Critics' Picks : New Dvds

October 09, 2005|By DAVID ZURAWIK

Getting 'Arrested' should always be this much fun


Already steeped in critical acclaim and Emmy nominations, this Fox series is seen by some critics as the last, best hope of the family sitcom. That's a bit much, but there's a lot to like in its savage satire of corporate-think, greed and sanctified notions of the American family -- particularly in the inspired and original performances of Jason Bateman and Jeffrey Tambor.

For those not familiar with the series, the saga of the rich-but-highly dysfunctional Bluth family began in Season 1 with George Bluth (Tambor), patriarch of the Bluth Company, being sent to prison after his Enron-like accounting practices are discovered. With its assets frozen, the family is in even greater chaos than usual, and it falls upon Michael Bluth (Bateman), George's son and the one conscientious member of the over-indulged clan, to help them muddle through.

Season 2 opens with Michael abruptly quitting the company after finding out that his father had dealings with disposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein: "I didn't know there were criminal sanctions against Iraq. They sent me over there. They said, 'Go. Build.'" George says casually in his defense. The dialogue veers toward the circular absurdist banter of Samuel Beckett, but with pop culture references to burn. The tone is an off-beat melange of earnest (Michael) meets ironic (George), with prime-time soap opera thrown in.

Special features: Deleted scenes, outtakes, bloopers and audio commentary on selected episodes. I usually love audio commentary: Hearing a gifted writer like Aaron Sorkin talking viewers through an episode of The West Wing is worth the price of the collection in itself, for example. What we have here, however, is a gaggle of actors and a few writers either giggling, guffawing or making empty-headed crosstalk about how much they "adore" this guest star or "love" that child actor. -- DAVID ZURAWIK



For those who have not yet had the distinct pleasure of meeting Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), this DVD collection could be the perfect way to get acquainted with one of the most off-beat and refreshingly tart TV detectives in decades. Though the DVD wasn't made available for preview, I have seen most of the 20 episodes of Season 1, and they deserve a bigger audience than the 3 million or so who tuned in each week. Like Fox's 24, Veronica Mars is the kind of series that should see its prime-time ratings grow as it wins new fans on DVD.

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