Not so very long ago I would have scoffed at the very concept of a genuinely funny American sitcom - but over the last few years the likes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, The US Office and 30 Rock have all made a mockery of that snobbishness. The latest to do so has been Arrested Development, which I was stunned to discover actually finished in 2006, having been cancelled by Fox. The critical acclaim for the show has only grown since then, as has the popularity and influence - making Fox's decision look even more short-sighted.
The sit for this com is the turbulent life and times of the Bluth family, accustomed to a life of indolence and indulgence but brought to the brink of financial collapse by patriarch George Bluth Sr's dodgy business dealings. It's continually left to his son Michael to continue bail out the rest of his hapless, conniving, idiotic relatives - not that he's immune from getting into scrapes himself.
We took a little time to get into it - I'm not sure whether the show itself took a while to warm up, or whether it was us having shifted gear significantly from watching The Wire - but now it's yet another comedy for me to eulogise about to all and sundry. The plots - often mind-bogglingly complex (especially for 20-minute-long episodes) - are usually absurdly contrived and the characters are a little one-dimensional, but then that's the essence of a sitcom, and most of the recurring jokes (Tobias Funke's self-denial over his repressed homosexuality, Buster Bluth's lost hand, Barry Zuckercorn's sexual deviancy) never wear thin.
The main cast is superb (David Cross' Tobias being my favourite character), bolstered by a whole host of great cameos or bit-parts from the likes of Ben Stiller, Liza Minelli, Amy Poehler, Zach Braff, Henry Winkler, Charlize Theron, Carl Weathers and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
It's heartening to learn that Arrested Development was revived for a fourth season, and the first three would certainly bear repeated viewing - but we're already onto the next boxset. The question is whether it should be The Inbetweeners or Breaking Bad. I've heard the latter is pretty decent...