A State of Arrested Development

Critical Essays on the Innovative Television Comedy


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About the Book

One of the most critically-acclaimed television series of all time, Arrested Development is widely hailed as a cutting-edge comedy that broke the traditional sitcom mold. The winner of six Emmys, the series was canceled by Fox in 2006, only to be revived in 2013 via Netflix’s streaming service. Beyond its innovative approach to storytelling, the series lampooned contemporary American culture, holding up an unflattering mirror to modern society.
This collection of new essays explores how the show addressed issues such as wealth and poverty, race, environmentalism and family relationships. Focusing on the show’s iconic characters, the essays also consider Arrested Development as it stands next to such works of fiction as Hamlet, The Godfather and the writings of Kafka. Also covered is the show’s reinvention of the sitcom genre, and what its revival on Netflix means for the future of television.

About the Author(s)

The late Kristin M. Barton was a professor and chair of the Department of Communications at Dalton State College in Dalton, Georgia. He lived in Woodstock, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Kristin M. Barton
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 256
Bibliographic Info: appendix, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7991-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1938-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi

Foreword: A Prebuttal (Mitchell Hurwitz)  1

Introduction (Kristin M. Barton)  5

Section 1: Life in Newport Beach

Living in Sudden Valley: The Bluth Family and the Fault Lines of Ideology (Edwin Demper)  9

The Meaning of Charity: Depictions of Corruption and Altruism (Kristin M. Distel)  23

Lindsay Bluth and the Politics of Sincerity: Environmental Rhetoric, ­Eco-Consciousness and Social Performance (Elizabeth Lowry)  37

It Ain’t Easy Being ­Race-Sensitive: Things Whitey and ­African-Americany Aren’t Ready to Hear (James Rocha)  53

The Ways of the Secular Flesh: Destabilizing the Heteronormative and Negotiating ­Non-Monolithic Sexualities (Navid Sabet)  68

Section 2: Deconstructing the Bluths

“I’m a monster!”: The Monstrous and the Comedic (Jonah Ford)  87

Narrative and the Narrator in the Politics of Memory (Dustin Freeley)  105

Families with Low Self-Esteem: The Fünke Dynamic (Bethany Yates Poston and Crisman Richards)  120

“Obviously this blue part here is the land”: The Bluths, Decadence and Logic Adrift (Joseph S. Walker)  134

Section 3: Comparative Developments

Hamlet’s Ghost Meme: Accidental Shakespeare, Repetition Compulsion and Roofie Circles (Kristin N. Denslow)  149

The Family Business: Bluths, Corleones and the American Dream (Kristin M. Barton)  163

The Kafkaesque in the Trial of George Bluth (Matthew Gannon)  180

Section 4: It’s Not TV. It’s Arrested Development.

“I swore I’d not go reality”: The Bluths Through the Lens of Genre (Patrick Alasdair Gill)  197

Saving Our Bluths: Why the Smartest Comedy on Television Struggled to Find an Audience (Kristin M. Barton)  211

“Chalk one up for the Internet: It has killed Arrested Development”: The Series’ Revival, Binge Watching and Fan/Critic Antagonism (Michael Graves)  224

Appendix: Episode Guide  237

About the Contributors  239

Index  243

Book Reviews & Awards

“compelling pieces from scholars of communication, literature, philosophy, theology, composition and rhetoric, among other disciplines…a welcome and distinguished contribution to the expanding field of television studies”—Journal of American Culture.