We stand on a precipice. The ground beneath us built by a one-armed man, a four-eyed secretary, and the Bluth family. Used as brick and mortar are three seasons of solid humour, clever wordplay, and nuanced characters that did not merely say and do funny things, they WERE funny.
This much is indisputable. Deny this and risk disclosing to the world your inability to find humour in the idea of a Blue Man Group understudy, an illusionist with daddy issues, and MR F. Fifty-three episodes later and ‘Arrested Development”s record remains untarnished.
But this might not always be the case.
In a short while, NetFlix will premiere the first of nine new episodes of ‘Arrested Development’ — each one focusing on a different Bluth — all to serve as an extended, fragmented prelude for the ‘Arrested Development’ movie, the holy grail long sought by the show’s fans (and supposedly by some of its cast) and return some semblance of sanity to the world of television (assuming it ever resided there at all).
In theory anyway.
Right now the show is perfect. It is the little red-haired girl to Charlie Brown, or The Smiths to… well, me. Entities whose perfection is protected by the unknown. Granted, this unwillingness to answer any question resembling “what if…” could deprive us of a life of contentment and plague us with nightmares of regret, but in the case of ‘Arrested Development’, the stakes are just too high.
Admittedly, I was one of the many who considered an ‘Arrested Development’ movie to be nothing short of a second coming. But now, faced with the reality, I’m not sure it can ever live up to the script in my mind nor its legacy on TV. They say good things come to those who wait. Given that fans have been waiting for the next chapter in the Bluth saga since the show went off the air seven years ago, the thing “coming” had better be pretty darn fantastic. I’m not so sure it will be.
Things have changed. I’ve changed. I’m no longer the impressionable 31-year-old I was when the show was cancelled. I’m now a grizzled 34-year-old, long in the tooth, with mud on my shoes. What if the antics I found funny in my youth no longer make any impression? If my tastebuds continue to mature, so shouldn’t my funny bone? All my friends are revelling in the ribald wit of Moliere, not chortling at a man in jean shorts. There is no guarantee that, having spent the last several years calibrating my comedy rifle with other TV targets, ‘Arrested Development’ is going to hit the bull’s eye. There’s also no guarantee that the writers will be able to recapture that inimitable tone that was the show’s signature on primetime but that’s far too much for my meagre brain to contemplate at this point. Certain assumptions must be made if I’m to avoid worrying myself into a coma (or, very light sleep).
The cast has also changed (i.e., they’ve continued to work to pay bills). Michael Cera is cool now. He’s off fighting evil ex-boyfriends. Jason Bateman can’t stop acting, chugging back role after role until the taste of ‘The Hogan Family’ and ‘Teen Wolf Too’ is rinsed from his mouth. And the rest of the cast, well… they’ve done some very nice things. But nothing that can rival their three seasons on ‘Arrested Development’.
Which is partially what is making me leery of this comeback. The actors have all reconvened because, quite frankly, there is nothing preventing them from doing so. That is, aside from Cera and Bateman, the rest of the cast hasn’t really managed to maintain a career, so their return to the model home resembles more the tale of the prodigal son rather than that of Odysseus (once he is finally recognized, that is). This shouldn’t have any bearing on the success of ‘Arrested Development’ but I can’t deny the external influences that play a role in the show’s return. Were we wrong to find them funny? I’ve tried watching Will Arnett in other shows and can safely say I laughed more at him during one episode of ‘Arrested Development’ than an entire season of his ersatz efforts.
I suppose what I’m trying to say with these rhetorical questions is, perhaps this show is best left in the past to stand the test of time as we know it will, where network execs cannot tarnish it and new episodes cannot dilute the purity of the original material. Let the movie reign at the box office; its medium precludes it from changing my regard for the televised show. But don’t toy with something so beautiful and fragile as ‘Arrested Development’.