TV

'Arrested Development' draws new fans four years after Fox locked it out of the house

The cast of Arrested Development, from left: David Cross, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi,  Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Michael Cera, Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat. Ron Howard narrated, and Henry Winkler and Liza Minnelli had recurring roles.
The cast of Arrested Development, from left: David Cross, Will Arnett, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Michael Cera, Tony Hale and Alia Shawkat. Ron Howard narrated, and Henry Winkler and Liza Minnelli had recurring roles.

Pat C. discovered Arrested Development last week. "Watched the first nine episodes," she said in an e-mail to me. "Funny!"

Gone from network TV since February 2006, when Fox burned off the last four episodes against the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, Arrested Development is finding new fans, proving just how groundbreaking it was then and how absurdly funny it remains today.

The comedy about the deeply and hilariously dysfunctional Bluth family also continues to make news, the latest tidbit being that creator Mitchell Hurwitz is halfway through a script for an Arrested Development movie, for which the entire cast has agreed to return.

Considering the passion with which fans have followed the ups and downs of getting a movie made, one might assume that Arrested Development was a TV hit of epic proportions. Not so.

Every year, the show faced cancellation, even after winning the Emmy for outstanding comedy series in its first season. That season, it finished 107th, near the bottom of the Nielsen ratings.

DVD (or on-demand video) is the perfect format with which to discover Arrested Development. And with the movie looking as if it really will happen, this is a great time to do that. Maybe you'll be surprised to find that you already know many of the Bluths in other contexts. Here's a primer.

Michael Bluth: The responsible second son of the family, a widowed single father, he reluctantly stepped in to hold the clan together after patriarch George Sr. went to prison for securities fraud.

Played by Jason Bateman, who has been busy in movies: The Switch, Couples Retreat, Up in the Air and Juno. Before AD, Bateman was best known as David on the sitcom The Hogan Family (1986-91).

Lindsay Bluth Fünke: Michael's twin sister (who turned out to have been adopted) dabbled in do-good causes but had little true feeling for anyone but herself.

Played by Portia de Rossi, who starred in the unfortunately short-lived comedy Better Off Ted and recurred on Nip/Tuck. Before AD, she played Nell on Ally McBeal (1998-2002).

George Oscar Bluth: Known as GOB, pronounced like the Bible's Job, he's the Segway-riding magician and ladies' man who failed as president of Bluth Corp.

Played by Will Arnett, who stars with Keri Russell in Hurwitz's new TV comedy Running Wilde, this fall on Fox. Married to Amy Poehler, Arnett also played Alec Baldwin's rival, Devon Banks, on 30 Rock and has voiced animated characters in movies including Despicable Me.

George Michael Bluth: Michael's reserved teenage son was, like his dad, an island of sanity among the crazy Bluths.

Played by Michael Cera, the breakout star of the cast. Cera, 22, plays the title character in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and starred in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Juno. His biggest pre-AD exposure was on Rolie Polie Olie and Berenstain Bears.

Buster Bluth: A mama's boy, he rebounded after his hand was bitten off by a seal.

Played by Tony Hale, who had the recurring role of Emmett Milbarge on Chuck and co-starred with Andy Richter on Andy Barker, P.I. Before AD, Hale had guested on TV series as diverse as Dawson's Creek, Sex and the City and The Sopranos.

Tobias Fünke: A psychiatrist, married to Lindsay, he yearned to join Blue Man Group and got ready by repeatedly covering himself with blue paint.

Played by David Cross, who will join the cast of Running Wilde this fall. Cross also co-wrote and starred in the British comedy The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. Before AD, he teamed with Bob Odenkirk on cult favorite Mr. Show With Bob and David (1995-98).

Maeby Fünke: The daughter of Lindsay and Tobias, Maeby was the rebellious teenager who also was the object of her cousin George Michael's crush.

Played by Alia Shawkat, who has gone on to small roles in Whip It and The Runaways.

George Bluth Sr.: The Bluths' "Pop-Pop" escaped from prison, hid in the attic and was disclosed to have business dealings with Saddam Hussein. Also invented the lethal snack-food maker the Cornballer.

Played by Jeffrey Tambor, who starred with John Lithgow in the single-season sitcom 20 Good Years and played Sid in The Hangover. Before AD, in a long career in movies and TV, he played Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show and Murray on Max Headroom.

Lucille Bluth: The Bluths' self-absorbed mother was so unsatisfied with her own offspring, she adopted a Korean boy and mistakenly called him Annyong, Korean for hello.

Played by Jessica Walter, who went on to play Tabitha Wilson on 90210 and co-star on Gravity and Saving Grace. Before AD, she was well known for TV and movie roles dating to the 1960s.

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