The Internet tends to encourage us to latch on to things, obsess over them, and get all worked up until we collectively black out and wake up with every Chuck Norris movie on DVD, watching Betty White host SNL while we post angry Facebook statuses about how hot Ryan Gosling is. Go ahead and google “Arrested Development.” See? 18 MILLION results, only 1/10 of them are porn. The Internet loves Arrested Development (and also porn). And those of us who spend our lives on the Internet love demanding that the prematurely-cancelled show be given another chance. But now that we’re getting what we’ve been begging for after six years, it’s time for us to ask ourselves: have we made a terrible mistake? Is there any way the new stuff can live up to our expectations?
The reason people love AD so much is that, in addition to the sharp writing and imaginative plots, it rewards you for paying attention. They employ running jokes, call backs and foreshadowing that you may not catch on the first, second or third viewing. (The little musical sting when Buster says “I never thought I’d miss a hand so much,” for example). The narrator who tells you when they’re lying and makes sure to plug Burger King. The wordplay that borders on obsessive. Weirdly hilarious one-note characters like Steve Holt (“Steve Holt!”). In short, it had a style. It had crazy style. Saying Arrested Development had a unique voice is like saying Pol Pot had a mean streak and no tickle spots. And saying it appeals to the hyper-analytical DVD freeze-framer is like saying breasts appeal to men (see: internet, porn).
But we’ve seen shows come back from cancellation before. Inevitably, when they return there is a lot of fanfare and fanboy love and then after a couple of episodes it starts to establish that, hey, it’s been a while and the writers have some new ideas. Some of them have had kids, or have gotten divorced, or worked on other shows. They’re bringing a new perspective to the show. This is usually met with outrage by one group of the shows fans (“What happened? Why does Damages suck now?”), confusion by that group’s loved ones (“Honey, I thought you were happy your show was back on.”) and then the message boards become a troll breeding ground (“OMG BinkieBlowBot87K15 u goddamm moron. How dare u like the new eps?! I WILL EAT YUR CHILDREN IRL!”). And the other half of the show’s fans become the whole new fan base.
The thing is, this happens regardless of whether or not the show gets cancelled. Compare a Simpsons episode from this month to one from season 6 (wait, no. Don’t watch a new Simpsons episode). Or last week’s episode of The Office to one from season 2. Shows evolve, characters show up and disappear. Plot lines open up and others are resolved. But when it hasn’t had a proper run of episodes to establish its course, the show’s evolution doesn’t feel like evolution. It just feels…different.
Case in point: Remember Family Guy? I mean, the old Family Guy. The one with that baby who was a bond villain, the dog who was an intelligent and understated dog who could not drive a car. The one with that girl Meg who had problems that didn’t involve her family hating her. Here, I found a jpeg to illustrate my point. I’m not saying the new Family Guy episodes are less funny. In fact, there is a very convincing case to be made that it’s a funnier show now. But is it the same show it used to be? No. And the shift felt as sudden as Pinocchio violating Geppetto. Ditto Futurama and Beavis and Butthead, both of which are currently airing in a post-cancellation return.
But of course, it’s even harder for a live-action show. Animated shows rely on the writers to maintain the show’s attitude and tone almost exclusively (if the animators can keep drawing in basically the same style). But Arrested Development is facing the additional problem of having to deal with actors who are now six years older, living in a far different cultural and economic world than the one they lived in when we last saw them. I just watched “Maeby” smoke meth and tell Ed Helms he can row down the coco-canal with her in Cedar Rapids. “George Michael” is also Scott Pilgrim, which is really just Michael Cera because that dude has no range, but you get my point. Can they simply step back into the roles we loved them in without losing any thing? I hope so. But I’m not going to act like it’s a sure thing.
The short answer to the titular question of this article is, well, yeah. We do want Arrested Development back. Even if it’s not the same show we remember, we still want it. It’s hopefully good news that Netflix has gotten the production rights. They need this to be good (because they seem to be genuinely bad at being a business), so they should give Hurwitz and team the leeway they need. Also, their streaming format is going to make it so easy to marathon episodes, I’m already gasping like Buster in anticipation of a juice box.
But please, internet, just remember that we tend to get a little….worked up about these things (and the porn). So let’s hope the new AD is everything we’ve been collectively dreaming of. But let’s all take a breath, and remember that there’s always a chance it won’t be exactly how it is in our dreams. But that’s okay! It will probably still be funny!
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Written by Myles Cockcroft (@myleswithay)
Myles Hewette Cockcroft is a writer, comedian and part-time unemployed person living in Brooklyn, New York. When not watching terrible movies on Netflix streaming, he watches TV shows from his youth over and over again, often while weeping and cursing the heavens. He co-wrote and directed the short film My… More »
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