Victoria Jelinek


Arrested Development

The third season of Netflix’s series Ozark was recently released and everyone is talking about it and whether a fourth season will be greenlit. I’m keen because Jason Bateman executive produced it, is directing and starring in the series, and he’s fantastic and talented. An extra boon is that the brilliant and wry Laura Linney co-stars. I always liked Bateman, but he won my admiration through the TV series Arrested Development, so I thought to revisit this work of genius in case you’ve already binge watched season three of Ozark.

arrested devpt

Arrested Development is based on the radically dysfunctional family Bluth (fictional of course). It’s more subversive than Modern Family (btw, I like Modern Family very much). Each season of this brilliant sit-com was always in danger of cancellation despite numerous awards, including several Emmy’s. But this didn’t stop creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the rest of the team (inclusive of Ron Howard, who is its narrator) from defying the usual crowd-pleasing antics of the genre. It made them more satirical and absurd as though they had nothing to lose. The show flouts political correctness as it takes clever and humorous swipes at everything in contemporary society: the comfort of family; the general incompetence of businessmen, inclusive of the television and movie industries (the narrator critiques the art of narration during an episode); war, via “mama’s boy” Buster Bluth’s progression in the US army; and the flawed things we all do to get through our day. One of my favorite episodes includes the montaged intervention for alcoholic mother Lucille Bluth, which turns into “one of the Bluth family’s better parties.” There are running gags about self-absorption, repressed sexually, physical shame, fecklessness, and naiveté. At the center of it all is Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, whose dry, self-effacing wit and deadpan comic delivery, are ideally displayed here.

Watching Arrested Development is time well spent any way you look at it, but especially during our period of confinement.

 

 

 

 

 



Shameless USA

ShamelessShameless USA is a family drama based on the UK’s long-running hit of the same name. William H. Macy leads the cast as the working class patriarch of an unconventional Chicago clan of six kids who, helmed by their eldest sibling, Fiona, keep their ramshackle home afloat while their dad is out getting blindingly drunk each day.

While the original series, set in Manchester, is grimmer, grittier, and, arguably, more shameless than the USA based series, the American version is still good. Yes, even as the actors in the US version are more attractive, their teeth are good, and their home is larger and prettier than the British version (prompting the question of whether Americans are comfortable with the ugliness of poverty), their circumstances and behavior are similarly outrageous and touching. Sure, Americans don’t ‘do’ subtlety as well as the British, so much of the action is obvious and flat-footed (such as when young Debbie puts the pillow under the head of her passed out father, thereby showing us the acceptance and love that the family feel for him, rather than permitting the audience to discern that via observation), they are still an audacious, criminally-inclined family trying to survive without resources other than their wits and each other.

I came late to these series, which have both been running since 2004 and 2011*, respectively, but it’s never too late to watch entertaining television – particularly during confinement. Moreover, I have found that by watching these fictional families, which in many ways reflect the truth of poverty in that the people make perpetual sacrifices in order to meet the minimum needs of life, have to get by on practically nothing, and whose permitted aspirations are often little more than surviving, I have gained perspective about my own life’s desires and expectations. As I’m entertained watching this series, I’m also inspired and resolved to be more modest in general. And, at this terrible moment in our shared global history, that’s a good thing to learn and to remember as we face our collectively uncertain future.

*Ending in UK in 2013 and in USA in 2021.



Fleabag

imagesFleabag is a darkly humorous sitcom created and written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Having originally appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a stage monologue, Amazon financed production of a six-part series, and the BBC picked it up for distribution. It’s about a woman who can’t quite cope with life in London after the recent death of her best friend. To “help” her along her terrible and squalid path, is her father, an ineffectual man who moved in with her awful – though very talented – godmother, just after her mother died. And her sister, a painfully uptight workaholic married to a slime bag.

Each character in Fleabag, including our heroine, is unpleasant, defeated and unhappy. Except for the dead best friend, Boo, whom we meet through regular flashbacks. This doesn’t sound like a good review, and I can only imagine how difficult pitching this idea to a TV exec would be, but Waller-Bridge has created something truly unforgettable here. The script is full of acerbic one-liners that will leave you breathless, and the characters are hypnotic. It’s perfectly cast, with especially stellar performances by Olivia Colman and Bill Paterson. But Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag is magnetic in her savage self-loathing.

The first word that came to my head when I finished watching the series was “Wow.” Note the period, no exclamation mark. If I had to describe Fleabag in four words, I’d choose Harsh. Poignant. Surprising. Funny. Definitely worth watching, but not for the faint of heart.