Fox's Fall Season: O.C.-riffic Series and Highbrow Hijinks

The offbeat family in Arrested Development must learn to live without an endless expense account after the patriarch is arrested.

Salt Lake City Weekly | October 31, 2004
Oh! My! Gawd! With Major League Baseball finally over and the Stanley Cup in the hands of whoever the hell won, Fox can now officially launch its fall season! The campaign to erase the already-fuzzy memory of the summer shows Fox attempted to establish prior to MLB (The Complex, The Next Great Champ, Renovate My Family, Trading Spouses, Quintuplets, The Casino, Method & Red, The Jury, North Shore—any of these ringing bells?) is go!

Ironically, Fox’s most hotly-anticipated returning series is the one that put the kamikaze notion of programming summer in its head in the first place: The O.C. (season premiere Thursday, Nov. 4), which took off unexpectedly huge in August 2003 and taught everyone how it’s done in Orange County, bitch. The soapariffic tale of homeless Chino teen Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) being taken in on the other side of the tracks by upscale Cohens Sandy and Kirsten (Peter Gallagher, Kelly Rowan) seemed like no great plotting shakes at first, nor did the budding romance with Hot Girl Next Door Marissa (Mischa Barton) and the inevitable culture quibbles with the rich kids of Newport Beach (in admirable restraint, Fox didn’t sell sponsorships to Ryan’s Fistfight of the Week, a la WWE Smackdown).

But it all clicked: The dialogue snapped and crackled like Pop Rocks in vodka, the storylines, however ridiculously over-the-top, engaged the pretty teens and the pretty adults, the soundtrack buzzed with the giddy glee of a thousand indie-rock geeks downloading from a new dorm T1 line. The O.C. went above and beyond when all that was required was to look good and kill 60 American Idol-free minutes.

Not to give too much of the Season 2 premiere away, but Ryan’s Chino comeback tour is short-lived, as is rebel yachter Seth’s self-imposed exile in Portland (no cool bands there, apparently). Meanwhile, Marissa is assuaging her Ryan-less pain by getting busy with the hired Latino help (the trend of the season), and Sandy returns to his Token O.C. Liberal roots as a public defender—seriously, is there a jury anywhere who could say no to those eyebrows? I think not.

They could use some of that legal caterpillar magic elsewhere in Orange County, where the Bluth family’s corporate-fraud woes are putting such a strain on the clan’s psyche that one of them is considering joining the Blue Man Group. Yes, Fox’s critically-acclaimed-to-the-point-of-oppression Arrested Development (season premiere Sunday, Nov. 7), the sitcom with no laugh track, obvious linear direction nor business existing outside of cable, has actually managed to return for a second season. Quite a trick, considering Fox’s notoriously low tolerance for shows with no viewers.

Whereas the big question with The O.C. is, “Will it hang onto its audience after six months off and a move to Thursday?,” the concern with Arrested Development remains, “Will it find an audience—any audience, please—beyond yammering TV critics?” Too much praise can be more off-putting than none at all; and, while Arrested Development is easily funnier and, really, more traditional than Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Office, but it’s still comedy you have to pay attention to, something people who are paid to watch TV forget to mention.

If your idea of high sitcom art is My Wife & Kids (let’s give According to Jim a week off punching-bag duty), Arrested is not for you. If you’re one of those who only deign to turn on their TV when Tony Soprano or Larry David are working it on HBO, Arrested could be the one show to build your tolerance for (ack!) commercials. End of Critic Time.

Among the highbrow hijinks of the second-season opener: Michael (Jason Bateman) and son are fed up with the family and splitting town, but return when they learn that prison escapee George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) has been apprehended—thing is, it’s actually George’s twin brother Oscar, but keep a close eye on him in a later scene. Meanwhile, Michael’s magician brother Gob has been handed control of Bluth Development, where he happens across construction contracts signed by George Sr. and a certain “S. Hussein,” and brother-in-law Tobias (David Cross), thinking the Blue Man Group is a support meeting for depressed males, stumbles across a new career opportunity.

Plus, Lindsey (Portia de Rossi), unlike her equally-hot neighbors on The O.C., still can’t get an extramarital affair off the ground—that’s how bizarre Arrested Development’s world is.

Bill Frost can be reached at

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