Skip Bill O’Reilly and Watch Bob Loblaw Instead

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

Tonight, skip Bill O’Reilly and watch Bob Loblaw instead. That might be obvious to most Democrats. But most people aren’t Democrats and most people don’t watch cable news in primetime. Unless you’re a junky, you’re probably never going to say, “Hey, did you see Chris Matthews last night?”

For those who do watch cable, turn it off, turn on the other Fox channel at 8pm, watch “Arrested Development,” and discover why Bob Loblaw is the best named character on TV.

These days, it is tough to turn off cable news. There’s so much nonsense to listen to. With a White House scandal, the president treading water with his pinkies, Republican leaders doing their best to smile for their mug shots, and a Supreme Court nominee who’s put the “c” back in conservative, the pundits have a lot to babble about. Sometimes they say something that’s beyond the standard party talking points of “we’re good and they’re bad.” But most of the time, they sound like…well they sound like Bob Loblaw’s name when you say it out loud.

That’s why it’s time for Monday nights to be Bill O’ Reilly-free because there really is something better to watch.

Despite “Arrested Development’s” Emmy for writing and critical acclaim, not enough people watch it. At the end of each season, devoted viewers cross their fingers and hope it gets another year to bring more dysfunctional family joy. And if at least half of the people stopped watching Bill O’Reilly on Monday nights (approximately 2.6 million viewers compared to about 250,000 for Chris Matthews), “Arrested Development’s” audience could grow by a million—a million more reasons for the network to renew it.

It is a show about a family “that’s lost everything and the son who tries to hold them together.” That’s about as nice as it gets and as simple as it gets. This is a show, not a sitcom. It is very difficult to describe what happens in those 30 minutes and that is its genius. It calls for things that so many of us aren’t used to bringing to a 30 minute TV show: intelligence, attention, and genuine humor.

There’s no laugh track to tell us what’s funny. The shows don’t wrap up when the credits roll. And the stereotypical rhythm of a sitcom: setup, setup, followed by the one-liner, is shattered in every show. It actually respects people who tune in by not dumbing things down so they tune out.

I discovered this show when my father was in the ICU after a ruptured brain aneurysm almost killed him. My brother brought in the first season on DVD and said, “Watch this.” I did.

It was the only thing that made me laugh for three weeks. And in a small way, I knew my father would be okay when he could laugh, too, at matriarch, Lucille Bluth’s opening fit. It was a good time in the middle of a hellish place.

For the last four weeks, those who watch the show have known a world without Bob Loblaw; without a puppet song from Franklin and Gob; without watching Michael get decked by Mary Poppins in the British Section of Orange County; without learning more of Tobias’s latest profession as a combined analyst and therapist which produces the best business card ever made; without Lindsay’s attempt to pick up Bob Loblaw, and without Buster and the hand he lost because a seal bit it off so he didn’t have to go to Iraq.

In a way, if you want to see how this Administration has impacted families, the Bluths are a good place to start.

For those who have never seen “Arrested Development” go to your local video store or to one of the online rental places and get the first and second season on DVD. Watch them. They’re only 22 minutes without commercials. Get caught up. And then tune in. For those who have seen the show and don’t like it, that’s your loss. But if you want a world where Bob Loblaw reigns and Bill O’Reilly falls on Monday nights, tune in to Fox at 8pm.

Even at this hour, we have an idea about what’s probably going to be on cable tonight: some rehash of the CIA leak story, a segment about the Supreme Court nominee process, a pre-election story about what a victory in Virginia means for either Republicans or Democrats, how Iraq is a mess, and how the people have lost faith in Washington. It kind of sounds as if America is in a perpetual state of “arrested development” anyway so why not watch the show?

But there is another reason to watch this show and skip cable; it is a gift. And in these times, gifts are rare. That’s why they should be treasured, saved, and shared.