The Real The O.C.

Contrary to the reviews penned by highly paid television critics at real newspapers, I have publicly proclaimed that The O.C. is a damn-fine television show. So it pains me to report after only its 11th episode, the Fox prime-time teen soaper has already been knocked off its lofty perch. For those devils at Fox are now airing another show set in Newport Beach that even more perfectly captures this whacked-out place we call home. And unlike The O.C., they actually film parts of it here!

The comedy Arrested Developmentcenters on a rich, whiny Newport Beach family whose fortunes began with a banana stand in the Balboa Fun Zone. (Look! It's the Fun Zone!) Having built that into the mighty Bluth Development Co., useless patriarch George Bluth Sr. (The Larry Sanders Show's Jeffrey Tambor) decides to step down and hand the reins to his useless martini-swilling socialite of a wife, Lucille (Play Misty for Me's Jessica Walter). That infuriates their decent and hard-working son, Michael (Jason Bateman, of just about every crappy family sitcom that has ever been broadcast), a widower who essentially ran Bluth Development and was counting on a promotion. So he decides to quit the family biz, sign on with a rival development company, and spend more time with his 13-year-old son, George Michael (nicely nervous Michael Cera).

But as the Nov. 2 premiere episode showed, the family's future changed when the Securities and Exchange Commission—fresh from having come down on one of the central characters on The O.C.—puts George Sr. behind bars for cooking his books. Luckily, George Sr. loves it there.

Lucille—who has as much mother love for Michael as Livia Soprano had for Tony—retreats with her furs to her Balboa Bay Club penthouse, even though she can't pay the rent. Good luck sucking help from her useless brood, which includes struggling magician George Oswald Bluth, a.k.a. "Gob" (Will Arnett), who is constantly accidentally killing his doves and rabbits; professional grad student Buster Bluth (Tony Hale), who despite having taken entire courses in cartography thinks the blue on the map must mean land; greedy society babe Lindsay Bluth Funke (beautiful Portia DeRossi); and Lindsay's husband, Tobias Funke (Mr. Show's always-hilarious David Cross), a doctor who lost his license after performing CPR on a perfectly healthy sunbather and so decides to become an Act-or and talk about his "art."

Completely unable to so much as wipe their own butts, the Bluths have no choice but to beg Michael to come back and take the throne of their crumbling empire so they can all be free to lie despondently on the sofa and refuse to work. Setting all that up caused the premiere to drag a bit, but the comic pacing was pleasingly brisk in the Nov. 9 follow-up episode, which revolved around George Sr.'s cryptic clue that "There's always money in the banana stand." Michael allows the family landmark to burn to the ground, to lay the ghosts of Dad's controlling ways to rest. Too bad he wasn't hip to poppa George Sr.'s clues. See, there was money in the banana stand, a quarter million hidden in the walls.

Sure, The O.C. has Peter Gallagher's out-of-control eyebrows, shapely teens in skimpy outfits downing brewskis to hip-hop and fish-outta-Chino Benjamin McKenzie's "acting," which favors a dizzying assortment of mopey expressions over actual line readings. But if you prefer your humor intended, tune in to Arrested Development and enjoy an even more twisted look at our neighbors in the 949.


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