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The current television climate is teeming with crime shows due to the success of the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order franchises. Drama and reality TV are dominating the television landscape, whilst comedy has been left wallowing in the background, trying to draw audiences away from autopsy chatter and the back stabbing antics of housewives with a witty line or a quirky character. Unfortunately, most comedies can’t even muster one remotely funny character or one funny line for that matter. Never fear comedy fans, because the future of comedy has arrived with Arrested Development, the funniest, smartest and most superbly cast comedy in recent memory.

Arrested Development: Season One
Series
Arrested Development chronicles the bizarre antics of the wealthy Bluth family. There's Michael (Jason Bateman), the only normal member of the family who hopes to inherit the family Frozen Banana business when his father (Jeffrey Tambor) retires. Regrettably for Michael, in the pilot episode, his father decides to hand over the running of the business to wife Lucille (Jessica Walter), much to the relief of Michael's three siblings who fear that if Michael takes over he will strip them of their company credit cards.

Michael’s sister Lindsay (Portia De Rossi) is the typical rich girl whose purpose in life in holding charity fundraisers for strange causes. Lydia’s bizarre husband, Tobias (David Cross), is a disgraced psychiatrist turned actor. Then there are Michael’s two abnormal brothers, magician Gob (Will Arnett), and perennial student of obscure educational courses, Buster (Tony Hale). The Bluth family is rounded out by the two children, Michael’s son George Michael (Michael Cera) and Lindsay’s daughter Maeby (Alia Shawkat).

In the pilot episode, father Bluth is promptly arrested for fraud, leaving both his company and family is dire straits. Although Michael wants to leave his entire family behind after being shafted out of running the business, the rest of the family cannot cope without money and have no idea how to run the business. Michael must swallow his pride and keep his family and the company functioning.

Rarely does a show live up to its hype, but Arrested Development is an exception. All the awards and critical praise are well deserved and although the show hasn’t been given any respect by network TV here in Australia, the DVD release of the complete first season has been thankfully swift. Now there is no excuse for not indulging in the unconventional and insane antics of the Bluth family.

Episodes
Pilot
Meet the Bluth family. When son Michael is not made head of the Bluth Company, he decides to take a job in Arizona. But when George Sr. is arrested and jailed, the Bluth family realise that they need Michael to take care of them and the business.

Top Banana
Michael puts his son George Michael in charge of the Bluth Banana stand and George Michael subsequently burn the stand down. Meanwhile, Lindsay’s psychologist turned actor husband Tobias auditions for a commercial.

Arrested Development: Season One
Bringing Up Buster
George Michael auditions for a school play to get closer to his cousin Maeby. While his father Michael is forced by his mother to spend some quality time with his scholarly brother Buster.

Key Decisions
In an attempt to gain back some credibility in the magical alliance, Gob stages a publicity stunt to escape from his father’s prison. This leaves Michael to take Gob’s girlfriend Marta to her soap opera awards show.

Charity Drive
Lindsay sets to prove to Michael that her charitable endeavours are sincere. While Buster is having a hard time avoiding his mother’s friend Lucille.

Visiting Ours
Michael arranges a conjugal visit for his parents and finds out that George Sr. had an affair with his secretary Kitty. Tobias and Lindsay visit a marriage counsellor.

In God We Trust
Michael is fed up with the family’s incompetent attorney, who only manages to temporarily get George Sr. out of jail for the Living Classics pageant. It is revealed that Tobias has an affliction in which he can never be completely nude. He’s a never nude.

My Mother the Car
After Michael and his mother are involved in a car accident, Michael loses his short term memory which mother Lucille uses to her advantage. George Michael and Maeby try to see a movie about cousins having an affair.

Storming the Castle
Michael wrestles with the idea of breaking up Gob and Marta, while Buster and Lucille’s relationship is challenged by mother Lucille. In an effort to get attention from her parents Maeby dresses in leather.

Pier Pressure
Buster needs some marijuana to help with girlfriend Lucille’s vertigo, so he enlists the help of George Michael to get some from Gob. Lindsay sends Maeby to spend the day with her grandmother as punishment for getting bad grades.

Arrested Development: Season One
Public Relations
When George Michael is rejected for admission from a private school because of the Bluth family reputation, Michael hires a publicist to improve the family’s standing.

Marta Complex
Lucille throws an anniversary party for Tobias and Lindsay at which Michael makes an impassioned speech about love. This results in Marta realising she likes Michael and Lindsay realising she wants a divorce.

Beef Consommé
As the first court hearing for George Sr. approaches Michael tries to start a relationship with Marta, while Lindsay and Tobias confront his never nude problem.

Shock and Awe
Michael and his son George Michael fall for the same woman, George Michael’s ethics teacher. Mother Lucille adopts a teenage Korean boy who immediately creates problems for Buster.

Staff Infection
When Michael discovers that the rest of the Bluth family have been receiving paycheques for doing nothing, he puts his siblings to work with chaotic results. Meanwhile Tobias checks into prison to research a role.

Altar Egos
Michael has a one night stand with a blind attorney who turns out to be the prosecutor in his father’s trial. Gob gets married on a dare and Maeby shocks George Michael by pretending to be a terminally ill student.

Justice is Blind
George Michael sets out to prove Maeby’s deception. Michael, Gob and Tobias join forces to get evidence about the trial from blind attorney Maggie.

Missing Kitty
Lindsay and Maeby try to track down Lindsay’s grandmother. Michael attempts to fire Kitty who claims she has information that could bring down the Bluth Company.

Best Man for the Gob
Michael's tries to prove he is a fun guy and at Gob’s bachelor party George Sr. sets up blackmailing plan. Meanwhile, the Funke family musical group reunites.

Arrested Development: Season One
Whistler's Mother
Tobias and Gob decide to go into the coffee business together. Lindsay decides to protest the war.

Not Without My Daughter
Michael takes Maeby to work with him on Take You Daughter to Work Day. While Tobias, Gob and George Michael set out to prove their manhood.

Let 'Em Eat Cake
The family comes together when George Sr. has a heart attack, when  in fact he is fleeing to Mexico with Kitty. Maeby becomes jealous when George Michael likes another girl. The competitive relationship between Buster and Annyong sees them competing for a woman. Lindsay’s plans to leave Tobias are put on hold when a book he wrote becomes a gay best-seller.

Video
Arrested Development is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. The show is filmed with a handheld high definition camera and so colours are not filtered and appear quite stark and occasionally things go a little out of focus, but this is all part of the style show and not a DVD issue. The only imperfection with this video transfer is minor aliasing, but it's very minimal and not distracting. Colours are vibrant, skin tones realistic, shadow details good and details clear and crisp. Overall, Arrested Development looks wonderful on DVD.

Audio
The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track is perfectly adequate for this dialogue driven show. This is strictly a front and centre channel package, with neither the subwoofer or surrounds kicking in at all. David Schwartz’s whimsical musical interludes come through clearly and are a standout in this solid audio package.

Extras
Thankfully for all Arrested addicts, the first season of Arrested Development includes a substantial amount of worthwhile extras. First up is the ‘Extended Pilot’ which is actually included in the episode selection menu just before the pilot episode. This extended episode contains around ten minutes of unaired material. The first extra listed in the special features menu is an ‘Introduction by Ron Howard’. Howard is an executive producer of the show and provides the soothing and folksy narration for each episode. This little enthused monologue from Howard is a nice but ‘watch only once’ extra.

Audio Commentaries are available for the episodes ‘Extended Pilot,’ ‘Beef Consommé’ and ‘Let 'Em Eat Cake.’ The commentary for the ‘Extended Pilot’ features creator Mitchell Hurwitz, directors Joe and Anthony Russo and star Jason Bateman. The ‘Beef Consommé’ commentary features creator Hurtwitz and actors Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Tony Hale, Michael Cera, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Walter, Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross. This group also provide commentary on the final episode ‘Let 'Em Eat Cake’. Let me just state that commentaries are usually my least favourite extras on DVDs and unless I am actually required to listen to an audio commentary (which I am when I review a title) I avoid it at all costs. But all these commentaries are hilarious. Everyone has fun and speaks frequently and it’s very clear that everyone adores each other and that they're proud to be a part of Arrested Development.

Arrested Development: Season One
A twenty minute collection of deleted scenes are spread across the three discs to coincide with the episodes from which they were cut. I prefer deleted scenes to be included with the episode they relate too and because some of the scenes included are actually extended scenes, it's great they are included with the relevant episodes. ‘Breaking Ground: Behind the Scenes of Arrested Development’ is a nice little featurette which includes interviews with the cast and crew. This featurette is in fullscreen and the quality isn’t very good, but almost every aspect of the show is discussed. Interviews are merged with entertaining behind the scenes footage and episode clips. The final extra on the first disc is a set of ‘Original Songs by David Schwartz.’ Twenty-eight songs from the show can be heard on their own by simply clicking through the menu. Schwartz’s songs add quirkiness to each episode of Arrested Development and while it's nice to be able to listen each song on an isolated soundtrack, these songs seem completely out of context when you simply listen to them without vision.

The only stand alone extra on disc two is the ‘Museum of Television & Radio Q & A with the cast and crew of Arrested Development.’ I was a little disappointed when I viewed this extra because it only runs for ten minutes. These Q&A sessions usually run for at least an hour, so it’s disappointing that this session has been cut for this DVD release. While there are a few laughs, everything seems slightly out of context because of the heavy editing.

Disc three boasts the remainder of the extras, beginning with the mockumentary ‘TV Land-Arrested Development: Making of a Future Classic’ which runs for eight minutes. This is fun look at the cast and crew reacting to their show being deemed ‘classic’ with almost all the cast playing up their "classic" status is some hilarious way. Jason Bateman and Will Arnett are especially funny with their staged ego fights and everyone basically pokes fun at the TV industry and their own self worth. Hilarious!

The final featurette on this DVD release is the ‘TV Land Future Classic Award’. Apparently, cable channel TV land (which airs classics like The A-Team, The Addams Family and MacGyver) hosts an award show that honours classic television. This featurette shows frequent Arrested Development guest star Liza Minnelli presenting the cast of the show with a future classic award. This small featurette combines interviews and clips with the award presentation. The whole thing is a little cringe-worthy, especially when the cast get up on stage with Minnelli. But it's still a nice little inclusion on the DVD. The last two extras are a ‘Sneak Peak at Season Two’ in which Ron Howard discusses what people can expect from the second season of Arrested Development and a short TV spot entitled 'Blind'.

Overall
Arrested Development is one of the smartest, funniest, nuttiest comedies ever produced, and this first season release serves the show well. The video and audio transfers are nothing short of superb and the plentiful extras spread across the three discs are both informative and entertaining. Arrested Development is a show everyone should be watching. But if you have so far managed to miss it, I highly recommend you go out and buy this DVD.


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