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The Internet Is Being a Whiny, Spoiled B*tch About the Return of "Arrested Development" But It Didn't Ruin Anything

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | May 29, 2013 | Comments ()


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People often blame the cable's 24-hour news cycle for the downfall of "journalism," but the Internet also runs on a 24-hour news cycle, and there are far more online outlets than there are cable news channels. Pop culture and television review sites have to fill our pages full of content each and every day, and we love to please the masses because it means masses of page views. That's been no more apparent than in this short week's coverage of season four of "Arrested Development," in which we all have an opinion, and we all want to deliver that opinion before you've had a chance to make your own (we are just as much to blame, and though we waited until Tuesday, we wanted to be at least slightly ahead of the curve, and claim our own piece of ownership over the series).

It's become more and more clear that the Internet is a better place to discuss what we've already seen than to provide pre-viewing analysis. This is why television discussions are so popular now: They provide a place where we can hash over our thoughts after we've seen something, and even with movie reviews, most of us find them more valuable after we've seen a movie than before (and Dan and I are even having some discussions about tinkering with our film reviews to reflect that). Unfortunately, in the Internet's race to get ahead, we've taken away some of the joys of discovery. It's not just pop-culture websites, mind you. It's your Facebook and Twitter friends, all of whom want to be the first to spot the gag and Tweet about it, much to the dismay of those of you who are still on episode two or three because YOU HAVE A LIFE.

That said, the Internet did not ruin "Arrested Development," as some are decrying. No one ruined "Arrested Development" because "Arrested Development" is not ruined. In the race to provide that quick analysis on season four, the Internet has already basically chewed through three news cycles, transitioning from initial disappointment to grand appreciation of the series, and by yesterday, to the post-mortem on a series that was only three days old.

Here are some of the less flattering headlines and blurbs from around the Internet.

How the Internet Ruined "Arrested Development"

Sure, some spurned fans bashed it, and diehards offered over-generous defenses, but there was no tidal wave of commentary and immediate dissection to match the massive pre-release media swell. There was no show-ruining online criticism heedlessly flying in, as has happened in the past, and has nearly destroyed other cultural products. But I still think the internet ruined Arrested Development. The culprits were not, this time, the tweeting critical masses who populate the internet, but the expectations inherent in the internet's architecture itself.

Why 'Arrested Development's' Fourth Season Is a Bust: Contracts and More

People forget that Star Wars creator George Lucas didn't direct The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, so when the prequel movies were released, fans were surprised to find how sloppy they were. It was all too Lucas-y. The same holds true for Arrested Development. All of the episodes in the new season are co-directed by series creator Hurwitz and Troy Miller. Hurwitz had never directed a single episode of Arrested Development before this season.

'Arrested Development' Fourth Season Premiere: An Early Assessment

Arrested Development has lost a step or two in its long stint on the sidelines. The pacing is notably slower than during its original run and the show lacks the breathtaking density that characterized its glorious past. At its worst, the new/old Arrested Development is reduced to doing an shaky imitation of itself: the characters and themes are there but the beats are slightly off, as is the tone.

Todd VanDerWerff's review over on the AV Club

It's an occasionally hilarious, sometimes boring, always bloated boondoggle of a project, and it's the sort of thing that's at once staggering in its ambition and hard to approach with anything like real affection.


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I could see -- in a theoretical world where I lived inside of the Internet's echo chamber -- how these reviews and think pieces might have soured me on "Arrested Development" before I'd even finished the series. But that's a world occupied mostly by pop culture critics and obsessive Twitterers, which is to say: Far less than one percent of the population. Every one else probably never saw these pieces, ignored them (early coverage on "AD" has not been a huge boon to page views because people want to wait and discover the series on their own before they read these pieces), or filtered them through their own perceptions.

All of which is to say, much to the apocalyptic naysayers' dismay, the Internet has ruined nothing. Netflix's strategy to release all episodes at once has ruined nothing. In fact, unless you live your life in lockstep with the AV Club or the WSJ or The Daily Beast or Sepinwall or us, nothing has been ruined. You can still enjoy "Arrested Development" at your own goddamn pace. You can still make those sweet discoveries all by yourself. The Internet has no power of you. It can enlighten. It can inform. It can entertain. It can deepen your appreciation. It can do things to, uh, cat pictures that you have never imagined. But the Internet cannot take joy away from you unless you let it, unless you allow some critic to have that power over you. With something as big and as meaningful as "Arrested Development," 99 percent of you are going to make up your own minds, and while you may point to the thoughts of other critics as being in line with yours, it seems highly unlikely that a few negative reviews are going to dissuade you from watching a series that you have been anticipating for years. The Internet did not ruin "Arrested Development," and for anyone to suggest otherwise is insulting.

As to the quality of "Arrested Development," make up your own mind. While you may agree with Todd VanDerWerff or others, who were probably composing their reviews on three hours of sleep (well, yeah, you're going to find something lacking when you haven't slept in two days), I do hope you can appreciate season four for what it is (a brilliantly structured, multi-layered comedic treat) instead of for what it isn't ("Arrested Development"seasons one through three).





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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • ellaminnowpee

    I feel like just because it wasn't *perfect* people are way too quick to slam it and I think a lot of that is because of how much hype there was going in. Really, could anything honestly live up to that build-up?

    IMHO, the season was fine. The jokes were often quite funny, but the structure - which was necessitated by the complicated schedules of the actors - was a little odd and the plot little too convoluted at times. I felt like a lot of the emphasis was on paying nods to the fans in the forms of referencing favorite bits and jokes and that may have gotten in the way of clean storytelling a bit, but I don't think it was bad. Will definitely require multiple viewings.

  • I was thinking about the impending "Veronica Mars" film, and what the response to "Arrested Development" season 4 would have been if it was kickstarted, and what kind of pressure this might put on Rob Thomas and company?

    Personally I think the 4th season is a rousing success; elegantly different, dense as fuck, and perhaps a little baffling at times. The political humor lost its subtlety and was a little pretentiously annoying, and surprisingly dated but fuck... It's the fourth season---

    Remember when Buffy met up with an underground, government run, black ops team, fell in love with Reily, and fought a robot demon, or when Cordelia banged Connor and gave birth to a goddess, because of eternal darkness or something...How about when "The Gang Cracked the Liberty Bell", the cast of Community turned into puppets, Kramer mistaken for a serial killer, Michael and Jan living together... gah.. Shit gets dark in season 4... and hard to digest... because when you know someone long enough, and intimately enough, the cracks in the foundation show as they get comfortable around you, and maybe a little scared, and they want to impress you by doing something different, or being a little spontaneous.

    "Arrested Development" went out of its way and in its own way, in its own way... and I reiterate... it could have been "Community" season 4... I MEAN WHAT EVEN HAPPENED WITH CITY COLLEGE?

  • Robert

    Concern trolling only works if you click on it and engage with it. These "the sky is falling!" Arrested Development write-ups are concern trolling.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It’s become more and more clear that the Internet is a better place to discuss what we’ve already seen than to provide pre-viewing analysis.

    That's as should be, btw. It is silly to spend more time guessing/imagining a project than discussing it after having actually watched it.

  • googergieger

    Most of the talk I've seen has been pretty positive. At least on twitter.

  • Arran

    The reviews on Metacritic are mostly positive. I think the "THEY'VE RUINED IT" pieces are just more attention-grabbing. Overall reaction does seem to be on the positive side (with caveats).

  • Arran

    VanDerWerff's review was actually pretty thoughtful, and overall mostly positive (he did give it a B, after all). Also, at least he took a few days to come out with it. Most of the ones I saw burying the show came out the same day it debuted. Ridiculous. I don't care if you're negative OR positive, but if your overall review/thinkpiece based on eight hours of (fairly complex) television comes out the same day as it was released, then it's pretty obvious you're just grasping for page clicks.

    ("First impressions" write-ups based on a couple of episodes are okay in this regard.)

  • I haven't watched the new season yet. Just getting that out of the way. That said, I don't really have a huge problem with Netflix's release strategy but I do feel like it may hurt the overall online reaction/discussion of the series. Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Walking Dead et cetera offer a break between episodes where we can collectively digest what we've seen and build anticipation for what is coming next. By releasing every episode at once it's easy to overwhelm your audience and stifle discussion as people who only have the chance to screen an episode here or there will most likely be reluctant to participate in a conversation with people who have watched the whole season. I don't want to come off as someone who is complaining about Netflix taking a logical step in the way that television will be consumed going forward, I'm just not sure we've adapted to it yet as it relates to pop criticism. Or at least I haven't.

  • alwaysanswerb

    I agree with this. I've been budgeting myself to watch an episode or two per day, and what that means for me is that I'm probably not going to be able to read some of my favorite entertainment blogs' (hello, Pajiba!) pieces on the thing until a few weeks from now, by which the discussion will be pretty much over, if comments aren't closed entirely. This is not Pajiba's fault, nor mine, nor Netflix's, but there is a logistical issue at play. Shows like AD are so engrained in the pop culture canon that so much of the fun is discussing it with like-minded individuals (again, hello Pajiba) and to miss out on that experience is a sad thing for me.

  • ExUSA

    This is what I don't get about the 4th season-- if you have an ensemble cast why break that up? With the Bluths, the sum is greater than its parts. On their own, they are misanthropic and hateful; together they are a family.

    That was the element that was missing for me, and made this season feel lacklustre. When they're all ribbing and playing off each other I can relate. When you see them being unlikeable by themselves, I didn't want to relate.

    The decision to focus on them as individuals outside of their family just sort of baffled me.

    The notable exception being Lucille. Because she's just great period.

  • Bert_McGurt

    I believe that was largely a result of scheduling on the parts of the very in-demand main cast. Cera and Bateman have movies going on, Hale and Walter have regular series jobs to work around...getting them all together at the same time apparently wasn't possible.

    I think that's also why we saw so much more time spent with side characters like Tony Wonder, Ron Howard and Argyle Austero.

  • habshockeygrl

    The decision was based on the actor's ability to film. Because of their schedules nobody was able to be at the same place/same time. This was the work around so that the show could be made. I actually love seeing how things tie together.

  • the dude

    And G.O.B , and George Michael, and MAeby and Michael too.

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