at first, but you'll keep watching and before you know it, you're hooked. And believe me, there's nothing like being hooked on Arrested Development.