In honor of Arrested Development’s triumphant return, here’s a look at how the show influenced another under-watched yet critically acclaimed show, Community.
The broad-strokes parallels are obvious: both shows are extremely self-referential and leaned heavily on meta-humor and contextual humor as opposed to situational humor. Both shows found little success on network television but have a hardcore fanbase. Both were really amazingly good for 3 seasons and then were, well, not. (AD because it was cancelled, Community because Dan Harmon left/was let go)
But passing up some of the larger parallels, some of the characters from both shows are similar in some interesting ways. Not just in tone or approach, but in narrative structure as well. For example…
Jeff Winger = GOB Bluth + self-awareness and charisma
Compare and contrast: Jeff, in the Season 2 premier, seeing Brita “The People’s Champion” suddenly popular with women (“I don’t like where that’s going”) and then seeing Annie as a love-struck teeny-bopper (“I don’t like where that’s going) to Gob’s trademark “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Almost identical delivery.
Both characters are raging narcissists who think a lot of their looks. They definitely preen (and go shirtless) a lot. Both have issues with their father. Both do well (or like to think they do well) with the ladies. Jeff, as the anchor of his show, is more grounded than Gob. He’s frequently the Only Sane Man and arbiter of the group’s craziness. But, like Gob, sometimes he’s selfish and clueless enough to derail the train on his own.
Pierce Hawthorne = George Bluth Sr. + (more) racism
In general, both are pretty terrible people with genuine affection for friends/family. Both have long, vague histories of shady business dealings. Both are played for physical comedy more often than not (George’s escape attempts, Pierce’s frequent pratfalls). Both come up with some words of wisdom at opportune moments. They also frequently veer into “villain” territory (think Pierce during the D&D episode, or George Sr. finally getting taught a lesson by his kids, J. Walter Weatherman style)
Pierce is a little more insecure (see his early episode attempts to befriend Jeff) and a little more overtly racist (see practically any episode). George Sr. is frequently a foil for George and Gob, whereas Pierce is just part of the ensemble. Of course, that’s partly due to the fact that AD is centered around a family and Community on a group of friends. George Sr. gets more “wise old patriarch” moments even though both characters have plenty of stupidity-played-for-laughs.
Britta Perry = Lindsey Bluth from a different socioeconomic background)
I mean, they even LOOK something alike, in the sense that they’re both attractive blondes. Britta’s misguided activism is basically all talk. Lindsey’s misguided activism is foiled by laziness. Basically, Lindsey is what Britta would be if she were raised with money. Lindsey isn’t quite as neurotic as Britta, but both have unresolved identity issues. Britta is an aspiring therapist. Lindsey’s husband is a therapist and they go to couple’s therapy.
They also serve similar narrative roles in that their well-intentioned advice or actions (example: Lindsey accidentally kidnapping her mother’s housekeeper while trying to give her a ride, Britta’s dropping a corpse out a window while trying to play a prank) often become the “spine” of an episode from which the story is derived. Lindsey’s relationship with Tobias is the big difference between them; Britta’s relationships are usually much more of a “crash and burn” than a “willful denial and mutual acrimony.”
Annie Edison = A slightly less nerdy George Michael
Quite possibly a stretch. But… both were huge nerds in high school. Both are socially awkward (Granted, Annie less so). The big one for me is how they’re used. In the context of the show, both are often the naive, clueless one. Either their lack of knowledge or a more worldly character’s reaction to their cluelessness is often the setup for a joke.
They also both have a drawn-out romantic subplot with a quasi-forbidden love interest. (Jeff is much older than Annie and Maeby is George Michael’s cousin) The big difference in their characters stems from how they deal with stress. Annie screaming or freaking out is quite different than George Michael’s withdrawn, stuttering nervousness. They’re coming from the same place, but the results look way different on screen.
Arrested Development returns on May 26th. Clear some time in the schedule. Open for debate: Binge-watch Season 4, or try to take it slow? What are your expectations for quality and similarity to the original?