What it’s about:
The once-esteemed and wealthy Bluth family has gotten itself into a spot of trouble. After his father is arrested for fraud and dipping into company funds, well-adjusted do-gooder Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman, Horrible Bosses) is left with no choice but to keep his family together. A single parent with a teenage son, George-Michael (Michael Cera, Scott Pilgrim v the World), Michael allows his sister Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), brother-in-law Tobias and niece Maeby, to move in with them into their model home. At the same time, he must keep an eye on his mother Lucille and two brothers — Buster, who never leaves his mother’s side, and Gob, a blacklisted part-time magician — as well as take over the company, despite the family’s habit of spending its money.
Why it’s so good:
The dysfunctional nature of the Bluth family is a large part of what makes this show so worth watching and earned it a number of accolades from critics. The relatives are consistently ridiculous, as well as distinctly well-developed and lovable despite their materialism and often manipulative natures. The writers of the show succeed in making each episode extremely clever, and despite the show’s status as a sitcom, the narrative is continuous and compelling enough to make you care about what happens to each character. Tying each episode together is the show’s narrator, voiced by executive producer Ron Howard. Howard makes several guest appearances on the show as well, adding to the meta-narrative that develops as the show progresses. Aware that they were going to be cancelled in the middle of their third season, the writers carried a strong narrative to the end so that the show never declined in quality.
Why you should binge it:
While, like most comedies, you could casually turn on any episode of “Arrested Development” and have a good laugh, this is a show enjoyed so much more when watched as a whole. To a large degree, this is because “Arrested Development” is notorious for its running gags, jokes that build on each other as the series progresses and get funnier every time they come back up. These include incest jokes, the struggles of a never-nude, hop-ons and the realization “I’ve made a huge mistake.” This plot structure also makes re-watching as much fun — if not more entertaining — as watching the first time around, because viewers can spot the setup to many upcoming jokes in their early stages.
See: aforementioned running gags, for starters. Episodes that, out of their sheer hilarity, will leave viewers gasping for breath include season one’s “Pier Pressure” and the season two and three finales, “The Righteous Brothers” and “Development Arrested,” respectively. Additionally, “Arrested Development” features a host of famous guest stars and cameos, including Liza Minnelli, Ben Stiller, Amy Poehler and Seth Rogen.
“Arrested Development” was cancelled after a shortened season three, and while show quality didn’t decline, it was another six years before Netflix released an entire fourth season. This means a few changes. Additionally, because of scheduling conflicts between the actors, the format of the show changed to allow for longer, character-centric episodes that eventually wove together into one unified narrative. It’s still hilarious, but it takes some getting used to.