November 7, 2004
Jason Bateman is having a family crisis — again. And he couldn’t be more delighted.
His highly dysfunctional kin — the fictional and fanatical Bluths on Fox’s ‘‘Arrested Development’’ — reunites for a second season tonight.
After a rocky first season that brought critical acclaim but not many viewers, Bateman and the rest of the cast ‘‘were sweating it out for the second season pickup.’’
In September, though, the show — which chronicles the misadventures of his over-the-top siblings, manipulative mother and lunaticfringe relatives — garnered a whopping five Emmys, for outstanding comedy series, writing, directing, casting and editing.
Bateman plays Michael Bluth, the responsible, seemingly sane son who was passed over for a long-awaited promotion in the family business just before his CEO father was nabbed by the SEC and arrested, sending both family and business into turmoil.
Shot in mockdocumentary style, the show is narrated by acclaimed director Ron Howard, also one of its executive producers.
Bateman, who appeared in last summer’s theatrical films ‘‘Starsky and Hutch’’ and ‘‘Dodgeball,’’ grew up before the cameras on 1980s series such as ‘‘Silver Spoons,’’ ‘‘Little House on the Prairie’’ and ‘‘Valerie’s Family.’’
But the Bluth family, filled with spendaholics, magician wannabes, divas and deadbeats, is no typical slice of sitcom life.
Q: How is this series different from others you’ve done?
A: This is a dark comedy in the way that ‘‘Seinfeld’’ was, and that is the only comparison I would dare make with that show. (‘‘Arrested Development’s’’) comedic tone is so specific that it is a good-newsbad-news situation. It has the potential to keep viewers away, but if they stick around and fall in love with it, they can find this tone, this sort of dark side. Then the show might go on for 11 seasons.
Q: What’s ahead for Michael?
A: He’s going to try to figure out how to not end up in a prison cell next to his father. Also he’s trying to keep the company afloat while not being at the reins but by being sort of a ghost president. Gob (Michael’s brother, played by Will Arnett), who’s currently running the company, can barely run a simple coin trick, let alone a business. So that has plenty of conflict. And I will continue to try to give my son as normal and criminalfree an upbringing as possible.
Q: How much are you like Michael?
A: This is probably who I would be had I not been exposed to all the elements that are left of center. This town (Hollywood) forced me to grow up fairly fast and be savvy about a number of things. This guy is pretty sheltered and a little uptight.
Q: Is ‘‘Arrested Development’’ supposed to be real?
A: Oh, it is definitely supposed to be real. It’s a documentary, and there is nothing funny about what is going on to the Bluths. It is a drama and a tragedy with the family, and that is sort of the wink on our show, that is what we are trying to get across.
Q: The show has been described in a number of ways. One comparison called it a darker ‘‘Happy Days.’’ What do you think?
A: I haven’t heard that one. It is certainly a current and relevant look at what comedy would come from a family nowadays. The problems were different back in the ‘‘Happy Days’’ time. Our comedy comes from white-collar crime. I have always described it as ‘‘The Royal Tenenbaums’’ shot like ‘‘Cops.’’ And others have described it as a live-action ‘‘Simpsons.’’
Q: Which Simpson would you be?
A: Probably I would be Maggie. Yes, I’d have to be Maggie.
Q: What else is ahead in your career? You were in ‘‘Dodgeball’’ last summer.
A: I just worked one day on ‘‘Dodgeball,’’ crammed all those scenes into a day. . . . The character was way over the top and as we started to do the scene, I felt like I heard my SAG card ripping in my pocket. But then I saw the movie, and it was a great fit — this one-day scene in the middle of one high- concept comedy.
Q: Are you planning to do more roles in feature films?
A: In a perfect world, I would have a career like Ron Howard and do with my acting what he did with his. He kept his eyes and ears open and at the right time, parlayed his knowledge into something more creatively fulfilling for him and ultimately longer lasting.