Ranking 24 Seasons.

I know I posted something here the other day that linked to this, but I have a friend overseas in the Middle East who cannot read what I put on my own page. So I am posting it here. Read it, don’t read it. It happens. But I am trying to post this for the greater good that Jack Bauer so obviously would:

I generally like to keep to sports and sports entertainment on his
blog, but the fact is this: I am a huge fan of the old Fox Series 24. It
chronicles the perpetual fight of CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit) Los
Angeles against the forces of evil. Now, admittedly, the show can get a
little ridiculous in its plotlines and the world of terror it seems to
exist in. It as if 9/11 wasn’t an isolated incident, but the type of
incident that seemingly occurs every day for the erstwhile crew of CTU.
24 has always had a diversity of antagonists, but one main protagonist:
Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. Over a period of eight lurid
days, Jack has endured, and dished out, every manner of torture and
punishment under the sun. He has killed many, has been legally dead (and
resuscitated) and has generally been through more s--- than a 75 year
old plumber. Jack Bauer, and the series itself, are very much in the
vain of old school Chuck Norris, Steven Segal and Charles Bronson
movies, but made to fit within the timeline of more current events. Some
people cried foul on 24 for taking advantage of the very real
anti-terror sentiments of this post 9/11 era…yet do not realize that the
first season of 24 was recorded prior to that heinous attack. The fact
is, a generation of American’s identified with the show, and, more
specifically, Jack Bauer, who is perpetually reliving the worst day of
his life over and over and OVER again simply because he is just so
damned devoted to his country.

This list is an attempt by a longtime 24 fan to rank the seasons, or
Days in this case, fairly. I am ranking them in relation to each of
their relative merits. For instance, Day 1 may be a landmark season for
many, but after viewing ALL of the Days, it is not as good as some would
think. This is a list, the lowest form of internet writing, I admit to
that. But as a 24 fanatic, I had to do it. And, trust me, I have done my
due diligence. I started watching the show, live, beginning with the
Day 2 Season Finale, and dutifully watched Days 3 through 7. For reasons
that will be explained shortly, I ceased watching midway through Day 7.
I am in the process of watching Day 8 currently. Day 8 and 24:
Redemption, will not be included in this ranking. I saw 24: Redemption
when it aired live, but am hard pressed to remember all the details, as I
only saw it once. Season 8 I am just watching, and need time to digest
it all. Every other season I have seen multiple times, thanks to the
good folks at the Audience Network (DirecTV bitches). They have been
replaying each Day, in four hour blocks, with very limited commercial
interruption, since January, and that channel has just debuted Day 6.
The down end of DirecTV is that a bad rainstorm will wipe out your
satellite feed, so a friend of mine was nice enough to give me a stream
of the seasons, and, suffice to say, I have been on a mission watching
them ever since. Enough already, lets get to the f------ list!

7. Day 7. Easily the worst Day 24 has ever produced. It details the
issues President Allison Taylor and the FBI are having with the rogue
element of the nation of Sangala. Anyone who has ever viewed 24 knows
that this season was just…wrong. Everything was off. First, CTU, the
whole organization the series bases itself upon, has been decommissioned
by an ambitious Senator who despises the idea of torture. Even if it
means saving innocent lives. Add into it the worst President the series
has ever seen and a horribly convoluted plot that makes Tony Almeida the
main bad guy, and you have this stinker of a season. I have nothing
positive to sat for Day 7…it was that bad. Hopefully, I have not turned
you off for the rest of this list, as the show really was quite good
before this s--- sandwich.

6. Day 6. Season 6 was actually quite good, as was the series before
Day 7′s s--- sandwich. Jack is released from captivity in China by newly
elected President Wayne Palmer, simply to be used as sacrifice to a
newly empowered Arab Terrorist named Abu Fayed. In the course of the
season, which involves Fayed (a very good bad guy, might I add)
detonating a series of nuclear devices armed in briefcases (Suitcase
Nukes from here on in), Jack finds out that his estranged brother and
father (portrayed by James Cromwell) were the people truly driving the
plot, along with his Chinese Captor and antagonist Cheng Xi. The problem
I had with this season was Wayne Palmer being President, but deft
writing pushed Wayne from a character who was perpetually waffling on
issues into an adept, shrewd, well written character who unfortunately
succumbed to injuries sustained during a White House press conference.
It was a fun season, and truly the last season 24 was really a viable
show. Personally, I was turned off once recently reinstated Jack Bauer
had to kill long time show institution Curtis Manning when I first
watched the Day, but time has allowed this Day to age like a fine wine.
Seek it out, it is worth it.

5. Day 1. Yes, the initial season of the show ranks this low. But no
mistake, it is still a damn fine season. It is just that it was eclipsed
by the run of awesomeness 24 was about to embark on. In this season,
there was no President to deal with, only aspiring candidate Senator
David Palmer, who is basically the vehicle the whole season passes
through. Jack Bauer is the head of CTU at the time, before he was humped
into submission by various bureaucratic butt heads. It more or less
deals with CTU LA handling a threat on the life of Senator Palmer, while
Jack has to deal with his daughter running away from home, straight
into the hands of nefarious terrorists who want to use her as
positioning against the United States Government. Dennis Hopper, playing
evil Ruskie Victor Drazen, is the main antagonist throughout most of
the season. Tony Almeida and Nina Myers are Jack’s main support at CTU
on Day 1. However, it is Nina Myers treacherous betrayal of Jack, Tony,
CTU, the Government, and the infrastructure of the United States that
really puts the last few episodes into overdrive. Anyone who has watched
24 and does not understand why Nina Myers was so despised by many
through the first three seasons needs to watch Day 1.

4. Day 4. Day four presented 24 with its most vile villain: Habib
Marwan. Most seasons of 24 follow a logical progression of villains, but
Day four had one, and this dude was hard wired. He masterminded the
plot to kidnap Secretary of Defense James Heller and his daughter,
Audrey Raines. He shot down Air Force One. He apprehended the Nuclear
Football. Marwan was probably the best villian 24 ever produced, as he
was involved in every attack from minute one to Day 24. Hard to beat

3. Day 2: Most 24 fans list Day 2 as the best, and this writer would
be hardpressed not to agree. Season Two contains my two favorite 24
Episodes: The one where Jack is declared clinically dead, and the finale
at the LA Coliseum. Both are must watch episodes, and the finale is
the hook, line, and sinker that entrapped me into the show. Sherry
Palmer is ridiculously f------ devious. Peter Kingsley is a very cool
bad guy. In short, Day 2 is must watch television.

2. Day 3. Most fans are not big fans of Season 3, but hear me out.
Season three, day 3, was the first season I watched live every week. I
watched it again on the Audience Network, and it still holds up. Stephen
Saunders is still one of the best villains the series has created. The
tension between Tony and Michelle, married by this point, is palpable.
The Salazars are mere midpoints to the plot of the series, but damned
good ones. Jack is addicted to smack. Chase, Jack’s doppleganger, is
legt irrevocably maimed by the end of the Day. GET ALL THIS.

1. Day 5. The Queen Mother of the series. Until recently, I was all
about naming season 2 or 3 as the tops, the best 24 had to offer. But
the fact is Season 5 is the best, and for one reason: President Charles
Logan. He, to use a wrestling parlance, is the ultimate heel. In pro
wrestling, heel means bad guy. Charles Logan was the worst of the worst
that 24 has ever seen. He had babyface (good guy in rasslin parlance)
David Palmer killed. He backed the nefarious acts of Christopher
Henderson. He threatened his own wife with with a Psych institution. He
had his chief Secret Service Head Aaron Pierce tortures. My word, man.
Charles Logan is the greatest bad guy 24 has ever seen, and Season 5 of
the show remains its pinnacle.

Repost: Arrested Development Seasons 1-3

Since we’re MINUTES away from the launch of season 4 on Netflix, here’s a refresher on the first three… The SmarK DVD Rant for Arrested Development – Season One This is the story of a brilliant TV writer who unexpectedly created one of the most revolutionary and critically beloved shows in sitcom history, but got no support from the network who was supposed to be finding an audience for it. It’s Arrested Development. If ever there was a case of a show you either get or you don’t, it’s this one. Replacing the standard four-camera and setup-punchline-setup-punchline nature of the sitcom form with a more open, fly-on-the-wall documentary feel and more natural dialogue, AD marked a career revamp for Jason Bateman and a career launch for a cast of supporting characters who defined the show. Although the show is funny by itself, the thing that truly makes it special is the airtight character continuity and endless self-referencing that it does. When these guys do a running gag, it’s not just for one show, it’s for entire SEASONS. But most importantly, the characters are written with a real human quality, not just as cartoon characters, but as a real family who has problems (as if that’s not the understatement of the century…) but in the end, breakfast is the most important thing. Or maybe it’s family. I missed most of the first season because none of the Canadian stations picked it up until well into the first season, and then proceeded to run 10 or so of the episodes totally out of order so they could skip through it all in time for the second season. I still cheered loudly when it won the Best Comedy Emmy anyway. Luckily the great narration job done by Ron Howard helps straighten out any confusion that may arise from crappy programming decisions. <b>The Film</b> Arrested Development focuses on the Bluth family, of which there are several key members… George Sr. – Played by Jeffrey Tambor. The head of the family and owner of the Bluth Corporation, he spends pretty much the entire season in jail. Hence the name. Lucille – Played by Jessica Walter. George’s wife, and probably the living embodiment of what Hilary Clinton is going to be like in 20 years. Manipulative, evil, and yet still loving of her family. Except Gob. Michael – Played by Jason Bateman. The main character on the show, and the one around whom everything revolves. Although he thinks of himself as the moral center of the family, he’s just as neurotic and off-center as everyone else, but he dresses slightly better. Gob – Played by Will Arnett. The breakout star character of the show, he’s a womanizer and longtime stage magician who is terrible at the one thing he loves and thinks his parents resent and hate him. Sadly, he’s correct. Byron “Buster” Bluth – Played by Tony Hale. The youngest of the three brothers and the only one to remain close to Lucille. As in, he still lives with her and is unable to function without her, despite spending thousands of dollars on college degrees in useless subjects. His life’s dream is to get punched in the face. Lindsay Bluth-Funke – Played by Portia Derossi. With a lifetime of money thanks to rich parents and a doctor for a husband, she instead concentrates her efforts on protesting whatever is trendy that week. Tobias Funke – Played by David Cross. A former doctor who lost his license and now wants to be an actor, he is by far the most alienated of the bunch, as everyone dismisses him as an idiot. He is possibly gay as well, despite many protests from him and a wealth of innocent remarks taken way out of context. George-Michael – Played by Michael Cera. Michael’s son, and the closest thing to normal in the family, he runs the banana stand and is in love with his cousin, going to obsessive lengths to both deny and facilitate their taboo relationship. Like I said, he’s the closest thing to normal. Maeby – Played by Alia Shawkat. Daughter of Lindsay and Tobias, she hates her parents (rightfully so) and can be counted on to believe in exactly the opposite of whatever her mother is currently fighting for. Willing to take risks that George-Michael isn’t able to, let’s face it, they’re perfect for each other. She may or may not be biologically related to the family. Oscar – Played by Jeffrey Tambor also. Introduced late in the season, Oscar is George’s twin brother, albeit with a long flowing mane of hair and a hippie past. <b>Disc One</b> – Extended Pilot. Our saga begins on the Bluth family yacht, as omniscient (and occasionally opinionated) narrator Ron Howard introduces us to Michael Bluth and his family. The setup is that the Bluths, headed up by George Bush-like George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor, in what was originally written as a guest spot only), own a large housing development business and George Sr. is ready to retire and presumably pass on the reins to long-suffering son Michael. Our first flashback gag of the show has Michael and son George-Michael (did I mention this show has the best gag names, too?) share a moment in their sleeping bags about the importance of breakfast and family, which would be referenced early in season 3. Michael is living in the show-home with George-Michael as we begin, and one of the best running gags is introduced when we meet his brother, Gob. “Gob” (played by the awesome, scene-stealing Will Arnett) is a play on “Jeb” Bush, and is thus pronounced like Job the biblical character instead of “gob.” Anyway, being burdened with unearned wealth and a failed career as a magician, he compensates by riding a Segway scooter everywhere, and that one gets milked for every laugh it’s worth. In fact, the family’s out-of-control spending in general sets up the major plot of the series, although “plot” with this show is a relative term. George-Michael meets his cousin Maeby for the first time, and we learn that she’s the daughter of Michael’s twin sister Lindsay and her husband Tobias Funke. Tobias, constantly warring with Gob for the most brilliant moments on the show, is played by Mr. Show creator David Cross, and was previously a doctor until he tried to give CPR to a guy sunbathing by the pool and thus lost his license. His running gag is also immediately established, as he mistakes the retirement party for a pirate party and unwittingly joins a group of homosexuals protesting the real party. The actual plot begins when George Sr. unexpectedly passes control of the company over to wife Lucille, and then gets dragged off by the SEC for years of unspecified bad dealings. Those dealings would provide many episodes worth of teases and huge punchlines to come. Tobias’s pirate adventure convinces him to become an actor, setting him off on his character path. Michael, feeling rejected, wants to bail on his family and move to Arizona with George-Michael after a huge job offer from Sitwell Housing. Sitwell would return in the second season with a much bigger role. While visiting his father in jail, Michael discovers that George Sr. passed the company to Lucille because of some VERY bad legal advice, which would also become a running gag. So everyone decides to stick together and live in the model house, and we get the first “On the next…” show-ending gag, which was actually conceived as an ironic statement due to Mitchell Hurwitz being sure that the show wouldn’t get picked up. – Top Banana. So George Sr. LOVES prison, and George-Michael is having trouble avoiding Maeby and her womanly charms. So Michael decides to make G-M the manager of the longtime Bluth standby — the frozen banana stand on the beach. The family is having troubles dealing with the company’s frozen assets, even though George Sr. stresses several times that there’s ALWAYS money in the banana stand, and he’s not being subtle about it. However, G-M’s plan backfires when Maeby is also drafted into working there. Michael makes sure to tell his son to stay on top of her and ride her hard while at work. Tobias has his first audition here, and it goes about as well as the rest of them would go. Michael learns that his dead’s cellmate T-Bone is a “flamer” in a totally different context than he expected, and T-Bone ends up working at the banana stand as a favor to George Sr. Gob’s father issues start here. Michael and Gob decide to unite and burn down the banana stand as a gesture of defiance towards their father, but Gob’s own previous gesture of defiance turned out to be throwing the insurance payment into the ocean. Which was harder than it sounds. – Bringing Up Buster. Gob’s relationship with Marta, the Mexican soap-opera star, is introduced. So is high school student Steve Holt (“Steve Holt!”) who would become much more important in the third season. Buster is driving Lucille crazy, so she dumps him on Michael. Gob tries to live in the office, but Michael is in no mood for both brothers (“If it’s business, I’ll leave happily, but if it’s personal, I’ll still leave, but I won’t be happy.” “It’s personal.”) Tobias tries to break into directing, by taking over the high school play where G-M is trying to put the moves on Maeby, but his plans for direction turn out to be more authentically Shakespearean than most teenage boys are ready for. Steve Holt’s up for a little cross-dressing, luckily. Gob tries moving in with Lucille, which lasts for all of an hour before he takes up permanent residence on the yacht instead. And everything leads up to a Cornball pun, in more ways than one. – Key Decisions. Gob has to attend an awards show with Marta (“just like Rita Wilson!”) and we are thus introduced to the stair car, which becomes the family’s transportation for the season. Gob decides to get out of the shadow of his semi-famous girlfriend by staging his greatest escape yet…breaking out of his father’s prison! He’s no Mike Scofield, that’s for sure. Apparently, however, swallowing a key to the cell is harder than it appears in cartoons (Professional magician, do not attempt) and a shanking soon follows. Gob dumps Marta on Michael for the awards, which of course complicates everyone’s life when he falls hopelessly in love with her. Speaking of complicated, Liza Minelli debuts as Lucille II, Lucille’s best friend and biggest social rival, and accidentally flirts with Buster, due to the fact that she’s an idiot and he lost his glasses. Buster “flirting” from the other side of the room is one of the funniest sight gags in the show’s run. Gob, locked in a cell with his father, is unable to pass the key because of privacy concerns, and he lets us know that he’s made a huge mistake. That would soon become another running gag. We get an off-hand mention of Carl Weathers by Tobias, which would soon get paid off, bigtime. Lindsay unwittingly becomes a tree sitter with Ron Howard’s cousin Clint, but causes him to forget why you NEVER leave the tree. Gob’s (literal) backstabbing at the hands of White Power Bill (who would of course pop up again later in the season just because) causes him to rethink his relationship with Marta. And he’s made another huge mistake. But at least he escaped from the prison. Ta-da! – Visiting Ours. First appearance of Michael’s assistant Kitty, who is actually George’s assistant. Gob moves back to the office so he can write a strongly-worded letter of protest to the warden of the prison. Apparently getting taken out on a stretcher doesn’t count as “escaping.” Tobias and his nudity issues are introduced as he and Lindsay seek therapy…with Bob Odenkirk. That of course turns into an over-the-top ham session between Bob and David. Obviously Mitchell Hurwitz was a big Mr. Show fan. Kitty is all over Gob, which leads to the most unexpectedly hilarious “take off your glasses” scene in sitcom history. Michael decides to take advantage of this rather ludicrous pairing by whoring out Gob as an information source. As long as the lights are out, he doesn’t mind, however. George Sr. organizes a softball game, which gets REALLY ugly, and ruins the whole prison experience for George-Michael. George continues stealing the show by sharing too much information with Michael (“Daddy’s horny.”) and reveals that a month without sex is rough. Especially when he’s been in prison two months. Michael is so disturbed that he tries to convince Lucille to make a conjugal visit just to get the image out of his head, but it turns out that Lucille wasn’t what George Sr. had in mind. This further screws up a tryst between Kitty and Gob in the other trailer, although Gob forgot the entire plan anyway. And we end with George dropping the first casual mention that he may have committed treason. But LIGHT treason. – Charity Drive. A heatwave has Michael needing a car, which Lindsay prepares for a charity auction, as does Lucille. Michael needs permits filed after the fact, so he hires Gob to do the dirty work. He picks up someone who he thinks is Lupe the housekeeper, but in a nice comment on how even the self-satisfied can be wrong, it turns out that he can’t tell the difference between similar-looking Latinos either. And wouldn’t you know, having bones, a shovel and red nail polish everywhere looks kind of suspicious to a scared Mexican immigrant. Gob, master of disguise, blows his cover on the scouting mission, and so dumps the job on G-M. He proves to be just as bad at it. And at the charity auction, Buster screws up his only job, too, bidding on the wrong Lucille. Michael the Serial Killer is non-stop laughs here. <b>Disc Two</b> – My Mother, The Car. To compete with Lucille II’s parties, Lucille decides to throw an even bigger party on the yacht, which Michael is trying to sell. Great sight gags with Lucille on “World’s Worst Drivers” and a fake license made by Gob, to really hammer home the point of the episode. Lindsay visits her father in prison, but is disappointed when the prisoners don’t catcall and treat her like a piece of meat. The family manipulates Michael into throwing a surprise party for Lucille, but then all of them forget to show up. A great moment then shows how deeply Lucille can outsmart even Michael, as she guilts him with her frail act. Another awesome fourth wall moment as Michael & Lucille get into a car accident on the way home, thus taking out the fake cameraman. Michael suffers a head trauma, with requisite memory loss, thus giving us some quality slapstick due to his numbed state. He feels guilty for being the one who tried to run Gob over, but Lucille medicates him with “Children’s Aspirin.” LOTS of it. Brilliant dovetailing of the stories as Linday’s obsession with getting a reaction at prison pays off an earlier moment with Lucille’s presumed frailty leaving her unable to lift grocery bags. Another great line here (“…to keep me from getting attacked in the shower…or worse.” “Stabbed?”) as Lindsay seems unaware of the realities of prison life. In the end, Michael and Gob unite again to figure out who REALLY was more likely to want to run over Gob, because they’re brothers, and they kinda like each other! – In God We Trust. This one introduces Henry Winkler as Barry Zuckerkorn, the worst’s worst attorney, as he gets George one afternoon out of prison for the “Living Classics” show before Christmas. Barry’s awesomely funny homophobia is introduced as well. Lucille thinks Michael and Lindsay are aligning against her, so she begins using her powers of bitchcraft to split them up. We also learn that, contrary to all evidence that says otherwise, Barry’s bus bench ads show him to be “Very Good.” And then we learn that Barry lost a $300,000 lawsuit to his own (homosexual) assistant, who still works for him, and was represented by super-lawyer Wayne Jarvis. Thus Michael wants to hire Jarvis and fire Barry. Wayne is SERIOUS and PROFESSIONAL, you see, and he hates small talk. And as an attorney at law, it’s his professional responsibility to inform us that there is no candy in the room, or to duck behind a couch, as needed. I cannot possibly do this episode justice with a mere recap, because I’m nearly cracking up again just typing this stuff up. Michael and Lindsay get sick of their mother’s manipulation, and ask Wayne Jarvis if there’s any serious and professional way to humiliate her publicly, but she one-ups them by dating Wayne instead of planned suitor Barry. However, this leaves the Bluths stuck with Barry Zuckerkorn as their lawyer. This one is easily one of the funniest episodes of the season without even touching on the actual STORYLINE of the episode, involving George-Michael wearing a muscle suit for his role as Adam and Tobias obsessing over nudity in a role he’s auditioning for. Truly, this one will leave you realizing that it’s never the ones you hope. I hope to hell that they bring Wayne Jarvis back for at least one more episode so he can be serious and professional again. – Storming the Castle. More quality slapstick from Michael, as he falls off chairs and lusts after Marta. Very, very, obviously lusts after her. So obvious that the only one who doesn’t get it is Gob. And then we get another awesome moment as thugs try to muscle Gob via Michael, and he ignores them. And good thing, as it’s just a magician from the Alliance, from which Gob was expelled in the pilot. “Taking his legs” has a different meaning in the magic community, you see. Lindsay protesting leather leads indirectly to Tobias becoming a leather queen. And Michael sets his master plan for stealing Marta into motion, although evil genius isn’t his forte. George begins a new character arc in prison, finding Judaism in solitary. This one marks the first use of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” as the cheesy theme song for Gob’s act, which leads to a payoff of G-M’s neurosis about his smooth, hairless legs. – Pier Pressure. A clash over parenting techniques between the twins sets us off, as Lindsay tries her hand at actually disciplining Maeby for once, and makes her work for Lucille as a punishment for bad grades. Buster, meanwhile, needs some pot for Lucille II’s vertigo, so he goes to the most street-wise kid that he knows…George-Michael. So now Michael thinks that his son is on drugs, and really the A-minus was a dead giveaway. So again he tries his hand at evil genius, this time a fake drug bust to scare him using stripper cops. Gob overacting as a slimy dealer is hilariously bad. But of course things implode like a black hole as Michael learns a lesson about not teaching lessons in true Arrested Development style. A key gag with a detachable arm seems to foreshadow things to come. – Public Relations. Michael tries to get G-M into the prestigious Milford school, where children are neither seen nor heard. Buster of course was a star pupil there, setting off a show-long gag with Buster practicing the art of not being seen. Spectacularly well, in fact. This leads Michael to hire a publicist, who is a little cutie-pie, and as usual getting the family to cooperate is chaos. Great little moments from everyone as the publicist sets everyone off on job-hunting errands. This leads to Tobias meeting Carl Weathers on a shuttle to the airport, while Gob does magic for the elderly. Great Michael moment as he breaks up with his new publicist (“Jesse…” “What?” “Oh, I was just saying your name as you walked away. I’ve got no followup.”) Gob manages to kidnap Earl Milford of the Milford school, which I guess is slightly better than his original assumption of killing him in the course of a trick. Carl Weathers fits right into this group as a parasitic “acting teacher.” – Marta Complex. It’s the anniversary party for Lindsay and Tobias, and Michael is still in denial about Marta. A flashback gives us more “I’ve made a huge mistake” and Carl Weathers continues stealing the show (“Baby, you’ve got a stew goin’!”) An impromptu toast from Michael reveals his secret to Marta, and she too has made a huge mistake. I also have to add that the other impromptu toast that preceded it, with everyone chanting “Speech!” and the narrator explaining that it was for no one in particular, at which point the chants fizzles out, is the kind of truly transcendent moment that this show is known for. Anyway, Gob (who doesn’t speak Spanish, despite years of lessons) misinterprets Marta’s confession of loving “Hermano” and thinks Marta is cheating on him. Speaking of cheating, Lucille II dumps Buster for Carl Weathers in the most bizarre relationship twist that the show had seen to that point. Michael, who also doesn’t speak Spanish very well, also thinks Hermano is a person and joins Gob in a quest to discover his identity. Another show would have had Michael understanding the term and conflicting with Gob, but I like that AD went in totally the opposite direction with it. Michael genuinely cares that Marta might be cheating on his brother, and that’s more important to him than getting her would be. This all of course leads to some brilliant wordplay with the brothers, which worsens when Buster (who of course is the only one to actually UNDERSTAND Spanish) falls in love with Marta. Michael too may have made a huge mistake, preemptively breaking up with Marta over “Hermano.” Amazingly complex writing here. – Beef Consomme. Originally conceived as the series finale in case the show didn’t get renewed, this one wrapped up a lot of stuff. Michael blows off Marta’s disrespect of Gob (“I don’t care, no one respects him.”) and they proceed to getting it on, but Michael unexpectedly DOES respect his brother’s feelings after all and can’t go through with it. Even when Gob finally learns what Hermano means, he can’t put the pieces together. G-M learns that Maeby was a test-tube baby, although that kind of takes the thrill out of it, and thus he’s over her. Tobias is forced to confront his never-nude problem for an acting gig, and Buster turns to Mariachi bands to comfort him over losing Marta. That he was never in contention doesn’t make it hurt any less. Another great fourth wall moment as the judge reminds us that no cameras are allowed in his courtroom before a hearing for George Sr., so the camera proceeds to leave the room and we have to listen to the big fight between Gob and Michael starting behind closed doors instead. Gob and Michael finally have the knock-down drag-out war that has building for a few episodes, although they’re a couple of sissy rich kids so really it’s not quite as brutal as you might expect. Although it does manage to pay off both Buster gags at once. – Shock and Aww. G-M falls in love with his teacher, Ms. Baerly (played by Heather Graham), and we get another reference to someone having a hand chopped off. Gob tries to get back at Michael by fixing him up with a transvestite, but then gets so jealous of him as a matter of reflex that he steals “her” away anyway. Michael goes to meet G-M’s teacher, and we get another hint of season 2 as he makes an off-hand remark about a picture of “rape houses” in Iraq looking just like the show home. George Sr., with spiritual background music, finds himself with a disciple. We meet Korean adoptee Annyong, although that’s actually Korean for “hello” and everyone is just too self-involved to know the difference. A gag with subtitles would carry on for much of the season before ascending to the comedy pinnacle in the next episode and thus outliving its usefulness. But that’s another great thing about this show — they knew when to stretch the joke, and when to retire it. Ms. Baerly, meanwhile, loves Saddam Hussein and after a night with Michael gets drawn into the Bluth Zone. Gob’s ridiculous string of sexual conquests and confused cell phone calls wins the day here. <b>Disc Three</b> – Staff Infection. Lupe the maid wants a day off for a family reunion, so of course Lucille gets offended, while in the same sentence begging for money from Michael. Michael sets about forcing the family to actually work (again) for their Bluth company paycheques, which of course backfires on him when they attempt to do so. Tobias researches his “Frightened Inmate #2” role by going to prison with George. Gob and Buster stir up trouble on the site of a new Bluth housing project, with some great twisted logic from Gob, and he debuts his chicken impression here, complete with dance. Lindsay turns a simple phone-answering job into a major FBI sting operation. An amazingly subtle and hilarious sight gag sees Michael stopping by the banana stand, where Annyong is working, and the camera zooms out for a wide shot. Since Annyong is so small in the distance, when he says “Annyong,” there’s a tiny “Hello” below him. Everything collides at the work site, where Gob and Buster engage in a life-or-death game of Chicken (without the dance), but with BULLDOZERS. Actually, it’s less life-or-death than it sounds. – Missing Kitty. It’s Spring Break and Gob wants to make the yacht disappear for a Youth Oriented Music channel. Tobias studies fear under White Power Bill, who previously shanked Gob. Kitty debuts her new giant boobs and her catchphrase, “This is the last time you’ll see these!” Of course we would see them many more times following this. Flashback gag sees piles of crates in the yacht with “H Maddas” on them, which shouldn’t take much thinking to decipher. This one also introduces “Girls With Low Self-Esteem”, the best-selling spring break video series. Tobias accidentally talks White Power Bill into killing himself, thus going from Frightened Prisoner #2 into Prison Kingpin. This leads to a hilarious man-to-man talk with George Sr. and “Dorothy”. Gob actually does make the yacht disappear, albeit by sinking it, with “The Final Countdown” blaring in the background as usual. However, Kitty was on the yacht, despite earlier teases that G-M was on it, and she’s presumed dead. The gay cops debut in a throwaway gag as part of “On the next…” but would return in the second season in a bigger role, and Oscar is also mentioned in passing for the first time. – Altar Egos. It’s the Seinfeld guest show, with Julia-Louis Dreyfuss. Barry Zuckerkorn brings a plea bargain to the Bluths, but hasn’t gotten around to reading it yet, due to failed attempts to pick up transvestite hookers. Michael’s “only slept with four women” runner continues here, although he claims it’s up to five now (Ms. Baerly, but not Marta apparently). While in a bar trying to read the plea bargain, Michael bumps into Maggie Lizer, as in “lies her ass off.” Boy, if THAT wasn’t a dead giveaway of where the plot was going, I don’t know what is. Michael hooks up with her, and we learn that she is blind, which makes the inevitable morning-after dumping a bit too hard for Michael to handle. The giveaway was “I’m blind,” which Michael simply took as a drunken non-sequitur. Awesome morning-after talk between Gob and Michael follows (“What’s wrong with her?” “Nothing’s wrong with her! Well, she’s blind.”) Gob, meanwhile, marries guest star Amy Poehler on a series of escalating drunken dares, and we discover that she sell seals. And boy, THAT one would pop up again in the most unexpected way possible in season 2. However, they didn’t actually consummate the marriage, despite Gob’s protests that they absolutely, positively did. Lucille, enraged over George’s hanky-panky with a disciple who turns out to be an undercover government spy, wants a divorce. Michaels goes to clear the air with Maggie, but discovers that she may have the entire government case file and wants him to read it to her. The big plot twist is given away as a one-off gag in “On the next…” segment. – Justice Is Blind. Part 2, as Gob is unable to escape his marriage, but still hasn’t consummated it and thus could annul it whenever he wants. Of course, that admission will never happen, so there they are. Michael decides to do the right thing and give back the folder, but it turns out that Maggie knew it was him. And so George asks him to break into Maggie’s house, which he dumps on Tobias. Thus we get one of the few “On the next…” gags to actually come true. We learn that Maggie isn’t blind, but her dog is, although a shot of mace from Tobias changes things. This all sets up one of the best sight gags in the show’s run (kinda ironic considering the subject matter) as G-M laments not knowing what moral choice to make and not having a set of rules to tell him what to do. He of course says this while standing under a giant mockup of the 10 Commandments. Buster selling out his family in exchange for grilled cheese is…very Buster. – Best Man For The Gob. Gob, who has taken to wearing sweaters in domestic fashion now, wants out of the marriage, but the family wants to meet her and throw a party. Tobias wants to “reunite the band”, but means it literally — he wants to reunite Dr. Funke’s 100% Natural Good Time Family Band Solution, a folk group consisting of himself, Lindsay, and Maeby that was underwritten by shady pharmaceutical companies. I believe that Teamocil pops up later on, actually. George is paranoid about an accountant who knows too much, so he hires Gob to convince the guy that he got drunk and killed a stripper. Luckily, the stripper is a narcoleptic who passes out in dark places, and he can’t hold his liquor, and the plan is for her to pop out of a cake, so you KNOW there’s a big payoff coming up. Michael and G-M head out on a fishing trip for some father-son bonding, but that goes terrible for them. The gay dancing cops (not to be confused with the gay cops) help Gob to set up the accountant (which gives us a “helpful gaze”/”helpful gays” pun that you don’t often get in primetime settings) but it all goes spectacularly wrong. Although usually the stripper doesn’t end up ALIVE when things go wrong. – Whistler’s Mother. More money is available, and Lindsay wants some of it for an affair. Great Tobias sight gag sees him reading “Acting: Like A Man” Oscar is formally introduced to the show, which has G-M all paranoid about George Sr. possibly escaping. The family is all over the new money, so Michael tells Gob & Tobias to find something to invest in, and thus Gobias is born. Oscar’s introduction to Michael (“Hey, Nephew.”) sounds just like Buster’s usual introduction, with is another bit of foreshadowing. Michael buys $10,000 of worthless land from Oscar, despite his father’s advice of just paying him off and being done with it, and soon everyone is blowing whistles at him. Literally. But with everything going wrong, a hug from Mom (“What’s happening here?”) and some emotional blackmail of Oscar saves Michael’s job. But now Lucille is on the board and Oscar is in love with her again. – Not Without My Daughter. It’s Take Your Daughter To Work Day, which provides an ENDLESSLY hilarious series of gags here. G-M’s getting a bit too old for the part, so Michael decides to take Maeby instead. Gob gets unfairly edited in the “Girls With Low Self-Esteem” video and doesn’t take it well. The gay cops are introduced into the canon of the show, as they question Michael about Kitty’s disappearance. The one features TWO Mr. Show regulars in addition to David Cross, by the way, which may be a record for a primetime comedy. Buster’s visit to prison puts a new twist on the “No touching” running gag that had been running all season. Self-esteem issues with Gob, Tobias and G-M lead to a shoplifting gag, costing Lindsay an actual job. This one is all about the bizarre daughter-at-work gags running wild throughout the show. – Let Them Eat Cake. And the season wraps up, as everyone is on Atkins and not happy about it. Lindsay wants to start a business, but Michael learns that Kitty is alive, and back in town. And in another epic introduction, we meet G-M’s future girlfriend, Anne. And then we learn that George Sr. was actually building homes in Iraq, as foreshadowed endlessly throughout the season. But it’s just LIGHT treason, remember. Tobias scores a hit in the gay community with a re-release of his book “The Man Inside Me,” but Lindsay can’t even be swayed by his impending financial windfall. Sadly, an awesome sight gag with the book on Amazon (complete with “Customers also bought…” links that show Barry Zuckerkorn as a fellow author) is not accompanied by a real-life listing on that website. Gob, meanwhile, has made another huge mistake. George Sr. has a heart attack while taking a polygraph test, and Michael decides to quit. Again. This leaves Gob in charge of platitudes, and it’s not a job he excels at. And we meet the World’s Worst Doctor, as he delivers bad news about losing George Sr., when in fact he meant that he had escaped. I should point out that I missed roughly half the plot covered by this first season in this recaps, as this show has the most densely-packed 22 minute structure I’ve ever seen in a sitcom and it’s impossible to get everything in one viewing. You need one go-around for the initial plot, another go-around for jokes you missed the first time, and then another one to just watch the background for inside jokes and improvising actors. Truly an instant classic and a show deserving of the Best Comedy award that it received after its first year. <b>The Video</b> As Fox switched to high-definition full-time, this show went with it, and is featured in breathtaking 1.77:1 widescreen here with the absolute best transfer of a TV show I’ve ever seen. EVER. It’s far better than even the pristine initial airings of the show on regular broadcast cable looked, and the level of detail and color in the high-def masters is amazing. This is truly reference-quality stuff. <b>The Audio</b> Well, it’s standard Dolby Surround, which is too bad because gags mixed into the rear speakers would be exactly the kind of thing that this show would excel at. Still, it sounds note perfect for a dialogue-centered show, and that’s the important thing. <b>The Extras</b> Actually tons of stuff for such a low-rated show. Each episode features deleted scenes which are really nothing more interesting than alternate takes on stuff or bits that weren’t that funny to begin with, so no big loss there. You also get commentaries from a host of cast and creators on three episodes (Extended Pilot, Beef Consomme and Let Them Eat Cake) that are entertaining enough but generally amount to everyone goofing around for 20 minutes. And there’s a documentary on disc one called “Breaking Ground” with interviews with most of the cast and Mitchell Hurwitz, as well as a panel discussion on disc two with the cast, and some TV Land stuff on disc three that’s pretty funny. That’s certainly more than I was expecting, although less than other DVD sets seem to get. I can only imagine how barebones season 3 is gonna be, though. <b>The Ratings:</b> The Show: ***** The Video: ***** The Audio: **1/2 The Extras: **1/2 The Pulse: Not only brilliantly funny but warm and surprisingly deep at the same time, Arrested Development is the kind of cutting-edge humor that shows like The Simpsons used to be known for. If you like Curb Your Enthusiasm or haven’t found a smart comedy since Frasier ended, this is the show for you. It’s one of my favorites, and it should be yours too. Highest recommendation. The SmarK DVD Rant for Arrested Development – The Second and Third Seasons It’s a two-fer this time around, as I was ready to do the third season of the show, but then realized that I hadn’t done the second one yet, which triggered a huge AD marathon reviewing session for me over the past couple of weeks. That’s a lot of Mitch Hurwitz, man. Now, I’m sure by now you know the story. AD bursts onto the Fox schedule, immediately wins the Best Comedy Emmy in its first year, and subsequently gets ignored and buried by the network, as they reduce the order, move it around the schedule, and do everything but cancel it to make sure it gets canceled. And yet through it all, Hurwitz and the writers maintain a brilliant vision of what a sitcom should be, redefining the genre and basically rendering the traditional “four camera” sitcom form a dead issue in many people’s minds. The show’s true brilliance came in the form of the endless running jokes and callbacks it presented, however. Whereas most shows would do a running gag that lasted for one show, AD would present a gag that lasted for a whole SERIES. And much of the humor was derived from fans paying attention to stuff that happened in previous episodes, which would then come back to be paid off in later episodes. There were two distinct types of running jokes featured, as well — individual and universal. The individual jokes were things like Gob’s endless parade of failed magic tricks, or Michael’s inability to formulate a plan that works, or George-Michael’s crush on his cousin Maeby. The universal jokes were lines like “I’ve made a huge mistake!” or “Well, that one was a freebie,” which could be said by different characters, in totally different contexts, on any show. <b>The Second Season</b> Featuring 18 episodes on 3 DVDs, the second season picks up with George Sr. on the run from the authorities and Michael vowing yet again to leave his family. <b>Disc One</b> – “The One Where Michael Leaves.” The title is of course an allusion to the naming system for Friends, which will actually pay off in episode three’s title. That’s the kind of demented genius you’re dealing with here. So we pick things up with George-Michael and Michael on the run to Arizona to escape his family, despite all the “family first” stuff preached by him. However, when no one notices that they left, they decide to return so as to give their departure the impact it was lacking. First “I’ve made a huge mistake” of the season here, and the first foreshadowing of Oscar’s real relationship to Buster. Tobias doing Kegel exercises is an awesomely weird gag. The major plots see Michael looking for bail money in advance of being indicted, while Tobias joins the Blue Man Group to get over his marital problems, thinking it to be a support group for depressed men. A news report also foreshadows an upcoming seal attack in the show. Great running gag with Oscar getting clubbed by police, although the payoff reveals that it wasn’t Oscar at all. – “The One Where They Build a House.” Michael decides to do a big ribbon-cutting party to help the company’s image, which sets up a HUGE rock-paper-scissors gag later on. Meanwhile, Gob buys a company boat (the Seaward), while Buster joins the army despite night blindness and a deformed reproductive organ. Another foreshadowing of Buster’s hand and his parentage, and George has made a huge mistake. Again. Gob turning a board meeting into a sideshow is great, and will be repeated for equal laughs through the series. Lindsay picks up Thomas “The Punisher” Jane, thinking him to be homeless, which sets up a callback to the “What’s wrong with —, there’s nothing wrong with —, oh, except they’re —” gag from season one. Tobias disguising himself in blue backgrounds is brilliant, and the final rock-paper-scissors gag (“Once again, Michael chose rock…”) is transcendent humor. “Ann / Who?” is also introduced here as a running joke. George Sr. is revealed to be in Mexico, which sets up the next episode’s title. – “!Amigos!” The jokes in the TITLES are funnier than most stuff on TV these days. This one is notable for introducing Martin Mull as Private Eye Gene Parmesan (“AAAAAAAH! He got me again!”), master of disguise. Michael tries to gather a posse to get his father out of Mexico, while Lucille throws a going-away party for Buster, which introduces the “You’re Killing Me, Buster” banner that gets funnier with each recycling. Gob hires his own PI, Ice, to follow Michael, so Lucille hires Gene to follow Gob. Buster escapes to “Mexico,” but gets confused over distances and ends up elsewhere in the neighborhood, where he finds his old hand-chair and notes that he never thought he’d miss a hand so much. A surreal gag sees Ice searching for George from a picture printed on blueprint paper, which naturally leads him to a made-up Tobias. That’s the kind of joke it takes most sitcoms YEARS to build up to. Honestly, who would even THINK of a payoff like that? – “Good Grief” The high concept humor continues with the best episode of the season. This one introduces Ben Stiller as Gob’s future nemesis, Tony Wonder, who once baked himself into a giant loaf of bread for the troops. The running gag here is an escalating series of Charlie Brown references, like a sign on the banana stand. George Sr. is declared dead, which Gob takes as the perfect chance to get on the cover of Poof Magazine. Great freeze-frame sight gag sees G-M walking past a doghouse in full Charlie Brown pout mode, with a sad-looking Christmas tree in the background. G-M finds Pop-Pop and hides him in the attic, although after promising no secrets with his father, Michael then turns around and tricks everyone into thinking that George Sr. had escaped again and re-hides him. Gob’s big illusion of course goes totally opposite to what was planned, with hilarious results. Tremendous episode! – “Sad Sack.” Buster goes through boot camp, surprised to find that recent litigation by Wayne Jarvis prevents anyone from being called homo as a motivational technique. Luckily, Gob isn’t bound by that and is more than happy to help out. Steve Holt (“Steve Holt!”) returns as the object of Maeby’s affections (complete with a great freeze-frame gag involving his yearbook quotes), while Oscar is feeling cramped by Lucille’s affections. Wayne Jarvis (so serious that he was named “worst audience participant in Cirque De Soleil history”, according to him) offers Michael a deal in exchange for his father, which leads to Tobias borrowing Gob’s camera phone (which plays “The Final Countdown”, of course) and accidentally photographing himself in the tub. Thus, Jarvis goes after Michael with a mysterious picture of WMDs in Iraq which isn’t quite what it seems. Regardless, this bumps up George’s light treason to medium treason. Luckily for everyone, Barry Zuckercorn knows the difference between landscapes and balls. – “Afternoon Delight” Gob is alienating people at work with his $3000 suit (“Come on!”) and it’s Christmas party time. G-M is having Christmas with Ann Egg, so Michael & Maeby decide to do some bonding without him. Sadly, their song choice at karaoke is a tad inappropriate. Gob and the escalating value of his suit is a great runner, leading to Gob firing the entire company. Oscar gives Lucille some “Afternoon Delight” in her brownie, and it all leads to Buster’s claw-game addiction paying off with Gob in a banana suit. More foreshadowing sees Buster carrying a stuffed seal around with him. <b>Disc Two</b> – “Switch Hitter” The past references come fast and furious, as Stan Sitwell returns to tempt Michael over to the dark (light?) side, although George and Gob think he’s just trying to recruit for his softball team. So of course Gob promptly takes a job with Sitwell, leaving Michael as the president again. More callbacks as Gob’s softball bonding with Sitwell brings back fond memories of being shanked in prison. Also returning is Teamocil, as Lindsay takes it for the side-effects (which are helpfully listed by the narrator as we go along). And in one of the most unlikely plot-twists in a while, Maeby accidentally gets a job as as a studio executive at Tantamount Studios. If Jude Law does a remake of “The Old Man and the Sea”, you’ll know who to blame. – “Queen For A Day” More innuendo with Tobias, as he hits the town with Buster (“I’ll even take a chubby if I have to, and I’ll suck it up!”). Another crazy reference as Starla the Quincy Jones stalker returns for another cameo. Michael gets self-conscious about his staircar and gets a midlife-crisis-mobile instead. Buster and Tobias of course end up in a gay drag bar, where Tobias becomes a karaoke star and Buster hooks up with Lucille II again. However, she buys up the Bluth stock and takes over the company. So poor Buster gets turned into a bargaining chip, thus screwing him up even more. And speaking of screwed up, the Hot Cops return, leading to a disastrous street revue. Tobias commenting “I suppose I could paint over the Mary” make this one. – “Burning Love” Lucille tries to find someone to bid on her at the annual auction in yet another callback. Michael meets Sally Sitwell, while Gob continues his disturbing new relationship with Lucille II, but neither wants to publicly admit it. Can you blame them? Quick cameo as Steve Holt returns as a boil-in-bag delivery guy. Rob Cordrey from the Daily Show has an inspired guest spot as TV cop Frank Wrench here. Michael, in his usual wishy-washy manner, finally makes his move on Sally, but life intervenes again. – “Ready, Aim, Marry Me!” Lucille II grows tired of Gob, but the joke’s on her because she doesn’t realize how little Lucille Bluth actually cares about Gob. More brilliance from Tobias (“I prematurely shot my wad and now I’ve got a mess on my hands!”) as he decides to start tape-recording himself so he can hear all his malaprops. Lindsay & Gob doing chicken dances in tandem is worth the admission here. Michael calls in Uncle Jack to attempt a hostile takeover from Lucille II. Martin Short of course chews the scenery as the crippled old man (“Swoop me! To the nuts! No, the BRIDGE MIX!”) Gob & Buster go commando, tracking Lucille & Sitwell, which leads to all sorts of crazy payoffs as everyone collides at a spa. One of the season’s highlights, to be sure. – “Out On A Limb” Great joke right away, as father & son go to lunches on a Sunday at a restaurant called Skip Church’s. Gob’s wife returns, suing for divorce, which Gob could avoid simply by admitting they never consummated it. But of course, that would never happen. Maggie the “blind” lawyer returns, now “pregnant”, some 8 1/2 months after the affair with Michael, which naturally has him flip-flopping more than usual. Buster is ready to ship off to Iraq as we get a callback to the God/Adam joke from season one, and George Sr. worries about never touching Buster’s hand again. And we finally confirm that Oscar is his real father. Ann converts Lucille (“This was a big get for God.”) and Maggie may actually be pregnant. And for the second time, something in the “On the next” bit comes true, as a seal (which Gob has released at the beginning of the show) bites off Buster’s hand. Note Buster sitting on a bench which reads “Arm Off” with him blocking key letters. – “Hand To God” The Literal Doctor inform us that Buster is now without a left hand, which a drugged Buster takes a little too well. The funny restaurant names continue, as Maggie & Michael eat at Miss Temple’s Chinese Restaurant on a Friday. The “You’re Killing Me” banner return as “Welcome Home, Buster”. Michael discovers that Maggie is carrying the baby of the gay cops (not to be confused with the Hot Cops) but in fact Maggie Lizer lies again. The black and white cops not wanting to know who the real father is and Michael’s deadpan reaction are awesome. <b>Disc Three</b> – “Motherboy XXX” The annual Motherboy competition is in jeopardy, as Buster is having nightmares about his lost hand, courtesy of callbacks to earlier episodes. Great bit with Tobias getting a series of vanity plates to commemorate his lost roles, leading to a payoff of “Dr. House”, and he meets with Carl Weathers at Burger King (that’s BURGER KING, in case you missed the joke about corporate sponsorship). So he signs away the rights to his family’s life in exchange for a part as George Sr. The Bluth men chase the killer seal as Barry Zuckercorn literally jumps the shark in a tremendous throwaway gag. Michael & Buster attempt a daring rescue of George-Michael from Motherboy, in a gag with Buster’s hand that would be called back in season 3. – “Immaculate Election” Lindsay kicks Tobias to the curb, and he goes to live on the set of Wrench in another callback. Turns out that the toilets on set don’t actually work. Who knew? Michael and Gob attempt to fire each other from the company, and Gob loses that one pretty handily. Lupe the Maid starts doing Buster and gets fired, so Tobias gets the role of a lifetime as a housekeeper, albeit in an obvious disguise. Michael talks G-M into running for student body president, but he’s running against the unstoppable force of Steve Holt, who is going through a crisis of conscience because he doesn’t know who his father is. And Gob keeps mentioning that he knocked up some chick in high school named Eve Holt. However, everything falls by the wayside of the awesomeness that is the Star Wars video here. – “Sword of Destiny” Funny reference right off the bat as Michael complains about having an order cut from 22 to 18. Gee, wonder what that’s referring to? Tobias (wearing a faker moustache than usual because of his Mrs. Featherbottom routine) tries to become Michael’s assistant, while Gob buys the SWORD OF DESTINY. Michael has appendicitis, and gets Homer Simpson as a doctor in place of the Literal Doctor (“No, no, let him keep talking.”) More Fox references as Family Guy pops up on Tony Wonder’s website. Buster and Gob manage to one-up Tony Wonder with the SWORD OF DESTINY. Sadly, Gob loses his fingers as a result. Ben Stiller is of course in full-on ham mode. Gotta love the Fox-bashing here. – “Meat the Veals” Historic episode, as we meet Gob’s racist puppet alter-ego, Franklin! The Bluths are planning an anniversary party for Gangy, although Gob is not so much with the invited. Michael, constantly trying to sabotage his son’s relationship, decides that having the Veals meet the Bluths would probably do the trick. Of course, his plan goes totally off the tracks and everyone is on their best behavior for a variety of unrelated reasons. Mrs. Veal makes a move on Michael, and the whole thing turns into a big crazy church scene, ending with Franklin getting arrested in an awesome finale. – “Spring Breakout” Another great meta-joke sees the narrator bitching about the narration of “Scandalmakers”, the documentary Tobias sold the rights to. Lucille adds her own version of the chicken dance, while Gob goes to war with the Girls With Low Self-Esteem producers who humiliated him on their last DVD. Michael brings Lucille to rehab, while Kitty brings George Sr. to a hotel room for his sperm. This leads to a mismatched drinking contest between Kitty and Lucille, and we learn that Zach Braff is a Never-Nude, too. – “The Righteous Brothers” The model house is falling apart, literally, along with Michael’s life. Kitty keeps trying to blackmail him, and Gob makes a Franklin CD (“It Ain’t Easy Being White”) which gets referenced a zillion times and is funny EVERY time. Tobias and Kitty flashing Michael with matching blur over their nipples is brilliant. Michael goes to jail because Gob is an idiot as usual. G-M and Maeby finally have their big moment, which is of course weird. And once again, Michael & Gob brawl in front of the courthouse, until George Sr. puts a stop to it and turns himself in. Although he turns in Oscar, which reduces the nobility of the act somewhat. And that’s season 2. <b>Season Three</b> Sadly, this season was cut down by Fox even further, reduced to 13 episodes, but much like concentrating a good sauce for flavor, this may have distilled the show down to the essence of brilliance, forcing them to cut away any excess left. It’s presented on two sad little DVDs in a single case, instead of the box set format of the first two. <b>Disc One</b> – “The Cabin Show”. The Bluth stock is upgraded from “Sell” to “Don’t Buy”, and Michael sells the cabin property to keep the company afloat, but has to move the cabin. This triggers all sorts of family issues (“Taste the sad!”) as Gob is learning life lessons all over the place, according to the narrator. Speaking of family issues, Oscar is in prison in George’s place (sadly, imoscar.com is no longer with us). Everyone heads to Reno looking for George, where Gob finds Steve Holt and fatherhood. Michael & G-M finally get to the cabin and camp out in a callback to the pilot, and Henry Winkler ends his role as Barry Zuckercorn, as Michael fires him. – “For British Eyes Only” And it’s the beginning of the greatest run of the show. George is now under house arrest and the credits are gone for this episode. George explains the difference between prison and house arrest — “There you shut your eyes and take it, but here you shut your eyes and give it” — and blames the British for his situation. So Michael heads to Wee Britain, a very specialized portion of the OC (“Don’t call it that”) and meets Rita Leeds. This earns some threats from a sinister Brit played by Dave Thomas, although his apparent motivations for doing so are much different than we later discover. Michael eats a “whole thing of candy beans” to cope with rejections. It blows my mind how well-written this was, and how you totally buy into the spy storyline and take it all at face value until the pull the rug out from under you. By the way, no one was making fun of Andy Griffith, I can’t emphasize that enough. – “Forget-Me-Now” So we meet the new Bluth lawyer, Scott Baio playing Bob Loblaw. We also meet Larry the Surrogate, played by Bob “Super Dave” Einstein, as they compete to see who can be more deadpan in the face of great lines. Einstein always wins that one. We also learn that Tobias, who was buy-curious in the last episode, is also an analrapist. Michael tries to find ways to keep Rita from meeting his family. Bob Loblaw charging Lindsay for phone sex is great. Buster’s banner is recycled yet again into “You’re kidding me” And of course Rita ends up meeting the family,and gets assaulted and left on a bus bench, which covers up key letters in “Wee Britain,” giving us another clue as to her real character. – “Notapusy” Michael and Rita have a misunderstanding over the word “pussy”, while an inner beauty pagaent sees Tobias coaching Ann (“Who?”), which gives Maeby the perfect chance to resurrect Shirley. Tobias: “You have to ask yourself if you want a man or a boy. I know how I’d answer!” Uncle Mike acts as surrogate dad for Steve Holt (“Uncle Mike!”) although the “oxy-incontinent” makes it tougher than usual to run a triathalon. More clues about Rita here. And Ann’s camel-tow? Awesome. – “Mr. F.” Oh my, all roads lead to this one. Michael finds a mole problem on the property, but Bob Loblaw suspects a figurative mole, who may be Rita. All they know is that the name is Mr. F. George orders a jetpack, which ends up in the hands of G-M, while Gob & Buster build a trainset town to fool Japanese investors. And of course it all leads to Tobias in a mole costume taking on George Michael in a jetpack as they fight over Tiny Town. Sheer brilliance. And then, as Michael proposes to Rita, we learn that Mr. F stands for something else entirely, and suddenly the whole British story arc makes a lot more sense. Possibly the best episode of the whole SERIES. – “The Ocean Walker” This may be the second-best. Michael announces his engagement to Rita, which gives us lots of jokes about how dumb she really is. Plus a reference to Tony Hale’s VW commercial to boot. Maeby green-lights a script called “The Ocean Walker,” which pays off later. Gob’s fireball running joke continues (“But where did the lighter fluid come from?”) and another great moment has the narrator interjecting his opinion of the weirdness of the Michael-Rita relationship and hotel phone prices. That’s how they get you, you know. Double callback to Buster’s wire-slide from Motherboy XXX and Michael’s problems with Mary Poppins here. Michael finally learns what’s going on with Rita, but the Bluths learn that she’s rich and set about getting them married ASAP. The candy beans return as well. Rita walks on water to pay off the Ocean Walker bit, and then THAT is further paid off in the “On the next…” bit. And that’s how you do a running joke. – “Prison Break-in” I think the reference material should be obvious from the title. Michael is so desperate for comforting after his breakup with Rita that he actually goes to his mother. After two years of raising money for “TBA”, the Bluths use Tobias and his hair plug issues to actually have a benefit for a real disease. Sort of. The gala is at the prison, so we get more of aspiring screenwriter Warden Gentles. The interludes with the elementary school production of “New Warden” help a lot with the narrative flow. The narrator’s non-stop stream of pot jokes is also awesome (leading up to “Although it was not the first time that he had been knocked out by a powerful lid”) This one also packs the Prison Break references in tight, with tattooed maps and Tobias calling himself “T-Bag” in between jokes about giving other people chlamydia. <b>Disc Two</b> – “Making a Stand” Michael is frustrated with Gob’s stupid business ideas (and those of his lackey-in-training Steve Holt) but realizes that his dad is just trying to play them off each other, like in the Boyfights videos they starred in as children. So in order to be less competitive, Michael gives Gob & Steve their own banana stand, which they proceed to set up, like, 20 feet from the original. Gob mentions a new Christian girlfriend, which pays off later in the series. And when the Bluth boys realize that George is playing them, they reintroduce us to one-armed lesson teacher J. Walter Weatherman. However, in typical fashion for the show, Michael’s master plan gets twisted in on itself. And the Funke’s divorce gets ugly, as we learn about Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. And everyone learns lots of lessons about learning lessons. – “SOBs” The Bluths are desperate, as Bob Loblaw lobs a law bomb and they need a new lawyer. And it means guest stars, a live ending, and someone will DIE. G-M seems to be developing OC disorder (but don’t call it that). And sadly, the HBO doesn’t want them, so it’s Showtime. The Andy Richter Quintuplets rule the school here. Lots of metatextual stuff like Michael pleading with the family to be more likeable and the narrator explaining the difference between a complex situation with no easy solution and a clear-cut situation with potential for comedy. Michael’s speech at the end is pretty much the show’s good-bye to fans, as the end was clearly in sight. – “Fakin’ It” The witness list is released and a mysterious N. Bluth is on it. Plus Franklin, now sporting a “George Bush doesn’t care about black puppets” shirt, returns. Of course, the whole trial is set to be broadcast on a new reality show, “Judge Reinhold” (“My name is Judge!”) Buster fakes a coma to avoid testifying, so Lindsay begins protesting to have him killed. It’s a Life Mill at that hospital, you know. The mock trial of course proves to be a mockery, complete with William Hung and his Hung Jury, which is about as good a use of him as I’ve seen. And then through a weird series of coincidences, Maeby marries George-Michael. – “Family Ties” The mysterious N. Bluth may be an older sister named Nellie, but his dad’s mass-erasure of the company computers makes it tough to investigate. Sadly, Nellie (played by Justine Bateman in some truly inspired casting) turns out to be a hooker rather than his sister. As usual Michael misses all the clues, and hires her as a consultant. And she blows everyone at the company…away. They keep forgetting to say that “away” part. And apparently Gob is a pimp on the side, but he’s still waiting for that BIG sign from God that he should change. – “Exit Strategy” The prosecution tries to get Tobias to flip, but he interprets it as a CBS procedural show. Buster’s fake coma is broken by love, and we get a great joke with Wayne Jarvis turning on the TV to show a plot point, but having to sit through commercials first. Tobias getting tricked into a sting operation via a scrapbooking class run by Det. Munch is brilliant. Michael & Buster go to Iraq to save Gob, as everythign is now yellow-tinged to simulate being in Iraq while still using the same set. And once there, they discover a house full of Saddam lookalikes, which reveals that George was building houses for the CIA and really was a patsy all along. Gary Cole as the CIA taxi driver and the Soup Nazi as a lookalike are great casting. – “Development Arrested” And finally, the end. Things are looking good with all the charges dropped, so they decide to stage a party on the same boat as we started on. We learn that Lucille was the queen-pin all along, and she had a Korean man deported years earlier. And Lindsay is three years older than she previously thought. G-M finally confesses his feelings about Maeby to Michael, and he recommends Ann instead. This leads to us learning that she’s Gob’s new girlfriend. Lindsay is actually adopted and not Michael’s twin as previously thought (although all the flashbacks where she’s a foot taller might have been a giveaway before) and she immediately decides to marry Michael and leave Tobias. Michael is less thrilled about that idea. Michael finally pays off all the robot jokes and cries at the party, and then flees with George-Michael, the yacht, and $500,000 to finally escape the family once and for all, leaving them to get raided by the SEC. We learn that Annyong tipped them off to avenge his grandfather, who was the one deported by Lucille years ago. It was Arrested Development. Nuff said. <b>The Video</b> As Fox switched to high-definition full-time, this show went with it, and is featured in breathtaking 1.77:1 widescreen here with the absolute best transfer of a TV show I’ve ever seen. EVER. It’s far better than even the pristine initial airings of the show on regular broadcast cable looked, and the level of detail and color in the high-def masters is amazing. This is truly reference-quality stuff. <b>The Audio</b> Well, it’s standard Dolby Surround, which is too bad because gags mixed into the rear speakers would be exactly the kind of thing that this show would excel at. Still, it sounds note perfect for a dialogue-centered show, and that’s the important thing. <b>The Extras</b> Surprisingly light on both sets, as there’s a few commentary tracks from the entire cast and crew which set the standard for totally ignoring the show and concentrate on calling Jeffrey Tambor’s cell phone instead. Plus a bevy of deleted scenes on each disk, and a few quickie featurettes. I guess it’s par for the course given FOX’s treatment of the show. <b>The Ratings:</b> The Show: ***** The Video: ***** The Audio: **1/2 The Extras: **1/2 The Pulse: Hands down the smartest sitcom ever, and that’s including Frasier, it was truly a show that came around at the wrong time on the wrong channel. On the bright side, FOX gave it three wonderful seasons before pulling the plug on it, and now we can all enjoy it forever on DVD. Highest recommendation for both seasons.

Superman For All Seasons

I just finished re-reading this the other day, and as a big dc-head, I wanted to ask you about it.  Have you read it?  In my opinion, its a tremendous read and hits the superman character pitch-perfect.  Even though he was born on another planet and has amazing powers, he was raised as an all-american farmboy with humble beginnings.  Its maybe a million times more interesting a character than whatever weirdo loner that Morrison has turned him into.  People love post crisis superman up until Death of Superman.  I just don't understand why DC would allow Morrison to totally regress their second biggest character.  Anyway, I digress.  Have you read Superman For All Seasons and what did you think?

Yes, although All-Star Superman is still by far one of the greatest interpretations of the character ever, I'd say.  And that's Morrison at his best, doing it as a love letter to the Silver Age in 12 issues.  Although really the current run on Action Comics is pretty awesome; it's the revolving door creative teams on Superman that are killing the character for me.  But yeah, For All Seasons was a tremendous read, not doing anything particularly new or exciting with the character but just a damn fine Superman comic.  I'd also recommend the JLA Elseworlds mini The Nail for a similar take on the character.