At a bar the other day, two Republican accountants (nice guys, don't get me wrong) were telling me how much they love "Arrested Development," which made me chuckle. The show's not just absurdly funny and imaginative. It's a satire of George Bush's administration.
Here we have the Bluth family, all men named George (corrupt, dumb and childish). The shoddy patriarch George Bluth Sr. gets caught in an Enron-like scandal. He's tied to Saddam Hussein -- "Your mom had a good feeling about him," he tells a son.
George Sr.'s least competent son once stood under a "Mission Accomplished" banner at a crummy Bluth real estate deal and proclaimed, "My brother wasn't optimistic it could be done. But I wouldn't take 'not optimistic it could be done' for an answer."
It might seem far-fetched to think the incompetent Bluths could rise to power and retain it, except that the Bush dynasty has already proved this possible.
"I would argue it's one of the more -- if not the most subtle -- anti-Bush administration shows around," says David Cross, who plays George Sr.'s son-in-law, Tobias.
Cross, 41, is perfect for the subversive show, although he's way more blunt. In his stand-up comedy, he has ridiculed George W. Bush as a retarded elitist who surrounds himself with prissy and incompetent cronies. On his 2004 album, "It's Not Funny," Cross calls Bush a crazy imperialist for having U.S. troops pledge to pray for him.
"That's what kings do," Cross jokes. "Was he munchin' on a big ol' turkey leg and getting [sexually serviced] by a serf? And he's like, 'Tell the troops to pray for their president. ... Bring in the court jester. Dennis Miller, what lovely jokes do you have for me today? What, Dennis? "Nuke them all?" Oh, that is funny.' "
Many people on the political left have memorized Cross' Bush-era comedy albums as funny truth.
"Not to toot my own horn," Cross says now, "but how prescient was some of that stuff? I was nearly right about everything."
On "Arrested Development," which has its season premiere Monday (at 7 p.m. on WFLD-Channel 32), Cross doesn't get to be overtly political, but he gets to be funny. Tobias suffers from "gymnophobia," a fear of being seen naked. He always wears denim shorts under his pants, never makes love to his wife, wrote a self- help book called The Man Inside Me and painted himself blue to try out for Blue Man Group.
The show's parodies extend from politics and society to the show's own home, Fox. After the TV network cut the show's season from 22 to 18 episodes last year, George Sr.'s real estate business similarly had an order of 22 homes cut back to 18. George Sr.'s son Michael griped, "We've already got the blueprints drawn up and everything!"
Cross says he'd be surprised if Fox executives get all the jokes about Bush and Fox.
"I don't know if they really pay attention to detail. They're so inundated with so many shows they have to look at it."
But he's glad they run "Arrested Development," which won the best comedy Emmy last fall and is nominated again this time. Earlier this year, it seemed as if the show might get canceled because of poor ratings.
It must be strange to think his bosses could drop "Arrested Development" at any moment, right?
"I don't consider them my bosses," he says. "They're more like a slightly more-proven god -- which I question -- but there's some deity from on high who makes a phone call, that makes a decision. I'm very solipsistic, so I don't know they exist. I don't believe it, unless I've seen them."
Here's his serious answer: "I honestly believe that whatever the success this show attains, this show will almost always invariably be in that same position" of possibly getting canned.
Why? Because many Americans might consider it weird. It's filmed in a fake-documentary style with a narrator and no studio audience. Every half-hour flies by with loads of intelligent parodies and sight gags.
"The show deserves [to be a hit]. Because I'm fairly familiar with America, I don't think the show will ever attain that kind of success," Cross says. "If this show was No. 1, it would give me great hope for America. But there's no way. I mean, come on."
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