Sunday, May 06, 2007

Miscellaneous: The Grindstone Report

Been toting that barge and lifting that bail. Lately I’ve had just enough energy to collapse in front of the TV and watch baseball. Luckily the Mets are in the middle of a west coast swing. Related link: New York Times business columnist Harry Hurt III tries his hand as a vendor at Shea Stadium, where more hot dogs are consumed than any other ballpark in the league. In your face, Yankees! Make sure to watch the accompanying video.

If it’s not baseball, it’s season one of Arrested Development. The pangs of retroactive guilt I feel for not fully supporting this series when it originally ran on Fox are eased by the fact that I can take an hour and binge on three episodes in a row. The show produces a dizzying screwball high, particularly the initial 13 episodes, which are as funny as anything that has ever aired on American television.

A critic – I can’t remember who – once said of the Scottish writer/director Bill Forsyth that he was one of the few filmmakers alive to “the comic possibilities of goodness.” The same dynamic is at play on Arrested. Jason Bateman and Michael Cera, playing father and son, wring endless humor out of being the only rational people in a family full of grasping greedheads. The entire ensemble is peerless, but you’d be hard-pressed to top Will Arnett as the deluded “magician” Gob. There hasn’t been such a gloriously self-involved character since Hank Kingsley on The Larry Sanders Show. It’s only fitting, then, that Jeffrey Tambor plays Gob’s father. (I recently ordered the new Sanders collection on DVD. That’s my next big project.)

The commentary tracks on the Arrested DVDs are hilarious. They also provide a fascinating window into the process of making series TV. (David Mamet: “Features are a marathon. TV is running until you’re dead.”) Arrested never had an easy time, a fact reflected on the tracks for the 13th episode, which the cast and crew initially assumed would be their last, and the season finale, filmed while the show’s fate was in doubt. In each case, creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the writers labored to wrap up the storylines while still leaving room for the series to continue. Somehow, they pulled it off. Season two awaits. A sensible man would pace himself, but I’m diving right in.

All this means that I haven’t been to see Spider-Man 3 yet. New York magazine’s Vulture blog considers some less successful threequels. I still maintain that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is the best part three. Other nominations welcome.