If you haven’t heard (and if you frequent the internet, it is not really possible), “Arrested Development” is returning to Netflix for a fourth season after a seven-year departure from the airwaves. Two and a half seasons of hilarious bliss were followed by television silence that was occasionally interrupted by Will Arnett making shit up about a feature film whenever he was promoting a 3-D gerbil movie. Do you still miss the show? I do. Even though you and I probably have very little in common otherwise, even the most anti-hipster asshole who is terribly television shy (such as myself) can bond over that wacky Bluth family. Hell, Diablo Cody even once used “Arrested Development” as an example to level the playing field between herself and her haters:
“I may have won 19 awards that you don’t feel I earned, but it’s neither original nor relevant to slag on Juno. Really. And you’re not some bold, singular voice of dissent, You are exactly like everyone else in your zeitgeisty-demo-lifestyle pod. You are even like me. (I, too, loved “Arrested Development”! Aren’t we a pretty pair of cultural mavericks?)
Ahhh, yes. “Arrested Development,” the great equalizer. Who didn’t positively adore this show that managed to be quirky without being overly nauseating at the same time? Even I couldn’t resist the lure of clever writing, great stunt casting, and extreme ensemble weirdness (even though I do have a favorite cast member — Portia De Rossi). Although admittedly, I harbor a very difficult relationship with television. In sharp contrast to The Station Agents, I find myself increasingly resistant to warm up to new programming. But “AD” really got under my skin in a good way.
Here’s the thing — I am insanely afraid of growing attached to television shows because of several bad past experiences in which I became attached to specific programs only to watch them be mercilessly cancelled (some of them with an unanswered cliffhanger, damn it). So even though I have never watched an episode of “Community” (yes, I’m such a cultural dearth, aren’t I?), I can certainly empathize with those of you who find that all of your favorite shows will be cancelled. Hey, it’s true.
I feel like television “loves you and leaves you” in a way that movies, which hit the screen with a finite, pre-announced viewing duration, will never do. In sharp contrast, television shows can stick around from anywhere between a half season (or less) to a good decade or even longer. You just never know what you’re going to get, and the continued existence of a television show is (naturally, and as it should be) dependent upon viewing numbers and advertising dollars. There are many wonderful people (I’m not one of them) who organize their social lives around weekly viewing parties for their favorite shows, but it’s just such a risky proposition for me. Like, I remember getting really into “The X-Files” and being so disappointed as the final seasons of the show deteriorated. Yes, even worse than the shows that end too early are the ones who wear out their welcome. At the same time, I’ve begrudgingly let myself grow attached to a small sampling of shows over the past handful of years. “Justified,” “Mad Men,” and “Californication” are three of the shows for which I’ll admit risking the rejection of their inevitable cancellation.
But should a cancelled show really return? I don’t think so. After all, I’d hate for “My So-Called Life” to return only for us to find out that Angela Chase rejected Brian Krakow’s season finale confession of a crush, and then he decided to say goodbye to the cruel world. Even worse would be if she actually ended up marrying Brian and living a life of boredom that would be inevitably interrupted by her own personal Hallie Lowenthal. You can’t go back and have the same sort of magic. Cancellations happen for a reason, and it’s best to just let a show go when that happens.
Perhaps the worst omen about “Arrested Development’s return is that the only reason this show is even coming back is because Michael Cera’s career finally died after beating itself into a twee ball of twine after Hollywood mistakenly fashioned Cera into the breakout star of the show. Cera was actually the one who quashed any idea of a reunion for years, but now that he’s back with stuttering tail between hipster legs, they’ve made the guy a writer too. What’s more — the show will apparently be quite different than how it was previously organized.
In the new season of “Arrested Development,” the characters will not interact with each other on a large scale basis. There will be no more multiple story lines per episode, no more hilariously enlightening flashbacks, and no more deliciously woven chicken-dance extravaganzas wherein characters pop out of the woodwork to add to the absurdity of the scene at hand. Instead, each episode will revolve only around Jason Bateman’s central character (Michael Bluth) and one other player. This format is apparently necessary for two reasons: (1) Most of the ensemble actors involved in the series are so busy now that schedules need serious juggling; (2) Producers also feel that this method will eventually lead to a full-length feature film. This leads to the obvious conclusion that all parties involved, both cast and crew, are only participating in this reunion for the dangling dollar involved with a future movie. Can a previously wonderful, seemingly organic show like the original actually prosper under such constrictive conditions? “Arrested Development” cannot flourish in such a way, but sure, you guys go ahead and watch that mess. Get yourselves all reattached, and let your heart be freeze-dried and chewed apart by a rogue seal. Have fun with that.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.