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Entries in mitchell hurwitz (2)

Monday
Jun102013

In Which We Gather Our Angels and Diablos

Things Have Changed

by DICK CHENEY

Arrested Development
creator Mitchell Hurwitz

A lot of the time I secretly believe my wife Lynne does not actually know if something is funny, and that she only laughs because she presumes it humors others or reminds her of something genuinely funny. Last night in a moody fit of rage reminiscent of how I first binged on Oreos and pork rinds at the age of seven, I viewed the entire Netflix-exclusive season of Mitchell Hurwitz's Arrested Development. The first thing my wife said was, "Isn't Ron Howard embarrassed to go on television looking like that?" and the second thing she said was, "You actually find this type of humor appealing?"

you know what this show needed? More of a ginger who can't act

I responded only with a flip remark, as has always been my metier, telling her, "You're ruining this for me." Some people only want to relive experiences they had in the past; others are comfortable in an uncertain future. For obvious reasons none of the members of the Bluth family were able to shoot any scenes together. (Except for Will Arnett because he's being blackballed by the rest of the industry for cheating on Amy Poehler.)

The clear decision should have been: we cannot have a show if people only interact with their friends and family on the phone, right? Let's forget a new season and focus on distributing our old episodes in Korea, where the kid who played Annyong Bluth can become the superstar he was destined to be.

they should have gotten the telephone industry to fund this

When I really think of what the jokes in Arrested Development are about, I start to sympathize with Lynne. After all, she does not complain when I jerk off and rewatch Millennium, all the while dropping pertinent facts like, "Did you know Lance Hendrikson is illiterate?" or "Jesus Chris Carter was a fucking hack POS."

Jeffrey Tambor hasn't had material this bad since...I forgot what I was going to say
Here is an early list of what all the jokes in Arrested Development are about:

Lucille drinks too much.

Michael's relationship with his son is too suffocating.

Will Arnett is wearing the same v-neck in every episode.

Tobias doesn't know he makes puns.

Everything Michael Cera says is funny, don't try to make sense of it or note that the delivery is identical in every instance.

fortunately they shoot most of her scenes in low light or half nude

Powerful people are hypocrites.

Lindsey is an idiot.

Buster doesn't realize how powerful the hand that Army gave him is.

Ben Stiller actually married that woman and demanded she be employed before he agreed to the project.

Liza Minnelli is disgusting. (She's not.)

Isla Fisher is disgusting. (...)

the wig is not not working for you Portia

Also, for some reason the George Sr. episode only featured one of these tropes and was otherwise completely serious except for identical twin gags, known historically as the lowest comedy there is.

people complain there are no minorities on our show, so let's make them Republicans!!! that'll teach them to stop whining about white privilege

Time has changed the other Bluth family members only for the worse. Buster's compulsive behavior has reached a frightening nadir before an African-American woman slanders his lovemaking after he murders thousands; Michael is tired, sad and a dick to the most important person in his life; George Michael is a boorish, cowardly and sexual capable liar; Lindsey becomes a prostitute and cuts her fantastic hair into a mere clump; Tobias starts dating a crack addict and is designated a sex offender; same goes for Maeby; Lucille 1 goes to jail and Gob continues to pretend to be gay for some unclear reason.

love ur style maeby

Every time someone repeats that familiar and odious cliche to me, announcing as if it had never been pronounced before, "Ah think people don't change," my loins ache and my stomach grows queasy. If that's true, then how is Anthony Weiner not sexting some coed while his wife goes on and on about the NSA leaks, waiting in vain for her husband to make a semi-decent oral joke about a whistleblower? But that isn't happening, instead Mr. Weiner is running for mayor. People do change, you just only acknowledge that shift when it suits you.

The longer you spend among those who only agree with you, the bigger the bubble becomes. After seeing the President once pull Susan Rice's pants down during an innocent game of Twister, do you honestly think anyone has the balls to contradict him during a meeting? Then again, if I had access to audio recordings of Peggy Noonan around her home, you can bet I'd listen to them with this expression on my face the entire time.

So yes, it is disappointing to find the Bluths roughly where we left them. Part of the gag is that they never learn, I suppose, but that just reinforces the idea that the show is more about wacky concepts than real people, and that I was not supposed to be turned on when the boy did that to his cousin.

More than the others, it is Maeby who I found myself most disappointed in. She wasn't like them, not only because she was not genetically related to the family itself, but because she was successful in all the aspects of life the adults were not. Instead of making anything positive come from this story, she is now just fodder for jokes about women being bad at math.

tony wonder is suddenly the only thing that matters. who's that woman?

There's a really weird scene in this version of Arrested Development where magician Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) and his real life wife, Christine Taylor are sitting on a bed together. The two discuss tricking Gob, but it is more how easy it is for the two to be together that caught my attention. For a few days I could not get this image out of my head. Even though it was not part of the scene, it is so rare to see not only actors in the same room on Arrested Development but two people genuinely comfortable in another's presence, that I started to realize what I was missing. Two seconds later Ron Howard started loudly talking again, telling a joke only he found funny.

because what everyone wanted from this new season was...Dietrich Bader

After about the fifth or so episode, a particular loathing begins to intrude on the proceedings. It's roughly the same feeling one gets after eating a bowl of ice cream. The bowl was so good you immediately want more. You start to eat the new episodes of what you have been told is the same flavor of ice cream, but the ice became warm and sour merely through the passage of time. I don't know why anybody would put yogurt in their body.

on some level was this just an excuse to give Carl Weathers some extra spending money?

For some reason Hollywood satire is the main thread through all of this. There was this William Goldman essay where he estimated that like 3/4ths of the plays on Broadway at that time were musicals about people putting on musicals. What makes Arrested Development even worse at this overwrought genre is that the only person actually purporting to be in this industry is Ron Howard, and he is not looking great these days, although to be fair it was not as bad when he sat next to Brian Grazer.

hey, it's set design that doesn't look like it took five minutes
There was a moment for this kind of self-indulgent bullshit; but just as the original run of the show took place before its chaotic style became commonplace, this iteration just reminds us of how dated the essential subject matter is. Lampooning rich people is all in good fun until it turns out we're all worse off for the comparison. Arrested Development remains the whitest show on television, and Franklin seems a lot more racist in retrospect. Even the fiery Spanish couple looks like they were cast in Santa Monica.

that's not a "joke", George Michael, that's a moustache
After I finished these little 30 minute abominations, I had this vision of an old, decrepit Veronica Mars, where the guy who played her dad, his face has rotted, and Kristen Bell's post-baby body is a mere 7/10. I don't want to live in that world. I hope that world is buried somewhere under Joss Whedon's ego.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location where Isla Fisher can never find him.

"Echo or Encore" - Eleanor Friedberger (mp3)

"You'll Never Know Me" - Eleanor Friedberger (mp3)

The new album from Eleanor Friedberg is entitled Personal Record, and it was released on June 4th from Merge Records.

Friday
Jan072011

In Which We Were Born In The Mud

Don't Look So Affected

by ELEANOR MORROW

Shameless

creator John Wells

premieres Sunday, January 9th

The glorification of American poverty is at an all-time high during periods of recession, the glorification of American wealth is always at an all-time high. In case you don't remember how Roseanne began, the female Jackie Gleason worked at a plastics company with her sister Jackie, who was dating her supervisor. The foreman was named Booker Brooks, and he was played by George Clooney. The subtext was obvious: how bad exactly was American poverty when your sister was dating George Clooney?

Ronald Reagan spent the 1980s broadcasting optimism after a period of economic struggle, an attitude that disgusted Roseanne Barr. By 1989, in only its second season, Roseanne shot to the top of the Nielsen ratings and remained there until most of the cast was replaced by Sarah Chalke, who would go on to be the only actress in Hollywood other than Rachel Bilson willing to kiss Zach Braff with tongue. The current number one comedy on television takes place in a beach house in Santa Monica: Roseanne tried to make us really feel the pain of Lanford, Illinois.

Perhaps unsure about whether the public wanted a show about incredibly rich people or incredibly poor people, Fox placed its only two new comedies on its fall schedule back-to-back. First came My Name Is Earl creator Greg Garcia's series Raising Hope about the poorest people on the block, followed by Mitchell Hurwitz' return to collaboration with Will Arnett in Running Wilde, about the richest people on it.

Garcia's previous effort may have been more boring and preachy than a Sunday sermon, but the real core of situation comedies depends on whether the audience has an ongoing connection to the plight of these characters. Initially titled Keep Hope Alive, Raising Hope concerns Jimmy (Lucas Neff), who becomes a father after his one-night stand is revealed to be a serial killer who is executed after giving birth to his daughter Hope. Despite featuring more messages than an after-school special, the plot and situations are never phony or unbelievable, and Martha Plimpton plays the best female character in television outside of the late Lucille Bluth as Jimmy's mother.

In contrast, it should surprise no one that a series about the rich son of an oil magnate (Arnett) who wants to copulate with a woman (Keri Russell) who lives for free in his treehouse and was the daughter of his family's maid has not exactly struck home with American audiences. Even though the aforementioned Two and a Half Men takes place in brightly appointed haunts, everything from the dialogue to the characterization of a man-whore and his poor chiropractor brother (Jon Cryer) screams otherwise.

It was really a plague of unfunny scripts that doomed Running Wilde with critics (the show is already deader than Keri Russell's sex appeal). From the beginning the Will Arnett vehicle had no chance with audiences, who ran from Arrested Development, the series that originally ruined puns for the world. Development proved that no matter how funny a show is, if you don't create sympathetic characters, audiences will never attach themselves to the serial plot. How exactly are Roseanne and Dan Conner supposed to sit down and enjoy an episode on whether it's harder to care for a child or attend a high society gala, or about a misunderstanding between Will Arnett and Andy Richter over whether or not each is gay? The show's writers had so much trouble thinking up storylines for Keri's daughter Puddle that she made a diorama in three straight December episodes.

Despite being presented to the identical audience, Raising Hope got a full season order and there are already $ signs in the eyes of Fox executives, while Mitchell Hurwitz has to sit through his 4,058th meeting about a movie of a show no one watched. The message is clear — if you want ratings, pity, not envy, is the right emotion to tap into in the hearts of mainstream Americans.

Would it surprise you to know that none of the shows I have mentioned so far has a single black character? (The joke on Running Wilde's ethnic butler is that he steals from his employer. Funny!) Raising Hope's Jimmy has friends of color, but they get 1/4058th of the screen time of Cloris Leachman, whose portrayal of Hope's great-grandmother deserves some kind of commemoration from the Obama administration. My point is that shows about how hard the world is end up making poverty appear heartwarming and fun.

You will not have this problem during the opening moments of the new Showtime series Shameless, translated from the popular British show of the same name. The only possible thing you will be thinking about is the exposed carapace of Fiona Gallagher (Emmy Rossum), whose constant contortions and pervasive near-nudity constitute a more stimulating way of saying the show is on premium cable than the dull and profane narration of her single father, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy). The five other children are distinguishable by their abilities: Ian Gallagher (gay), Phillip Gallagher (smart), Debbie Gallagher (female), Carl Gallagher (cat murderer) and a baby (African-American).

It must have been extremely tempting to just transport the entire cast of Juno to the show's Chicago setting, and indeed Allison Janney was the first choice for Frank's love interest. In the ensuing pilot, she has been replaced by Joan Cusack. Cusack is only 48, but her best option is an alcoholic father of eight hundred? Maybe she can go back in time and beat out Laurie Metcalf for the role of Jackie. Normally, this would only be a small subplot among a greater array of complications, but it turns out that being extremely poor on television is really not that bad in comparison to being poor in real life.

Rossum's Fiona is the show's protagonist, although we only see her in the role of sex object or mother. The point of her existence on the show is to make us ask, "Should someone that beautiful be working concessions at a hockey game?" (The correct answer is maybe.) The point of her multiple brothers and sisters on the show is to create a jovial, Brady Bunch-esque atmosphere in order to address Real Issues. It should come as no surprise to anyone that not only are the Gallaghers poor, they're also homophobic, multiracial, homosexual racist animal-torturers. Their house alone should horrify anyone who knows how to operate a vacuum cleaner, and it is supposed to.

Above all, the Gallaghers are wonderfully happy, like clowns in Shakespeare. They may all have to crowd around one table at breakfast, but the important thing is that they have breakfast together, not the size of the table. Prepaid cellphones are available in every neighborhood in America for the price of a hamburger, but the Gallaghers share minutes on one cell phone, because poverty is a transient thing that can be passed around or ignored when feasible.

After her purse gets snatched at a Chicago club, Fiona meets her knight in shining armor, Steve (Justin Chatwin). In the show's least believable moment, he parks his Jaguar on her street. After having condomless intercourse with Fiona on her kitchen counter while her father is returned to the house by the police, he convinces her to be photographed for the above modeling portfolio, and ten years later she is accepting a check for $20 million to star in The Tourist. Well, they do have unprotected sex, that much is true.

Since Showtime mostly reaches upscale homes, the audience is turned into the good witch Glenda, hoping against hope that Dorothy will be plucked out of some depraved existence. I don't know whether it is sadder that whiny TV critics think Shameless is an approximation of lower-class Chicago, or that TV writers think residents of upper class Chicago are more worried about how hard "they party" — in the words of Frank Gallagher — than caring for their children.

Ronald Reagan suggested the Gallaghers should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. George Bush wondered if a bootstrap was what he used to ride horses at Kennebunkport, Bill Clinton felt their pain and appeared in every Southern Baptist Church in the country. George W. Bush barely left Crawford, Texas except in an ATV or Air Force One and Barack Obama took a million dollar Christmas vacation in his home state. The point of Roseanne was that poor people in Lanford were just like us. The point of Shameless is that they aren't.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She last wrote in these pages about the ITV series Downton Abbey

"Around Us (acoustic)" - Jonsi (mp3)

"Animal Arithmetic" - Jonsi (mp3)

"Time to Pretend (MGMT cover)" - Jonsi (mp3)