Arrested Development, Arrested

Try not to dwell on the MSPaint-looking “Closed” sign.

Next year, Arrested Development returns after having been mercilessly cancelled by Fox back in 2006. Ten brand spanking new episodes are being produced for distribution exclusively via Netflix, which is very exciting news for fans of great comedy.

My worry, though, is that the new Arrested Development is going to make the same mistake that other similarly revived shows made upon their triumphant returns. Shows brought back from the brink of disaster have a worrying habit of wasting their second chance nodding at their past rather than looking optimistically towards their future.

Two of my favourite shows, Futurama and Red Dwarf, were revived in recent years, and both fell prey to nostalgia. The first of the straight-to-DVD Futurama movies, “Bender’s Big Score”, seemed to hinge almost entirely on winks to the audience, nostalgic self-referential gags, and “Hey, remember this minor character and/or in-joke?” moments. “Into The Wild Green Yonder”, the fourth and final Futurama movie, also ended on a very forced note that tried to wrap up as many elements of the show as possible very quickly while also providing an opening should the show return for a full season (as it did last year, with somewhat disappointing results).

Similarly, the 2009 Red Dwarf miniseries “Back to Earth” intentionally recycled and referenced elements of previous episodes rather than making the effort to stand out and be it’s own thing. While in Red Dwarf‘s case this can be forgiven to an extent – the miniseries was an anniversary event intended to celebrate the series – it does unfortunately mean that, as a story, “Back to Earth” struggles to stand on its own two feet.

Other successful show revivals such as Doctor Who and Family Guy somehow found it within themselves to soldier onward almost as though they’d never been off the air (aside from the opening scene of Family Guy‘s fourth season, which pokes fun at the Fox Network’s predilection for greenlighting and cancelling shows almost in the same breath).

With Doctor Who, then-showrunner Russell T Davies made a very deliberate choice not to refer heavily to the classic series, despite being a continuation. This made the first episode much more accessible and, more importantly, didn’t bog it down in self-reference and continuity. Anyone can watch “Rose” and enjoy it, but I have a hard time imagining non-Futurama fans getting much out of “Bender’s Big Score”.

The new Arrested Development ultimately has to make good on the promise that “new” implies – new stories featuring the same characters. No wasting time paying lip-service to the past, just focusing on what’s to come. If they can check that box, if they can get through the ten episodes without relying too heavily on Remember-Whens and in-jokes, then they can’t go wrong.

Y’know, unless it sucks.

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  1. But on the other hand, a lot of Arrested Development is in-jokes and remember-whens. Albeit to unseen events in the most part. Part of me suspects that might be what will happen- lots of references to things that happened between 2006 and 2013 with no real explanations, just a load of vaguely defined noodle incidents.

    • That’s fine, I’d just prefer they didn’t spend the better part of an episode rehashing thigns that happened during the show’s original run.

  2. Season 3 really started to feel that way in spots. I really hope they can push past it and go for fresher material. We already watched those old episodes a million times, guys. Let’s joke about something new, like a… new chicken dance!


  3. >fell pray

    fell prey.

    Unless they became particularly religious all of a sudden.

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