Representations of Reality: Arrested Development

Arrested Development is set in Southern California following the always chaotic Bluth family around in present day. The season was aired from September 2005 to February 2006 and although there are no references to current events it is safe to assume that the show is set in the early millennium. Season 3 was aired on Fox and it consisted of 13 twenty-two minute episodes. The target audience is 18-40 year olds also known as “the demo”. The humor is very witty so we know the target audience is this group of adults and this is exactly what networks want when selling advertising in a prime time spot.

When the show was on television it struggled to gain popularity. In 2005 it sat at #123 in the Nielsen Ratings, just above The Bernie Mac Show according to TV.com. The show was canceled from the Fox network after the completion of Season 3 and many have speculated that Fox wanted the show to do poorly to justify its cancellation. After the show’s cancellation the shows popularity only continued to grow thanks to Netflix. After heavy online viewing Netflix took it upon themselves to fund the creation of a forth season and showing it exclusively on their site.

The majority of the episodes take place in either the family home or office. The company’s business is building and developing suburban neighborhoods so the family lives in a model home in a failed neighborhood that they created.1x01_Locations_(2).png

The home appears to be nice but is decorated plainly and has many functioning flaws such a cabinets that fall off when the open them and their living ends up becoming a sinkhole at the end of the season.

In regards to relating to the United States current state during the time of the show being aired the real estate market was crashing so the Bluth family business is struggling to cope with the same problem. Their once successful business and steady income has a lot to do with their future problems, many of which are self-induced through sketchy deals and law-breaking.

Each character is relatable to the audience in different ways which helps the shows success. For me, Michael’s mother Lucille, played by Jessica Walter, is much like my grandmother. She was a stay at home mom whose husband made all the money and never had to worry about having money to head to the country club or go shopping. In fact, oddly enough the actor that plays Lucille Bluth lives in the same town as my grandmother and they frequently swim together at the town Y in Connecticut. Maeby plays the role of the misunderstood teenage daughter while her cousin George Michael plays the role of the awkward son. This role is played by Michael Cera and couldn’t have been casted better. His awkwardness is overwhelming at times and creates an indescribable tension that results in humor.a2c9862c4bb24f593883af1fb75d0eb7.jpg

Overall, the character’s costumes and dialog are so perfectly executed. For example, we have Tobias, Michael’s brother and law who is a questionably gay failed actor who continues to hold onto his dream of success on the stage/big screen. He lands a role as a fill in with the “Blue Man Group” which at the time was wildly popular. arrested-development-tobias-blue-kitchen.jpg

In hopes of getting called into work Tobias often comes to kitchen and says phrases such as “I’m afraid I blue myself”. One of many sexual innuendoes that leave his mouth unbeknown to him. He also gave his hand at being an analyst/therapist – thus the world’s first licensed analrapist.

The use of music is mostly to help transition between scenes using a similar jingle to the show’s intro but one iconic song that reoccurs is Charlies Brown’s Christmas when each character has a sad moment. Music doesn’t play a large role in the show, making it feel like we truly are just living day to day in the Bluth Family life, in a documentary fashion.

The camera work is done with a single camera and the use of reaction shots play a large role in the show. As you get to know the characters more and understand all the overlapping story lines and reoccurring jokes the use of subtext plays a big part in the humor element of the show. A reaction shot that doesn’t have dialog can conjure up laughter from the audience because we grow to really understand how each family member interacts with each other.

In a large way Arrested Development doesn’t reference pop culture very often because they create their own version of pop culture adding to all their exclusive inside jokes. The writers have a way of creating Bluth Family products that the reference back to such as their famous Banana Stand, which is just another great sexual innuendo. Again the writing of this show creates the Bluth world and as a viewer you feel as if that is the only that exists when you watch it. Each member of the family is narcissistic so to them this world is the only thing that seemingly exists to them and as a viewer you feel the same way. The show’s hero Michael is the only one who seems to recognize that caring for others is important but he is so wrapped up in fixing the mistakes of his own family that even he can’t escape this world.

Arrested Development has the intent of entertaining the viewer with humor and cunning wit and it does these things with calculated ease. As an seasoned viewer one begins to feel as if they are apart of the Bluth Family recognizing each family member’s odd trademark characteristic and understanding all the constant inside jokes. This is the intent of the show and the writers do an outstanding job of accomplishing it. After season 3 and the cancellation of the show all those who felt apart of the Bluth Family hung around waiting for more and reliving all the outrageous moments via re-watching old episodes on Netflix and this popularity helped revive the show for another season.

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