My favourite comedies right now are cleverly written shows with large ensemble casts, no laugh tracks, a somewhat nonsensical sense of a humour and a healthy dose of self-reference: shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation and Community. What else do all these shows have in common? They owe a great amount to Arrested Development.
Arrested Development exists only as three seasons that originally ran in the USA from November 2003 till February 2006. At least, the body of work that is Arrested Development exists only as those three seasons; the show is much more than that. Like Firefly, Arrested Development is a cult hit with a life of its own.
It was that second life, the fandom surrounding the show, that saw AD given a second chance this year when Netflix worked out a deal to revive the series for a 10-episode season that will run exclusively on the Netflix website - all 10 episodes will be available simultaneously, and Netflix has said that the order could be expanded even further. No word yet on if or when the season might air in New Zealand.
I've been thinking about Arrested Development for the past few weeks, as we get closer to its return from exile and reports from the set are becoming more frequent. It is one of my favourite shows of all time, certainly one of my favourite comedies.
Thats why I'm nervous about whether the coming season, the revival of this wonderful show, can possibly satisfy the fans who managed to force creator Mitch Hurwitz and Netflix to bring it back.
There is a great deal of risk involved in bringing a show back due to fan demand, especially for the producers and networks pouring money into them. For every Family Guy-esque success story, there are a dozen shows like Jericho or Reaper which come back to even worse ratings and a smaller audience.
In the case of Arrested Development, it will have been nearly seven years since it was last broadcast before anyone sees it. And while I have every faith in the creative team behind the show, it's at least plausible that the magic could be gone. Not to mention that the show is held so reverentially in the minds of its fans that there is a good chance anything less than "the greatest television comedy ever made" might be a disappointment.
Yet, despite these challenges, my heart tells me that the revamped series will live up to the hype. The pieces are all in place: the original cast are all involved, from Jason Bateman right through to narrator Ron Howard (who will apparently make an appearance in person), and the creative team behind those first three seasons will be involved. The style of the show will be back too - it makes no sense to change the format of the show in any way.
Personally, I'm excited for the return of the Bluth family. As Ron Howard said in a statement, "everyone, ourselves included, seems to feel like the Bluths left the party a bit too soon".
I can't wait to spend a few more episodes with this dysfunctional family of colourful characters. Some of them were literally colourful, like when Tobias Funke joined the Blue Man Group and left blue stains all over the house. I want to go for a drive in the stair car, I want to have an awkward moment with George Michael and Maeby, and I want to drink unlimited juice.
But more than anything, I want to believe that creativity can win out over mass-produced, mainstream crap. We've been served too many second-rate comedies, the Anger Managements and Mike & Mollys of the television landscape. I want to believe that a unique and creative show that does something original can be more rewarding than doing something horrible and predictable. The return of Arrested Development has the potential to be just that.
Here's hoping there actually is always money in the banana stand.
Are you excited for the return of the Bluth family? Do you think the fourth season of Arrested Development will live up to the hype?
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