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May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


Middle America's Development is Arrested


The TV Whore / Seth Freilich


November 12, 2005

TV Reviews | May 13, 2006 | Comments ()


In years past, I’ve often told people that I thought “Arrested Development” was the best sitcom on network television. I had to make the “network” qualification because of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which was simply the funniest show on the tube (shut your face, HBO — if I watch it on my TV, it’s TV). This season, however, “Curb” has been lacking. It’s still funny, but not the brilliant funny it’s been in seasons past.

Which means that right now, “Arrested Development” is simply the best comedy on television, period. No qualifications.

Strike that. There is a qualification. Because last Thursday, it came out that Fox was cutting their season order down to a mere 13 episodes, and would not be picking up the back nine. When I heard this, I wept like a fat chick stuck home on prom night with only two Krispy Kreme donuts left to keep me company. And then on Friday, someone stole one of my donuts — word came out that the show’s run was more-or-less officially kaput. I wanted to go on a homicidal spree, unleashing the Furies on every Fox executive I could find, with a special gutting and flaying reserved for Rupert Murdoch and his old man balls.

But, after pounding back a fifth of vodka (to numb the pain), kicking a puppy (to vent my frustration) and watching The Terror of Tiny Town (because midgets are always funny), I got to thinking. Unlike many other things in this country, the cancellation of “Arrested Development” isn’t actually something we can entirely blame on Fox. After all, they gave this show two and a half years to develop a ratings foothold; it simply never managed to catch on. Now, Fox certainly could have done a much better job marketing the show, but the fact remains, aside from critics and a handful of smart folks, people just weren’t into this show.

Well, to quote George Carlin from his recent HBO special, “people are fucking dumb!”

In fact, Carlin pretty much summed up all of my thoughts on this matter by noting that “this country is full of nitwits and assholes … nitwits, assholes, fuckups, scumbags, jerkoffs and dipshits.” Now, just as Carlin made a qualification for the audience at his show, I am willing to make a similar qualification here. The Pajiba readers tend to be relatively smart (although not all of them — take a look at the comments if you don’t believe me) and discerning, and the comments I’ve previously received suggest that many of you recognize that brilliance that is/was “Arrested Development.” So I’m not talking about you, “but the rest of them, holy jumping fucking shitballs. Dumber than a second coat of paint.”

I haven’t seen any sort of geographical dispersal of where in this country “Arrested Development” is most watched, but I’d bet that last Krispy Kreme donut of mine that both coasts would light up like Christmas trees on that map, with a relatively dark void covering the rest of the country. Now, I blame a lot of things on the middle of this nation of ours. The current piss-poor political climate of this country. The rising trend to deem “Intelligent Design” a science. The popularity of country music. But none of these make me truly despise the Middle as much as this latest turn of events.

See, the thing about “Arrested Development” is that there’s no laugh track to tell the monkeys what’s funny. You know what monkeys are, right Middle America? They’re those things that humans evolved from (fact!). The show rewards careful and repeat viewers with running gags (like little blue handprints that would periodically show up on set pieces last season) and hilarious payoffs after multi-episode buildups (like the most recent episode which not only revealed that Charlize Theron’s character was a Mentally Retarded Female, putting all of her previous episodes in a whole new light, but which also let us know what had become of Annyong). In a nutshell, it assumes its viewers have the capability for smart, independent thought.

And that, of course, was its downfall from day one. Most of this country is not capable of smart or independent thought. So there’s only one solution: The Middle needs to be wiped out. Let’s just pull the two coasts together, and create a fantastic skinny country, with only hours separating New York from Los Angeles. Chicago can be spared and pulled onto the East Coast, and of course Vegas stays and gets added to the West Coast. But all the rest of it? Worthless flyovers that we don’t need. Maybe then, “Arrested Development” will get the ratings it needs, since it would have the same number of viewers but the per capita would go way the fuck up. Plus, I’d always be a stone’s throw from Vegas, and that’s never a bad thing.

(Publisher’s Note: One half of the Pajiba staff and its parent company hail from the middle of the country but would be willing to sacrifice ourselves for one more season of “Arrested.”)

Now I will note that all hope is not entirely lost. My understanding is that Fox has not officially cancelled the show and that there is a snowball’s chance in hell that it could get renewed again next spring. But this seems unlikely, particularly as Fox has apparently told the show’s producers that they are free to shop it around. And on that front, there is also a thin rumor running around that Showtime might be interested. Showtime would be a great fit for “Arrested Development.” The show’s survival would no longer be as closely tied to ratings and it would pair up excellently with the very funny “Weeds.” In fact, that would be a blockbuster hour of comedy that would even trump HBO (as much as I love Larry David and looooove Ricky Gervais, a “Weeds”/”Arrested Development” hour would kill HBO’s current “Curb”/”Extras” hour). So there is some hope for the future of the show, but let’s just say that the future ain’t so bright that you’ve got to wear shades.

Which means this: When “Arrested Development” returns in December, we’ll probably be watching the last new episodes ever. So treasure them like the last Krispy Kreme and, when all is said and done, say a prayer for the death of a brilliant show (come on Middle America, I know you know how to pray, right?).

And excuse me as I turn back to Mr. Carlin for a nice wrap-up quote on this subject: “We got some dumb motherfuckers floating around this country.”

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Seth Freilich is Pajiba’s television columnist. He lives in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t be happier that summer “intern season” is finally here.









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