I’m Not Sure If This New Arrested Development Season Is A Good Idea.
Arrested Development is one of the greatest television shows of all time. The show ran for three short seasons and was cancelled in 2006. Despite widespread critical acclaim, it was never able to find a sizable audience, probably due to the rapid-fire nature of the jokes, the quirkiness of the characters, and the heavily serialized nature of the series that made it extremely difficult to follow without having seen the previous episodes.
Since it was cancelled, the audience that adores the show has grown via DVD sales and the internet (it’s currently streaming on Netflix Instant Watch!). In this time, it took on an identity as a plucky show that achieved greatness briefly before the heartless bastards that control the television industry pulled the plug because the mouth-breathers that watch television weren’t sophisticated enough to understand “intelligent” humor.
One could argue that its cancellation has bolstered the show’s reputation significantly. I did not watch the show on television, but after reading various blog posts and articles detailing the travesty that was its cancellation, I bought the DVD’s. I really do think the fact that it was cancelled makes it more appealing to fans, particularly people who like to think of themselves as “informed viewers” who believe that their tastes are just a little bit better the the schmohawks watching How I Met Your Mother with all the other less enlightened people (and yeah, I include myself in that category!).
Ever since Arrested Development ended, there have been talks of bringing the show back in some form. There was talk of it being picked up by a subscription based channel such as HBO or Showtime, but that never materialized. Over the past five years, the cast has been hounded by reporters wanting to know if there would be an AD movie. Most people thought it would never happen, as the logistics of getting the ten primary cast characters and creative team (mainly series creator Mitch Hurwitz) seemed to be an insurmountable task. Plus, there was the issue of finding a network for a revamped version of the show, or a film studio willing to distribute what is essentially an unpopular product with a large, fairly expensive cast.
Well, long story short, the show is coming back. Netflix, which streams the show online on its site, has agreed to stream another season. Apparently, each new episode will follow one of the primary cast members, and a movie will bring the whole thing together. Netflix is looking to start distributing their own shows, as they already have a new series called House of Cards that is set to run sometime in 2012.
I don’t want to be a naysayer, but I am not a fan of this development. I still plan on watching it, of course, but I think there are a lot of problems with putting a long-dormant show back on the air. In season seven of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld (playing themselves) discuss why reunion shows “are always lame.” They basically conclude that reunion shows are typically self-serving affairs and that they “never look right.” They then go ahead and do a reunion show, which is awesome.
Now, the Seinfeld reunion show on Curb was awesome, but it was awesome specifically because of the way it was done. You had Larry David the person wrote a show in which Larry David the character writes a reunion show not for any artistic or commercial purpose, but as a ploy to win back his ex-wife. It was also awesome because we only saw the actual show in brief clips. The brief clips were great, we got a sense of what the show would have been like without having to actually see the whole Seinfeld episode, which probably would have been lame if it was done as a straight-up show.
With Seinfeld, as with Arrested Development, I never felt there was a great need to know what the characters were up to. I’ve watched both shows multiple times, and I don’t think there was a bit of character growth on either show. And that’s fine. I didn’t watch Seinfeld because I wanted to see Jerry recognize the errors of his selfish ways and settle down with Elaine. I didn’t watch Arrested to see Job become a better person and start treating his son Steve Holt (Steve Holt!) like an actual, you know, son. I watched these shows because they were well-written and funny. Extremely funny. The characters, by and large, changed depending on the plot. Job and Michael would get into some massive fight (one time with a giant rock and a giant pair of scissors), make amends, and the next episode they’d be just as adversarial as ever. And no one said boo about it.
So that’s the first reason I don’t think this reunion is a great idea; it’s not like anyone really cared about whether the Bluth family got it together. Because you know what, a functional Bluth family is a boring show.
The second reason is kind of an obvious one. The show has a legacy, and this revival could easily end up destroying that legacy. It could also add to that legacy, for sure. But why roll the dice? The first three Star Wars films were the stuff of legend. The last three tarnished the legacy of the first three, no question. We could have the same thing going on here. Mitch Hurwitz has been in a major slump since AD went off the year, with a number of failed television shows (Sit Down, Shut Up, anyone?). Michael Cera has gone from a sweet, good-natured teenager on AD to an over-saturated, annoying, poor man’s Jesse Eisenberg.
None of this means that the Arrested Development revival will be a flop. I’m going to watch the hell out of it. I hope it’s good, and, if anything, it will be interesting to see where they go with the story. But I don’t see why it’s necessary.