Posts Tagged ‘michael cera’

“Now the story…”: Brief Reviews of Arrested Development

The original plan — like four years ago — was for John S and Tim to barrel through the 53 original episodes of Arrested Development and cooperatively rank them best to worst, with an in-depth review of each. Circumstances intervened with the thoroughness of that project, and egos intervened with the idea of two people “cooperatively” ranking all 53 episodes. (Ranking Game isn’t as effective with just two people.)

So here’s the result of all that labor: Shorter reviews of all 53 original episodes, presented in chronological fashion (albeit with a good deal of ranking going on within them).

Arrested Development is our favorite show, and this, in 53 different ways, shows why.

(Extended) Pilot

John once made a point — I think it was in here — about how dramas are most perfectly conceived in their first seasons. (He’s taken a step back, btw.) Comedies have always been driven differently. It takes time for the characters to evolve and develop the right way, for the proper interactions to take hold.

Which makes watching Arrested Development’s extended pilot so remarkable. The characters are properly and almost comprehensively established right away. “This is Michael Bluth. He’s a good man” is the first line of the series, and it foregrounds everything that is to come after it.* Lucille is overdramatic and quick-witted, Lindsay is hypocritical, Tobias is oblivious, Gob is creepy, Buster is incompetent, George Sr. is going through one of his phases (a cowboy one to be exact). None of these characterizations ring untrue.

*The “He’s a good man” is actually cut from the pilot that aired. Seems like it shouldn’t have been.

This isn’t the funniest episode of the series by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the funnier pilots you’ll ever see, especially considering the amount of expository work that has to be done. The series lays its extensive deck of cards on the table right away, complete with the eccentricities of its characters and absurd plot developments (i.e. incest in the first episode). It’s a nearly flawless pilot. —Tim

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Monday Medley

What we read while not writing anything….

  • The New York Times Magazine’s profile on David Mitchell is one of our favorite features on one of one of us’s favorite authors. Our favorite part from Wyatt Mason’s look at Mitchell: “When writing is great, Mitchell told me of the books he loved as a reader, ‘your mind is nowhere else but in this world that started off in the mind of another human being. There are two miracles at work here. One, that someone thought of that world and people in the first place. And the second, that there’s this means of transmitting it. Just little ink marks on squashed wood fiber. Bloody amazing.'”
  • Last week we linked to Philadelphia Magazine‘s profile of Buzz Bissinger, which asked why the former Pulitzer Prize winner was so angry. This week, we link to Bissinger’s own indirect response from The New Republic, in which he explains why he loves Twitter: “I am an angry man, which is one of the reasons I have resumed therapy and take four different pharmaceuticals. I wake up angry, stay angry during the day except to my dog and children, and go to bed angry at night. Most of my anger amounted to a running dialogue of abuse and self-abuse while working alone at home. But with Twitter, I now had an outlet.”

Aught Lang Syne: What John S Is Looking Forward To….

In this final installment Aught Lang Syne’s conclusion, John S presents what he is looking forward to in the coming decade. In case you missed it, Josh posted what he is anticipating here, and Tim posted his here. We at NPI hope you’ve enjoyed our retrospective on the Aughts.

In the Teens, I’m looking forward to….

…A Suitable Name for a Decade: Were we happy with “the Aughts”? Of course not. But we stuck with it for the sake of consistency. And even if it won’t be accurate for 30% of the decade, at least all the 2019 decade retrospectives will refer it as “the Teens.”

…The Future of Television: I’ve already touched on this, but television is currently at a crossroads. If anything, things have become more dire for the old model. Network television is apparently on its way out, and free television may be a casualty. This, of course, may have disastrous consequences: With free TV gone, shows’ budgets may be severely restricted. As a result, shows will not be able to have big casts, shoot extensively on location, or attract the best talent. In other words, the Golden Age of TV will be over.

It’s probably inevitable that television will undergo some growing pains, but I think that ultimately the industry will get stronger. The evolution away from the old network model will actually be conducive to more innovative programming. Broad hits like CSI and American Idol may suffer, but shows like Mad Men—which is already on pay-cable and maintains a large cast, original sets, and great actors—ought to be able to survive. In fact, the cable model, which is what people say we are drifting towards now, already produces most of the best television. No matter what, though, it will be fascinating to watch a medium that is hitting its creative stride at the precise moment that it faces logistical upheaval.   Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Ten Funniest Movies of the Decade

Yesterday we gave you the definitive list of the funniest comedians of the decade. Today, NPI continues its look at the comedy of the Aughts by looking at the ten funniest films of the decade. Evaluating comedies can be tricky. Is the sheer number of laughs more important than the overall quality of the movie? This list aims to balance those concerns: It is a list of the funniest films, and not the best comedies, but at the same time, the best comedy often comes out of a good story. So what is the funniest film of the Aughts? Well, here’s the list:

10. Meet the Parents (2000)

Time has been a little unkind to Meet the Parents. An unfortunate sequel, the overexposure of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, and a rather disappointing decade from Robert De Niro all conspired to reflect poorly on this film. These considerations, however, are generally unfair; they ignore the fact that Meet the Parents was one of the Aughts’ first great comedies and that Stiller was one of the best comic actors of the first part of the decade. Meet the Parents showcased his ability to play the understated, slightly belligerent everyman that he would later tone down to a bland, traditional romantic comedy lead. This, combined with De Niro’s excellent and persistent deadpan, led to some truly great comic scenes, like the discussion of “Puff the Magic Dragon” in the car and the lie-detector scene. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Funniest Comedians of the Decade

Comedy is a broad subject. It’s not confined to any one medium, genre, style, or format. It’s hard to define and almost impossible to quantify. But here at NPI, we take comedy very seriously. The comedy of the Aughts in particular will always have an important role in shaping our senses of humor. So today we present a list, in no particular order, of people who helped to truly shape the comedy of the decade. This is not a list of people who were funny once or twice, but people with a body of work that is both rich and impressive. This means that a lot of people had to be cut. Great stand-up comics (Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari), some hilarious supporting comic actors (Paul Rudd, Jason Schwartzman), and even some groundbreaking comic teams (Flight of the Conchords, Stella), couldn’t make the list. And that’s because the following individuals/groups reached a level of success, both in terms of popularity and quality, that helped define the comedy of the decade.

The cast of Arrested Development

Arrested Development has the funniest ensemble cast in the history of comedic television, and it’s way ahead of whatever’s at #2. Tim has already extolled the virtues of Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, but the fact is that the main character is about the sixth-funniest cast member on the show. Michael Cera gave a breakout performance for three years as George Michael, completely selling every awkward quirk of the character, including (and especially) his love for his cousin. David Cross played Tobias’ obliviousness and physical awkwardness to perfection, conveying every sexual inadequacy and illicit implication (“She said ‘single,’ right?”). Will Arnett made a magician named Gob come off as arrogant, creepy, and sympathetic. Portia Di Rossi played Lindsay’s self-righteousness and laziness as mutually coexisting. Jeffrey Tambor, as the family patriarch, managed to make the character so memorable that they had to keep him as a regular, even though he was supposed to remain a guest after the pilot. Tony Hale’s Buster, Jessica Walter’s Lucille, and Alia Shawkat’s Maeby, rounded out the cast, ensuring the show didn’t have a single weakness. Even guest stars, like Henry Winkler, Ed Begley, Jr., and John Michael Higgins, manage to turn their characters into memorable comic stars.

Most important, though, was the way the cast interacted. Plenty, if not all, great comedies have breakout characters and star performers, but few entire casts have had the chemistry that this cast had. Exchanges between Michael and his son, for example, are so great not just because of the dialogue and each character’s eccentricities, but because of the interplay between the two characters. Their ability to talk over each other, fill in each other’s awkward gaps, and respond nonverbally to the other’s lines are as funny as anything in the script. Continue reading

Taking Names…and Umbrage: “Against Insular Arrogance”

As you no doubt inferred, this is a response to Josh’s post.

Josh: boring, nothing-going-on-upstairs…Josh.

I take umbrage to your claim that fans of Arrested Development exhibit more insular arrogance than devotees of other television programs. Even Barry Zuckercorn–who’s very good, by the way–knows your evidence is anecdotal and wouldn’t even garner a favorable ruling in Mr. Reinhold’s Courtroom. There are just so many poorly chosen words in your argument, beginning and ending with “insular,” about as editorial a phrase as imaginable given the context (I, by the way, would suggest “justified” as a substitute). As it is, it appears you’ve prematurely shot your wad on what was supposed to be a dry run, if you will, so now you’re afraid you’ve got something of a mess on your hands. Oh, COME ON!

(For the record, was the Improv show held at a restaurant? Because, you know, it’s a restaurant.)

And that comedienne? Her? Perhaps she should take her “job” more seriously and spend the 17 2/3 hours it takes to catch up on the best comedy of the last decade. I promise it will make for lasting fun.

So, Josh, don’t make this another great day…for being sad. Suck it up like Tobias taking a chubby, and admit that you, like the authorities, had it wrong. Or are you chicken?

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