Arrested Development: Season Two

At the end of an otherwise perfunctory set of giggle-filled outtakes you'll find stand-up comedian and supporting actor David Cross, half-dressed in a Mrs. Doubtfire get-up, ranting about the lack of support Arrested Development has received from the Fox Network. "If you have a show that's won numerous Emmys, Golden Globes and other awards and been on dozens of critics' best lists, and you still can't sell it, maybe the problem is not with the show but with the marketing department." Thank you, Mr. Cross. The strategy for Fox is to rely on the saviour of independent-minded, critically acclaimed television: DVD sales. (Here's where you come in.) The second season of Arrested Development, rather than kowtow to broader audiences and network concerns, instead acts like schoolchildren trying to get five more minutes of play in before dark. Plots get more extreme, gags get more ridiculous and the "rules" of television sitcoms are smashed and mocked with ever-greater vigour. The story of the Bluth family — centred on Michael (the wonderfully rediscovered Jason Bateman) and his dim-bulb siblings, greedy father, drunk mother and residual hangers-on — spirals into even greater heights of absurdity throughout season two: Gob dates Lucille 2 (Liza Minnelli); Buster joins the army and loses a hand; dad hides from the authorities in the attic; and the whole model home crumbles around them. But while the show maintains a sitcom-style 22-minute plot resolve it maintains a continuing thread of consequence unheard of anywhere else in network sitcoms. The family still drives an airport stair car, a joke that dates back to the first few episodes of season one, yet goes unexplained. The running gag of Tobias's (Cross) aspirations to join the Blue Man Group will extend into season three. And the youngsters playing kissing cousins George Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat) remain stars amongst the best ensemble cast in network TV — where else could one find a teenage girl posing as a studio executive (and getting away with it) for half a season? Arrested Development continues to act as if it's last call at the bar of comedy and they're trying to cram as many drinks in before the party's over. With the support of fans willing to shell out for these DVDs, hopefully we'll see them at a raging after-party. Plus: commentary on three episodes, deleted scenes. (Fox)