Sunday, June 3, 2007

Postmodernity and the Family

My wife and I just finished the last DVD of Arrested Development, which, in my estimation, is one of the finest sitcoms ever created. Much like The Office, Arrested Development relies on the interaction and growth of well-developed characters through a linear plot line for most of its laughs, though its unique and hilarious manipulation of editing and narration puts it a notch above other character-driven comedies.

The story line revolves around the Bluths, a real estate developing family, whose extravagant lifestyle is disrupted by the sudden arrest of the corrupt patriarch by the SEC. The odd-ball family is kept together by Michael Bluth, who simultaneously despises and (though he rarely and begrudgingly admits it) needs his family. Michael is the hardworking, ethically driven member of the family, whose exasperation with his needy, self-centered family is a source of much of the show's comedy. The world of the family is masterfully developed, so much so that it's difficult to get into it half-way. So many jokes and character nuances become show motifs and grow in hilarity as they are repeated throughout all three seasons.

Arrested Development is interesting on an intellectual level as well. The underlying premise of the show is the inescapable importance of the family. The more dissolute and fractured the family becomes, the more they feel the urgent need to put it back together. Michael's concern for the ethical is constantly disrupted by his own sinfulness and by postmodern confusion on what comprises an ethical action. The show is provides interesting insight into one of the primary problems in postmodern life: conceptions of morality and family have been tossed aside, yet we still have a basic need for these things in our daily lives-- the show creates a multitude of funny moments arising from this contemporary conflict.

This show should not be approached without caution, however. Like all modern comedies, it has its fair share of lewdness, though I think it deals with these areas with much more humor, cleverness, and tact than any other comedy out there.


Michael Barber said...


I can't believe I missed this post. I agree--I think Arrested Development was a very clever show (though, clearly, not without its lewdness).

What is fascinating about the show is the implications of the important role the father has in the family. In a way, the entire family follows after him.

Anyway, one of the best episodes involved the father of the Bluth family's way of teaching "lessons" to his family.

Here's a great clip from that episode.

Michael Barber said...

Here's a little more.