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Arrested Development: Season 2 Review

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Arrested Development avoids cancellation and delivers a second outstanding series.

★★★★★

There is a phenomenon unique to smart shows facing the axe that we like to call F.U.TV. They go down swinging what they’ve done best right in your face. Example: the Season 2 finale of Millennium, in which writers James Wong and Glen Morgan unleashed a killer plague on much of the cast and mankind — which proved a helluva dilemma when the show was unexpectedly renewed. Mitchell Hurwitz’s brilliant sit-com, Arrested Development, was in danger of cancellation throughout its second season despite five Emmys and a Winnebago-load of other awards, but did producer-writer Hurwitz and the team cower from flouting crowd-pleasing genre formulae? Au contraire. The 18-episode season — cruelly cut back from 22, a blow slyly alluded to by living saint Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) in episode 15 — sees the show just get more defiantly clever and more startlingly, enthrallingly absurd.

Paterfamilias George (Jeffrey Tambor) has escaped from prison and spends Season 2 hiding in the family’s attic (a revelation prompting Michael’s twin, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), to guess that Michael’s shielding him “from the Nazis”), from where he surveys/ orchestrates the intricately constructed disasters below. Feckless Gob (Will Arnett) is now running/ruining the family business, while responsible, innocent Michael fights charges of treason. Other strands include outrageous swipes at the war in Iraq via mama’s boy Buster’s (Tony Hale) progress in the US Army, 15 year-old Maeby’s (Alia Shawkat) rise as a movie executive, sweetest-kid-in-the-world George Michael (Michael Cera) enjoying first love (bringing out a conniving side of Michael we haven’t seen before) and Lindsay’s inability to make her new ‘open marriage’ arrangement work.

Highlights include George’s fake wake in Good Grief, the company Christmas party in Afternoon Delight, the montaged intervention for alcoholic mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) “that turned into one of the Bluth family’s better parties”, and narrator Ron Howard critiquing the art of narration. Season climax Righteous Brothers threatens the ultimate madness — a loving family united! — but doesn’t disappoint
with its devilish pay-off.

Unhappily, the inevitable axe fell in November after back-to-back episodes following a hiatus
for American football drew only four million viewers. As Maeby says in Season 2, “Why are we even going after this idiot demographic?”.
Bring on the 13-episode Season 3!

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