How can a show nominated for 18 Emmys (winning six), produced by golden child Ron Howard and declared by many as the best show on television fail so miserably in the ratings week after week? For the always-on-the-brink-of-cancellation “Arrested Development,” fans pointed at Fox’s marketing and scheduling of the show, but two more reasons seem more relevant: The layered, subtle humor of the “smart” comedy is too intelligent for mainstream audiences raised on formulaic sitcoms with laugh-track jokes (see “Friends”) to understand, and the inside jokes based on complicated plotlines and backstories make the show difficult for casual viewers to watch. Fortunately, both of these problems are solved with the arrival of “Arrested Development – Season Two,” which allows repeat viewings and the opportunity to see all of the episodes viewers might have missed.

Already having cemented its status as the most unique ensemble cast outside of “Seinfeld,” the Bluth family takes its eccentricities to another level in season two. With the Bluths facing investigation because their fugitive father allegedly built palaces for Saddam Hussein, Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) attempts to salvage the company’s name and revenues. His family, however, manages to screw things up. While season one featured its fair share of off-the-wall plotlines (Michael dates a lawyer pretending to be blind to gain juror sympathy), season two seems to have felt the effects of rumored cancellation. It’s as though the writers created hilariously absurd plotlines compounded with any number of inappropriate jokes, knowing that Fox no longer cared about the program. They wouldn’t have to worry about tying up loose ends in the story.

Aside from the Bluths’ business troubles, the season included Tobias’s (David Cross) attempts to become a member of the Blue Man Group, his daughter Maeby’s (Alia Shawkat) new job as a producer at a Hollywood studio (leading to her standard reply of “Marry Me!” when co-workers wonder why she looks so young) and George Michael’s relationship with the bland, ultra-Christian Ann.

Standout episodes from the second season include “Burning Love” in which Ann and George Michael host a party to burn “devil’s music” and “The Immaculate Election,” where Gob (Will Arnett) creates an over-the-top campaign video for George Michael’s fruitless bid for student government president.

The show also features the requisite guest appearance from Ben Stiller, whose turn as a cocky magician seems slightly tired coming off his appearance as a cocky gym owner in “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” Other cameos include Stiller’s wife, Christine Taylor, as Michael’s childhood crush; Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the supposedly blind lawyer Michael may have impregnated; and Martin Short as an eccentric family friend with no use of his legs. Short’s character, a former radio-serial star, creates some of television’s most inappropriate and insensitive laughs, including his attempt at dancing that consists of his caretaker shake his dangling body so that his legs move freely.

The only fault of the DVD is its special features. For a show that doesn’t seem like it will last much longer, viewers are expecting the typical cult-classic treatment of background footage, plenty of interviews and thorough commentaries to reward those who’ve watched the show since the beginning. Instead, we get one commentary on each disc, which although still funny, is so crowded by cast members that each one’s stories or jokes are cut off by others trying to make their own witty comments. Aside from the extensive bloopers and deleted scene reels that do provide some laughs, the only featurette worth watching is a three-minute recap of the first season that allows first-time viewers of the show to easily catch up and long-time fans to refresh their memories.

With the third (and probably last) season currently on hiatus because of Major League Baseball, “Arrested Development – Season 2” comes out at the perfect time for new fans to discover the unique laughs and unforgettable characters of “Arrested Development” before television’s best sitcom returns for a surely amazing stretch of episodes.

 

Ratings:

Show: 5 out of 5 stars

Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars

Features: 3 out of 5 stars

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