In this second batch of Season 1 episodes, we have an Arrested Development with a fully formed voice. The “Save the Wetlands” storyline really showcases Portia de Rossi’s talents: She’s amazing as she pontificates on, then quickly abandons, her groundless ideals. Lucille, too, is in full force, flaunting her privileged snobbery—she can’t eat pool food, she says, and she’s willing to put up $10,000 to show off being bought at auction.
It’s nothing new for a sitcom to get a lot of mileage out of a character’s bigotry; it’s good for a laugh when somebody is obliviously awful, and doubles as a quick way to establish character. Lucille’s mistreatment of Latinos is on full display in these episodes. At the Latino TV awards, she asks everyone around her for a vodka tonic. She speaks to her housekeeper, Lupe, as if Lupe is a savage animal. And we now know that she once maced a “carjacker” who was really just trying to sell her flowers.
The prison’s ice cream sandwiches keep popping up, too. George Sr. has already mentioned “having a love affair” with his. Since then, Gob has tried to distract the guards by unplugging the machine, forcing them to eat the ice cream before it melts. And when Michael left George Michael with his grandfather for a dangerous few seconds, it was to get more ice cream sandwiches. I don’t think this has any deeper meaning, but it illustrates how dedicated this show is to stringing out its self-references.
We’re starting to see a lot more hypocrisy from Michael, and I like how the show subtly points it out. Michael’s on Marta’s doorstep, trying to get with her, when she gets the call that Gob’s been shivved: He’s “been stabbed in the back.” Michael refuses to accept he’s doing anything wrong: Standing in a doorway again, this time at the entrance to Gob’s hospital room, he sanctimoniously tells Marta, “You gotta put family first.”
The last episode of this trio, "Charity Drive," is an episode where the plot is so freaking tight, it’s as clever as any of its gags. First, Lucille 1 wants to beat Lucille 2 at the auction, so she donates two tickets to The Producers, then instructs an easily flustered Buster to bid on her. But Lucille 2 is holding out for a “grand romantic gesture” from Buster, so she waits until the last second to see whether he’ll accept her offer to see The Producers with her. Since he’s afraid to be seen by Lucille 2, Buster won’t leave for the auction until after she does, meaning they’re both nearly late—at which point Buster rushes inside, hears “Lucille” called, and quickly bids his $10k before he realizes it’s not his mother on the block. This convinces Lucille 2 that Buster was planning to make a grand romantic gesture all along.
Not to mention the other plot! It turns out all the Bluth kids have been undermining Michael by using their dad’s car, each of them defacing it their own way: Gob burned it with a bad magic trick, Lindsay spilled red nail polish all over the dash, and Buster left a hammer and an excavated skull in it. All this, of course, gets Michael arrested as an apparent serial killer.
More observations to take note of, for the sake of future jokes:
... I forgot to mention this one last week: When Michael told George Sr. that actually, spouses can both be convicted of the same crime, he says “I have the worst lawyers.”
... George Sr.’s hastily-formed plan for getting out of prison: stealing hair from George Michael.
... What may have seemed a throwaway joke, but isn't: Tobias was missing in one episode because he was “at an acting workshop with Carl Weathers.”
... In prison, after realizing he can’t easily poop out the key he swallowed, Gob says “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
... One last thing: I mentioned earlier that I think Arrested Development is the pinnacle of a lot of its actors’ careers, but I forgot about Judy Greer. Though she (like Jessica Walter) is damn good in Archer, I’m still giving the nod to Kitty here.
And a couple questions for you guys:
... Who was the funniest in Episodes 4-6? I’d give Buster the award for the first three episodes, but I think this week belongs to Lindsay.
... Anybody else notice how many people casually died in these episodes? The newspaper story about Tobias parking the staircar on the tarmac said the incident led to several decapitations. George Sr. accidentally got that batter shot during the jailyard softball game. And another prisoner was shot as he tried to escape on the staircar while George Michael waited for his dad.
... And to those of you watching for the first time: How well is Michael making his case as the only Bluth who's trying to save the family? Is he selling you on that, or is he as bad as everybody else?
Ed. note: You can stay up-to-date on DVD Club news and find a listing of all related discussion stories in the TV.com Summer DVD Club Archives.
Follow TV.com writer Kevin Collier on Twitter: @KevinCollier