Opinion: An Arrested Development, A Harsh Reality - Fan Week


By Jordan Reisman

Photo courtesy of Mollye Knox

Everything must end at some point; a dramatic sentiment to begin with, but a truth. This dramatic sensibility parallels the subsequent reactions to one of the biggest mistakes in the history of American media.

No, I am not talking about the “Dewey Beats Truman” headline or the A Million Little Pieces falsification…I am talking about the cancellation of Arrested Development. Of course, we all know that the cancellation of this early to mid-’00s gem is not nearly as consequential as some grand slip-ups, but that’s not the way that a lot of people would like to make it seem.

For many seasoned American television consumers, Arrested Development was considered the golden child of American comedy for the three seasons that it lasted on Fox. It picked up a few Emmys, made Carl Weathers a cult hero, and spawned countless phrases, such as “never nude” and “analrapist” that have wormed their way into popular lexicon. For all intents and purposes, this show was unstoppable. However, it got cancelled due to poor ratings, was cut a few episodes short, and never reached any kind of conclusion. Its creator, Mitch Hurwitz, wrote an article listing 11 reasons why the show got cancelled. Needless to say, fans were bummed.

But like so many other things that end before their time, the show’s popularity grew with leaps and bounds and it became somewhat of a cool cultural barometer for incoming college freshman and hipsters alike. It was even featured on “The Stuff White People Like” list for its counterculture persona and Caucasian-friendly references. As its popularity grew, so did the growing unrest that its fans felt because it did not “come to fruition.” Social media has steadily been littered with fans whining over the show’s early departure, and one particular iconic viral photo shows a protestor in 2008 with a sign that said “Obama: bring back Arrested Development.”

It’s clear that all of this lamenting was done with a slight ironic tinge (as many things that white people love), but the hurt and feelings of betrayal were real. Many feel as if the show should have lasted as long as a Seinfeld or Cheers instead of teasing the audience with such a brief stint.

This is where the problem lies with Arrested Development fans. Their unwillingness to accept the harsh reality that the critically acclaimed show, which shaped the senses of humor of so many clever, flowering youngsters, was cancelled. Now you might say, “Hey don’t be so hard on them! They’re just upset that the show was cancelled!” This argument would be valid, were it not for the incredible outcry of energy expended at “bringing the series back.”

“Of all the projects we’ve been involved with over the years, we probably get more questions about Mitch Hurtwitz’s brilliant ‘Arrested Development’ than any other — everyone, ourselves included, seems to feel like the Bluths left the party a bit too soon,” said show producers Ron Howard and Brian Gazer to the Los Angeles Times.

This sentiment, along with rumors circulating around a new season and movie, has prevailed for years. Finally fans got what they asked for, plans for a 14-episode reunion followed by a movie were announced in October of 2012 at the New Yorker Festival.

Fans rejoiced, ecstatic tweets were tweeted, and quirky references were made. I, however, was cynical. I really never was a gigantic fan of the show, and something about the news irked me. Is a “reunion” always such a brilliant move? 2012 saw countless band reunions, from Swedish noisecore act Refused to the Sandy Benefit “Nirvana” catastrophe, as a sort of “get your kicks while you can” means to a false apocalyptic end. The potential for failure is so high, and the internet, being the way that it is, would likely implode if fans with high expectations were disappointed with the results.

My guess? Fans like the “idea” of getting everyone back together for a reunion, but the good feelings never really last for that long. This reunion will happen and the movie will happen, and everyone will go on with their respective lives. But I suspect that the legacy of the show will be tarnished a little by the mere hype and overkill that the cancellation warranted. In an effort to satiate their fans’ hunger for more, they will effectively give away too much and leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

We live in a generation that claims to be innovative and progressive all the time, but how does that explain our obsession with bringing back shows and movies? How can we progress if we demand the same thing over and over? We constantly need things on demand and at our fingertips, but I believe that in the case of Arrested Development, we should let it rest in television history.

We need to stop lamenting over the non-existence of a reality where TV shows last forever and our favorite bands make a great album every year. I believe that it will be a turning point in our culture when we can accept the cancellations and break-ups and create something new in their wake. Let this be a message for the future that it is possible to accept the end of something great. I mean, that’s why you always leave a note, right?