BY BERT EHRMANN
Quick question; what’s the “Most Outstanding” comedy
on television as awarded by the 2004 Emmy’s? If you guessed Friends,
Frasier or CSI: Miami you’d be wrong. Dead wrong.
The “Most Outstanding” comedy on television is none other than Fox’s Arrested Development. And I place the blame squarely on Fox that you’re probably unaware of that fact.
Arrested Development follows the Bluth family as they cope with the head of the family, George (Jeffrey Tambor), being arrested for shady accounting practices at the family real-estate company. George is thrown in prison and the courts freeze the family’s wealth. Most families would be concerned with the father locked away in jail; the Bluths are mostly concerned about their lost money and the fact that they might have to get jobs and work for a living.
Enter Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman), the only responsible member of the family who’s put in charge of the company and forced into the role of surrogate family head. Michael immediately puts himself at odds with the family after he tells them that the easy days of expensing luxury items to the company are over.
Before accepting the position, Michael had originally decided to leave the family and head off to Arizona where there’s work waiting for him. He tells the family, “I’m moving to Phoenix. I got a job.” The family doesn’t quite know what to make of this news as Michael tries to further explain, “Something you apply for and they pay you to… Never mind. I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
The comedy from Arrested Development arises from Michael trying to do the right thing by both his family and the courts and the family trying to stop him every step of the way in order to keep assets hidden and themselves a few dollars richer. It’s the family from The Cosby Show only dysfunctional in a 21st century kind of way.
When Arrested Development first started airing on television late last year I recognized is greatness. In my yearly roundup of television shows, including dramas and comedies, the only reason I didn't rate Arrested Development as the best show of the season was the because future classic show The Office was also airing that season. In just any other season, I would have rated Arrested Development as the best show on television. Honest.
In fact, late in the 2003-2004 television season, I would switch over from watching HBO’s The Sopranos to catch new Arrested Development on Fox. (Yes, the show’s that good.) I was there week after week for the show even when Fox aired the season finale nearly two full months after the second to last episode. (Apparently, the way to build an audience for a struggling show is to air episodes two months apart. Pure genius if you ask me.)
Fox seems to have a policy where if a new show isn’t immediately successful it is canceled in just a few airings. In 2002 Fox showed the innovative and very funny Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Greg the Bunny. The critics both these shows but neither of them was able to turn critical adulation into successful ratings. Before the end of 2003 Fox had canceled both of these shows rather than take a gamble on them any further.
Most critics suspected that the same fate was in store for Arrested Development and that Fox was intending on canceling the show in the summer between television seasons.
Except something amazing happened.
That something was that Arrested Development was nominated for an Emmy as the “Most Outstanding Comedy” on television going up against such comedic powerhouses as Friends and Sex and the City. And since these later two shows were on their final seasons, most observers predicted that one of the two would go to their fake television homes with the award. So, when Arrested Development walked away with as the "Most Outstanding Comedy" on television, industry insiders were shocked and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
I thought that finally a genuinely good show that I had watched and supported from the beginning was receiving the accolades it deserved. I had expected Fox to jump on this good news, to start heavily promoting Arrested Development to all the viewers out there who has never seen the show. I thought that there would be commercials, Internet ads and radio spots loudly proclaiming that, “The best comedy on television is Arrested Development and the only place to see it is on Fox.”
In fact the only thing Fox did for the show was to renew it for another season. Other than that nothing much has happened.
So far, Fox has all but stopped airing Arrested Development Sunday.