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A Love Letter To Arrested Development


On February 16th, 2006, the world lost one of its finest examples of comedic brilliance. That thing was a TV show on Fox known as Arrested Development. Arrested Development was “the story of a family that lost everything and the one son trying to keep them all together”, as was so eloquently stated by series narrator and producer Ron Howard during the opening credits of every episode.  When a great show gets canceled in its prime, people tend to blame the network for not giving it a fair shot at cultivating an audience. While it’s easy to blame Fox for…well, just about anything and everything in the world, they didn’t unjustly cancel Arrested. They gave the show a solid 2 ½ seasons and the ratings never picked up. Sure, the show won a house boat-load of Emmys, but if no one is watching then all that brilliance is being broadcasted in to a void of nothingness. And a TV network can’t make money off of nothingness. So the show was canceled long after Fox probably should have canceled it. But much like other shows that were canceled too soon, like Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Judd Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks, getting canceled turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to the show.

Once Arrested was off the air, the legend of Arrested Development was born. After the seasons of the show came out on DVD, Arrested became the 21st century’s version of the cool demo tape from that soon-to-be-huge underground band. Friends would borrow the DVDs from each other after one friend heard about the show from another friend who heard about the show from some guy they worked with who had watched it as it aired. Like this, Arrested Development slowly achieved the status of “cult hit”. The only problem was once you made your way through the 2 ½ seasons of the show, that was it. It was done. It was like hearing that fantastic underground demo tape, and then finding out the band broke up soon after the tape’s recording. You had already memorized every beat of every song, memorized every lyric, and you wanted more, but there was no more on the way. The moment you realized there would be no more was a moment you didn’t think would make you as depressed as it did. And after watching the final episode of Arrested, all of the show’s fans, ourselves included, felt that depression; that sadness.

No more moments of Tobias obliviously spouting out vaguely homoerotic sentences. No more chicken dances. No more Franklin Delano Bluth. No more charity dinner parties for TBA. No more banana stand, even though we all know there’s always money in the banana stand. And no more Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog.

It was gone.

Since the show went off the air, rumors of a movie swirled. These rumors have persisted for years, with occasional quotes from show creator Mitchell Hurwitz and the star of the show Jason Bateman fueling the fire, but never being concrete enough to fully expect an actual movie any time soon.

But then this past Sunday happened.

On Sunday afternoon during the New Yorker Festival, an Arrested Development panel discussion was held featuring the principle cast and Hurwitz himself. During the panel, Hurwitz announced that not only is there going to be an Arrested movie, but there are plans to produce a 9 or 10 episode mini-series leading up to the movie.

And with that, our minds melted and the news made our bananas stand.

Saying we’re huge fans of Arrested Development would be a massive understatement. It would be like saying Caligula was a debauchery hobbyist – it’s factually correct, but it doesn’t give you the full breadth and width of Caligula’s passion for being a creepy sex pervert. We can score higher on online Arrested Development trivia quizzes than we can on high school-level Algebra 1 tests, which is the saddest and most honest statement you’ll find on this site.

It’s hard to point out a single aspect of the show that can succinctly explain why it’s so good and why we and many, many others find it so brilliant. Maybe it’s the fact that the show rewards you for being an avid and attentive viewer by adding little self-referential in-jokes that a newcomer wouldn’t understand. Maybe it’s just because all of the characters are just the right amount of stupid. Or maybe it’s because you can watch an episode ten times in a row, and during each viewing discover a new joke you’ve never noticed before.

Be honest: you didn’t catch the joke in the picture below on your first pass through the series…

Buster_Arm Off

…and probably not even after the fourth or fifth viewing. You may even be noticing the joke in the picture above for the first time, even after you’ve seen that episode more times than you can recall.

If we had to pick just one reason to explain why Arrested Development was so good, for us it would be that this little situational comedy created its own dense, LOST-like mythology, which is something sitcoms hadn’t really done before and haven’t effectively been able to replicate with the same level of mastery since. This wasn’t a show where each new episode wiped away the stories, characters, and gags of the past, starting fresh and new as if past adventures had never occurred. It was a comedy where the events of the first episode were still just as integral to the over-arching plot as the events of any particular episode’s plot at any point in the series. And the same can be said for any episode at any point in the show’s run and it’s relation to any episode after it — and in some cases, before it. If you picked up watching the show from, say, the 9th episode of season 2, you would still be able to laugh, but you wouldn’t be laughing as hard as the person that has seen every episode prior to that 9th episode of the second season. Arrested Development stacked jokes on top of jokes and wrapped them in jokes and placed them in a box of jokes, and then just casually referenced the existence of that densely-packed box of jokes 15 episodes later. This small reference to the box of jokes would cause the box to explode violently, thus making you laugh even harder when you recognized it. It’s a level of comedic mastery that everybody working in comedy desperately wants to attain after years and years of practice, but so very few ever do, with The Simpsons being the only other show comparable on that front.

Arrested Development was a show that rewarded you with comedy for closely examining and dissecting every inch of every frame of every episode, but made you laugh just as hard if you had only glanced at it.

In a short, it was brilliant in the truest sense of the word.

And now we potentially have not only a film on the horizon, but a slew of new episodes. Of course, there’s always the fear that we fans have hyped the myth of the show so much so that we are setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointment with the final result, whatever form it may take. But right now, none of that really matters. What matters is the stars seem to be aligning — and their alignment may bring with it far more than Arrested fans have dreamed.

We’ve waited patiently for this day to come, and now it looks like the day is nearing.

Mitchell Hurwitz, cast and crew of the show, good luck putting your ambitious plans in to motion.

Besides, I didn’t just write over 1,300 words professing my love for you, only to later find out none of this is actually happening. If that ends up being the case, well, then it appears I just blue myself, and I must find a place to hide from the embarrassment.

Perhaps an attic I shall seek…

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