who used it best: anchorman vs. arrested development
I checked our archives today and realized that I haven’t written an installment of Who Used It Best since January 5th. That’s a long time for a column that I really love. So I make a triumphant return with a new streamlined Who Used It Best, pitting Anchorman against Arrested Development for their use of the song Afternoon Delight.
In the past this column was only for two movies that had the same version of the same song in their soundtrack. This was to keep from comparing versions of songs and instead to focus solely on how the film used the song. This time however I break both of those rules. Here I compare and contrast the use of the song Afternoon Delight, originally written and performed by the Starland Vocal Band, in Anchorman (a movie) and Arrested Development (a television show). Anyone familiar with either will also note that neither uses the actual song, in Anchorman it is performed by the actors a cappella while in Arrested Development it is performed as Karaoke. This time I’m really comparing which bit is better.
If you’re reading this website or even just this column, then you’ve probably already seen Anchorman. But if you’ve been living in an underground bomb shelter eating cold cans of Spaghetti-O’s let me tell you that Anchorman is a bit of a comedy phenomenon and you need to see it. If you are a fan of the film then you might be asking yourself, “is he talking about the music video in the DVD extras or the scene in the movie?” The music video is hilarious, especially Steve Carrell with that kitten, but here I’m talking about the scene in the actual movie.
The scene takes place in anchorman Ron Burgundy’s (Will Farrell) office where his Channel 4 new team, Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell), Champ Kind (Dave Koechner), and Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) asks him what love feels like. Ron explains by singing Afternoon Delight, eventually everyone joins in with a perfect four part harmony. It’s the kind of hilarious non sequitur that director Adam McKay is know for. There is no explanation for why they break into song at that moment, or why Ron Burgundy explains that love is like Afternoon Delight. By the way if you didn’t know, Afternoon Delight is a euphemism for afternoon sexual relations.
In Season two of the cult television comedy there is an episode titled Afternoon Delight, in which the Bluth company holds their Christmas party. The song appears when Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his niece Maeby Funke (Alia Shawkat) sing Karaoke together. Michael is unaware of the lyrics and a third of the way through amidst disgusted looks from the party goers he stops, realizing that this was a poor choice of song for he and his niece.
The song also appears at the end of the episode at a make-up Christmas party when Lindsay Bluth (Portia de Rossi) and her nephew George-Michael Bluth (Michael Cera) also sing the song at Karaoke. The punchline here is when Lindsay’s husband Tobias Funke (David Cross) informs a woman nearby that that’s his wife and nephew, and that they have an open relationship. Obviously the woman thinks he’s talking about Lindsay and George-Michael together and doesn’t pick up on the fact that Tobias is hitting on her. At the very end of the episode the song appears one more time as Michael and George-Michael quietly start singing the song to themselves and Michael says “It does not seem like it would be that dirty.”
Who used it best?
This was tough, harder than determining the winner between Step Brothers and 500 Days of Summer’s use of the song You Make My Dreams Come True. I love both Anchorman and Arrested Development equally, and find that the song in each stands out equally. On the plus side the randomness of Anchorman and the four part harmony make it quirky and funny, that the song is done well is also a major plus. On the negative side, the fact that the song is so random makes it a comedy bit unto itself, it holds no correlation to the rest of the film. Were to sing another song it would probably be just as funny.
On the plus side for Arrested Development, the song’s inappropriateness is used to full effect, tonally it sounds wholesome but the lyrics prove otherwise. It also becomes a running joke through out the entire episode becoming a little more funny every times it’s used. Incest is also a joke throughout the entire series. On the negative side… well, the only real negative I could find was that despite being the title of the episode the funniest running gag is Gob Bluth’s (Will Arnett) expensive suits.
After much deliberation and real soul searching I’ve decided to crown Arrested Development as the winner. It had very little to do with which was funniest as they were both hilarious, Arrested Development wins because they use the song specifically and on multiple occasions. Did I get it right, or should Anchorman have won. Let us know in the comments section below.