In season three, episode 8 of Arrested Development we can really dive into to how the show perfects the art of situational comedy. “Making a Stand” has many meanings, which is something the writers have perfected involving multiple angles into the culmination of this episode. The show’s career at this point has defined itself to a set agenda and this episode shows their style in cookie cutter fashion. At this point in the season we have spent the previous 6 episodes with Charlize Theron in a reoccurring role as a mental challenged British spy in which our show’s hero Michael Bluth fell in love without noticing her disability the whole time. It has been said that her cameos were an attempt to boost the struggling shows ratings but in my opinion her role didn’t fit the shows style and it felt rather forced. Now that she has been written out we return back to the show’s traditional narrative structure.
In each episode we do in fact have an actual narrator who is not in the show but mostly follows around Michael Bluth, who I previously mentioned is our hero. He represents the only good morale in a family of evil and narcissistic people. He spends the majority of his time trying to please everyone in their selfish ways and often times forget to spend time on him. This theme is our largest reoccurring motif throughout all four seasons of production. His voice is an outside perspective and his identity is never revealed to us but he helps us better understand the context of all the situations we are viewing and moves the plot along.
As the episode begins we start with the credits instantly. The shows credits give a quick reminder of each member of the family’s relationship to Michael.
The credits also feature our narrator stating, “Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together”.
Then we enter a conference room and our narrator informs us that, “Michael is trying to include his brother in the business, at his Father’s request.” It is here that Gob informs us that he has a genius idea to sell their housing development blueprints to Columbians for $100,000. Michael then disregards his brother idea because their business is under investigation and they are forbidden to do business outside the country during the time. The use of illegal behavior plays a very large part in the shows conflict at all times. Michael is constantly trying to keep his father out of jail due to his shady business decisions.
One of Arrested Developments biggest strengths is the writer’s ability to build the scenes on each other. This episode is loaded with events that all tie into this quick scene of Gob’s business idea. The scenes run continuously but tie back to events from the past, some of which we may have seen in previous episodes and others new to us but the narrator does a good job of constantly giving us quick reminders so we better understand the ties between past and present. This is what viewers expect throughout the course of each episode, an introduction to what jokes/themes will be repeating, a quick introduction to a small family conflict and then the actual humorous conflict, and then an overwhelming amount of irony involving all of these elements in a resolution.
Alrighty, let’s dive into this action packed episode. Our next scene brings us to Michael and his sister Lindsey talking and they reflect on home videos in which his father pits them against each other so they have physical brawls.
Michael then goes to his parents’ house only to find out that Gob’s idea was his father’s and he brings up the home video situation once again. At the family home we also discover that Michaels other brother Buster, who recently lost his hand, was set up by his father with a job to promote anti-theft by exploiting his tragedy.
Buster thinks this is not moral so he quits, although we know from previous episodes that his father had a one armed friend who would frequented their childhood to scare them into learning their lesson. These things of the past become our future themes of the episode as we move into more action.
Michael, who wants Gob out of the serious business, still wants to help him so he offers him his own banana stand under his franchise.
His father discovers this and uses it to once again put them in competition against each other. As competition heats up they once again begin to “boy fight” and Michael realizes his father is using Gob’s banana stand to launder money, so they decide to teach their dad a lesson for a change. After Buster quit his job he went to the prosthetic limb store and met up with the one arm man who used to teach them lessons and Michael requests his help.
The brothers decide to stage a fake kidnapping by the Columbians, who they ended up screwing out of the blueprints, of their father in hopes to scare him but he sniffs out this plan and convinces Gob to once again turn on his brother. Keeping up with all these twists? Just wait… there’s more!
Their father, completely unalarmed by the kidnapping he knows is coming calmly hops in the container with a packed lunch and blanket. As the fake guns are drawn his Dad steals one and shoots the arm off the one arm man from their childhood. Once Michael and Gob discover this they once again begin “boy fighting” only to reveal that Michael knew that Gob had ratted him out so they in fact taught their father a lesson in the end. But wait one more lesson will be taught! Buster hires more fake gun man to come in and they shoot off his “good hand” only for him to reveal that he wanted to teach them a lesson about exploiting those who are missing limbs.
Phew. All done! As you can tell the writers suspect us to have these reoccurring themes to appear of “boy fighting” and “lesson teaching” but the continuous twist leave us ironically not knowing when either theme will finally be understood by the right person and in the end we are not sure if anyone in fact did learn a lesson. So each character tries to “Make a Stand” in their own way, whether it be a banana stand, a stand against someone trying to take advantage of them, or perhaps just remaining standing at the end of a wrestling match.
The narrator’s role takes a backseat during the resolution of the episodes plot. He does a great job of setting up after each “commercial break” and then ultimately the big scene of never ending plot twists, which acts as one long punch line, but is unneeded because everything is well understood by that point. He speaks back up after this scene to lead us into what we will see in the next week’s episode. The writers do an incredible job of building each scene on each other. Arrested Development’s narrative structure is what makes the show a high level sitcom.