CMI On TV – Pop Culture Desolation: Families Arrested in Development

Dysfunction is funny – to a point.

Why do Americans find family dysfunction so entertaining? From ABC’s hit show “Revenge” – in which weddings are used as weapons – to CBS’ “The Good Wife” – where marital infidelity becomes passé – shows focus on familial back-biting between man and wife, parent and child.

Netflix made waves recently by releasing the long-awaited fourth season of the popular show “Arrested Development.” The first episode recaps the struggles of Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) with his incredibly dysfunctional family and their failed entrepreneurial exploits. After Michael announces he’s leaving the family business, he sets up his own real estate development – ready just in time for the crash of 2008.

“I’ve tried family. It doesn’t work,” Michael tells his college-age son George Michael (Michael Cera), while living in his son’s dorm room. In a sad and hilarious turn of events, George Michael kicks him out, and the main character resorts to the unthinkable – he returns to his family.

Granted, the new show is hilarious. But if TV stopped focusing on family breakdown and elevated true sacrificial love – which can be just as entertaining, as revealed in the Pixar classic “The Incredibles” – perhaps fewer divorces and family squabbles would litter the wreckage of America’s civil society.