Nearly a decade has passed since the indefatigable Arrested Development went off the air but never out of our hearts. It was entertainment of the tallest order. The show squeezed in an incredible amount of laughs, both high, and low brow in every episode. It was a show that was intellectual, packed with in-jokes, innuendo, and double entendres, making it the closest modern day equivalent to Shakespeare we've had in years. It had enough mental illnesses to fill a DSM and enough sexual perversions to give a room filled with Freuds a lifetime to discuss; analogous to the analyses paid to Ulysses, except no one has had to pretend to enjoy Arrested Development. Well here's to you, you first ever "analysts and combined therapists," magicians barred from performing at the "magician's alliance," and more famous for gaffes than stunts, self-aggrandizing alcoholics, put-upon martyrs, young con women who know how far a pretty face can carry them, and ruthless patriarchs who place an emphasis on family, if only to exploit them, and take advantage of their likeness, because your desultory heroes are back, but are they better than ever or better than the alternative?
There are enough Two and A Half Men style sitcoms, i.e. formulaic and idiotic. Are the jokes telegraphed a mile away? As the The Dude would say "does the pope defecate in the woods?” There are the dime a dozen American Idols that have gone on for a hundred seasons, produced maybe a handful of stars and spawned maybe one reputable career. Survivor finally met an inevitable conclusion with a death of a participant. Surprised? Maybe you'd be taken aback to realize the stars of Jackass, while filthy rich, are riddled with who knows what diseases and will be having more doctor appointments than they've all had hot meals combined.
Three episodes into the return of Arrested Development and the range has varied widely. Am I overjoyed to be watching A.D. again? Would a paraplegic like to walk again? Then again, what if there were some strings attached their "walking," say they had to spend a quarter of the time skateboarding everywhere and if they wanted to work out they had the choice of treadmill or Stair Master. Disorienting? Unreal? Unfair? Yes to all of the above but both of us would feel ungrateful to express consternation at the turn of events. The handicapped have a better leg to stand on but us A.D. fans have our own crosses to bear. To criticize is blasphemy. Did Moses come down from the mountain to be greeted with "those are pretty good, but how 'bout putting one in about littering? Not touching kids? Keeping your employees pensions intact?” They're all good points but ten's a nice round number, and give Moses a break, those things must have weighed a ton as is.
Then again, the reverence paid to Arrested Development has always bordered closer to the praise of a cult, rather than a cult hit. It could do no wrong. Every show before and after it were ludicrous attempts at entertainment. The seven long years have done little in the way of abating A.D. fever but it still presents a unique challenge. Large gaps in film are rare, but not unheard of. Terminator 2 was released eight years after the first without any major jarring of the senses. It was a great film and the cast nailed their old roles. Then again how hard can it be to play an emotionless cyborg? There was a 25 year gap in between The Hustler and The Color of Money. We saw a more mature Fast Eddie but not a completely new character. How did the movie fare? It wasn’t bad but it was certainly no Hustler. Large gaps in television are much rarer and are usually comprised of remakes into film (The Dukes of Hazzard,) or rebooted into new television series (Dallas, Beverly Hills 90210). We’ll have to wait and see if the creators should have left on the high note, or strike while the iron was hot and the fans still wanted to see more Arrested Development.
Jack Gayer writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.