Wait, the good episodes of Arrested Development are like fully furnished McMansions?

One commentator suggests fans of the new season of Arrested Development should be patient and then makes an interesting comparison:

Stay cool, Internet. Arrested Development‘s new Netflix-delivered season may prove to be great yet.

Within hours of the streaming service dropping a 15-episode Bluth bomb, critics and fans rushed to proclaim the new episodes as substandard. Mere model homes instead of the fully furnished McMansions that they had watched and rewatched over the past few years. And while I certainly count myself amongst the fans who feel at least a wee bit disappointed by the new episodes, it’s still far too early to jump to conclusions about the episodes’ quality or legacy.

You see, Arrested Development is a unique show. While most sitcoms rely on simple setups and punchlines for their laughs, this is one show that runs amuck on the formula.Punchline often come before setups, and it’s not uncommon for objects to regularly flash across the screen and get call-backs several episodes (or even seasons) later. Basically: Many of the show’s jokes were simply not designed to make any sense the first time you see them.

As someone who has studied the use of the word McMansion, it is unusual to see someone making a favorable reference to McMansions. In this article, fans of Arrested Development are waiting for the “fully furnished McMansions” which are compared to the good episodes of the show. This is odd enough in itself. But, there is an extra twist. The show itself has commentary about McMansions. As Wikipedia puts it, “The Bluth family of the television series Arrested Development is in the business of building opulent-looking sub-quality housing.” Part of the show’s comedy is that this family who involved in a quintessential American industry, building homes, is so dysfunctional. They provide the American Dream but live a wacky version of American family life.

I also suspect that many fans of Arrested Development would not be fans of McMansions. The sort of arcane and long-form humor (see the running jokes here) of the show doesn’t exactly endear itself to the masses.

Connecting Arrested Development’s George Bluth and McMansions

Amidst news that the television show Arrested Development will return via Netflix, I saw recently a connection between the patriarch of the show, George Bluth, and McMansions in an opinion piece dealing with a New York Times op-ed on sprawl from earlier in the week:

Rarely is a discouraging word ever spoken against government spending millions to widen roads, install sewerage mains, and build schools so George Bluth Bill Pulte can build yet another exurban mcmansion development.

The reference to Bill Pulte refers to Pulte Homes, self-described as “one of the nation’s largest homebuilders.” (From personal experience, I can safely say Pulte did not build only McMansions.) This is not the first time I’ve seen this connection. Indeed, a quick Google search of “George Bluth” AND McMansion turns up 708 results. One poster in a discussion of McMansions at DemocraticUnderground.com even went so far as to ask ” WWGBD? What would George Bluth do?” Probably not the best question to guide one’s life.  An Entertainment Weekly review after the pilot emphasized McMansions as part of the setting for the show:

Shot in digital video and freed from the enhanced indulgence of a studio audience, the show romps in McMansionland and finds plenty to laugh at: grad students practicing Native American drum rituals, maids on public transportation carting racks full of furs for storage, and housing developments with names like Sudden Valley.

I don’t know if this is an authoritative site including all AD scripts but this search for “McMansions” turns up no matches. And having seen all of the episodes, I do remember the show poking fun at these neighborhoods (giant homes built in what looked like partially completed neighborhoods in a desert) but can’t recall the main characters really ruing the fact that the family business involved building McMansions. While the irony was surely intended to draw attention to the absurdity of such homes, are they ever specifically denounced on the show?

This isn’t the only television show connected to McMansions. The Sopranos also invited comparisons as they lived in a well-appointed New Jersey home and certain reality shows, like The Bachelor/Bachelorette have prompted critics to say the contestants live in McMansions.