Jeffrey Malone’s 50 Favorite TV Shows of All Time

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You can learn a lot about people from their favorite television programs. TV viewing involves spending a lot of time with fictional characters and more or less forming relationships with them. Who we choose to spend our time with says a lot about our own personalities. With that in mind, here are the current standings for my 50 favorite shows of all time.

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Arrested Development Pilot Script Analysis

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This essay was originally written as my final paper for my Script Analysis and Audience Response class, taught by Helena Medina, in Spring 2014 at The New School.

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The patriarch of a dysfunctional family is arrested, and his only sane son is forced to save the family business.

The Bluth family consists of George, Sr. and his wife Lucille; their children George Oscar II, a.k.a. “Gob” (pronounced like the Biblical Job), twins Michael and Lindsay, and Byron “Buster”; Lindsay’s husband Tobias Fünke; Michael’s son George Michael, and Lindsay and Tobias’s daughter Mae, a.k.a. “Maeby”. George is the CEO of the family Bluth Company, located in Orange County, California. Michael, his second oldest son, has worked for the company for ten years and expects to be made partner on the occasion of his father’s retirement. But George appoints Lucille as the acting CEO, and it soon becomes clear why when he is arrested and the Securities and Exchange Commission freezes the company’s expense account, thus making it difficult for the Bluths to maintain their lavish lifestyles.

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Best Episode of the Season: Arrested Development Season 4

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Season Analysis: I did not laugh as consistently as I remember laughing during the original run, but there have been plenty of great gags that have been looping through my head the past few weeks.  And most episodes could have benefited from leaner editing, but the great Arrested Development Netflix experiment was generally a remarkable success.  The parade of guest stars was far from shameless stunt casting, with John Slattery, Isla Fisher, Kristen Wiig, and Ed Helms just a few of the new faces who were woven seamlessly into the Bluths’ world.  The satire was still biting, the cultural references were far-reaching and complicated, and the pathetic emotional underpinnings of the Bluth family were more profound than they have ever been.

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“It Gets Better”
I am hesitant to say that the success or failure of an individual Season 4 Arrested Development episode is indicative of the strength or weakness of the character that the episode focuses on.  While “Borderline Personalities” and “Double Crossers” were probably the most underwhelming of this bunch, George, Sr. is still a viable source of hilarity.  However, “It Gets Better” really does showcase how strong a character George Michael is.  And since most people skipped Youth in Revolt, this episode should be offered as the prime evidence that Michael Cera roles are not all the same (his This is the End performance notwithstanding, which provides more proof than should be necessary).  George Michael, having taken full advantage of the college experience, is the one Bluth who has developed the most since we last saw him, for better or worse – his confidence has gone way up, which for better has led him to grow a mustache and develop a bit of a ladykiller strain (and always leave on good terms with his ladies), and for worse has made him a true Bluth, the kind who could weave a grand lie about creating privacy software and create a new identity for the sake of wooing a girl (who his father also happens to be dating).  “It Gets Better” also naturally benefits from arriving late in the season and therefore providing plenty of resolution to the season’s running threads, with it finally becoming clear what FakeBlock really is.  This episode also gloriously plays up Michael Cera’s resemblance to Jesse Eisenberg, going full bore in having the FakeBlock saga parallel The Social Network, leading to the best “On the Next…” gag of the season, in which P-Hound plays the role of Eduardo Saverin or the Winklevoss twins.  A couple more things to note: George Michael’s late mother Tracey (played by the always lovely Maria Thayer) makes her first on-screen appearance, in a flashback with toddler George Michael, and it is the most heartwarming moment of the whole series, and this episode also features the best celebrity guest appearance we didn’t know we needed, with David Henrie popping in as himself.

Honorable Mention: “Señoritis”
With “It Gets Better” succeeding in large part thanks to weaving together many plot threads that had been set up in earlier episodes, it is interesting that “Señoritis,” the episode that preceded it, succeeds about just as well despite much of it existing independent of the rest of the season.  Perhaps that it is appropriate, as one of Maeby’s key characteristics is her invisibility to her parents.  This episode works as a sort of long con comedy-thriller, with Maeby repeating senior year of high school several times more or less just to see how long she can get away with it.  The stealthiest cultural reference of the season appears in this episode, with Maeby’s Opie acceptance speech serving as an homage to the Maryland sorority girl’s e-mail.