Post Modern television; Arrested Development fits this role on all accounts. As we watch Arrested Development one can really feel all the qualities of Post-Modern style. The show basically makes fun of itself and its’ characters the entire time. This playful style is what makes Arrested Development a quality program.
Michael Bluth’s constant moral battle in trying to do the right thing when it comes to his family is what each episode is based on. He is always trying to clean up the mess that his other family members create. In this respect the show has real moral values. Michael is the show’s hero and he represents all that is good and his thick spine creates all the resolution in each episode. Even when Buster, Micheal’s Brother whom is the most innocent and naive of all the family, fakes being in coma to avoid giving a deposition in his father’s court case he picks him up.
In my opinion, the biggest difference that sets Arrested Development apart from other sitcoms is its ability to create intertextuality within itself. It uses the Post-Modern approach but hardly refers to other artifacts of culture. The show uses a linear format but uses the constant use of flashbacks on reoccurring jokes to reinforce the humor that the show wishes to express. Things such as family inventions, events, and tendencies are referred to in order to create more value in the show. The only major reference to current events is in the last few episodes the family is under investigation for building homes for Saadam Husieen which at the time was who the United States was in Iraq dealing with but that is minimal to the plot compared to the amount of story development that happens based around this. (P.S. the best part of the Sadam scenes is that the Sadam impersonator is the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld.”)
As we crept further and further to the end of Season Three of Arrested Development many of the episodes began to persuade versus entertain in a subtle way. The episode “S.O.B.s” was based on a fake fundraiser to benefit the Bluth Company after finding our their show was cancelled. “S.O.B.s” was short for Save Our Bluths and is also known as “Sons of Bitches”. They, in their money scheming usual selfs, created a disease called “S.O.B.s” to help bring money into the company and save their own asses, but in the end all the shareholders find out that their intentions where to save themselves.
Another key component is the use of a narrator. The show strays away from the classic studio audience canned laughter and moves into a higher production value approach in terms of filming and writing techniques. The narrator of Arrested Development plays a very important role in moving the story along and reminding the viewers of all the reoccurring jokes we are expected to remember. The narrator seems to constantly be on Michaels side and expresses this through his ironic deliver when speaking of the other family member’s daily go a bouts. Once again reconfirming our Post-Modern theme. Michael even announces “Our back’s are against the wall, it’s hard to accept that it’s come to begging…” and the narrator chimes in with “Please tell your friends about this show.” Commenting on low ratings and the impending cancellation of the show as even during production the network cancelled the last couple episodes.
Arrested Development works hard to hail “the demo” as it’s viewers. The show’s main characters range from 17-45 white male and females. Attracting this group of viewers is the most lucrative and most sitcoms feature this group in order to relate to “the demo” and hence sell advertising. We basically see very little of “the other” throughout the show other then Michael’s mother patronizing the Latin-American housekeeper. But the children patronize Lucielle as a mother, commenting that the only time she cooked for them is when “Rosa” their old housekeeper died and she served them “cereal in an ashtray” according to her children’s recollection.
Another Post-Modern approach is the fragmented unfolding of the plot. We constantly have multiple story lines between all of the characters developing. The show recognizes that this “demo” demographic is apart of this continuous image flow and the show uses quick scene changes, intertwining jokes and somewhat non-major plot changes to keep the viewers hooked as their check their Instagram photo stream on their phone while they watch. The narrator also helps in this sense too. While the Post-Modern viewer is distracted by whatever might be trending on their phone, the narrator helps to inform the viewer about he or she is missing while checking out the other screen.
Arrested Development is truly a cookie cutter Post-Modern sitcom. The manner in which it conducts itself is playful, self-reflexive and full of irony. It’s greatest talent is its ability to make fun of itself using its characters as outlets for the purpose of humor. Whether it be Tobias’ questionable homosexuality, Lindsey’s flakey idea of love, Gob’s low bar of morals, George Michael’s love for his cousin, Lucielle’s snooty remarks or Michael’s battle to do the right thing, each corky in their own way, every character has enough major flaws to spend countless hours making fun of them.