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Friday, June 14, 2024

Arrested Audience: the show we still can’t let go of watching

For the past several months now, my Facebook newsfeed has been clogged with the laments of “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones” fans who complain mostly about the same thing: the injustice of the fact the season finales of their beloved shows end with cliff hangers.

I could never understand why these viewers get so upset, as both of these series are based on comic books and novels, which means the conclusions to these shows were actually released years ago. Besides, should they decide not to — God forbid — read anything, they only have to wait a few months for new episodes. This I don’t understand because as an “Arrested Development” fan, I had to wait seven years.

And such is the life of an “Arrested Development” fan — one ruled by bitter, jilted, television-hating resentment. Resentment about the fact that what was arguably the most original writing on television was canceled while the mind-numbing tedium of shows like “Two and a Half Men” went right along their merry way — even after their main character “broke” character just long enough to show America the collection of hookers he kept readily available in the horror shop he called a mansion. Which brings us back to season four of “Arrested Development.”

Season four was released just last week, and it is, for lack of a better word, different. Fans, if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. But let’s be honest, you’ve seen it, because if you’re an “Arrested Development” fan, you’ve likely spent the last seven years watching the previous three seasons over and over again to the extent you could recite the entire show linearly. The fan base of “Arrested Development” is not a fan base so much as it is a cult. And you’ve likely already formed an opinion about it and have likely already tweeted or Facebooked about it, and you’re probably only reading this to see which reference to the show I’ll decide to pay homage to. But then, I’m no more a writer than I am a gentleman beekeeper — you’re welcome, fans — and so I will direct this to any non-fan who has lived under a rock long enough not to have seen the latest episodes. And to that I will say this: Stop whatever it is that you are doing and go watch all four seasons of this show.

In short, it is time to start living.

Dan Zak from the Washington Times put it best when he said the new season is “a chore to watch.” And he was right. Because once you start watching, it is all but impossible to stop. What makes season four so different from one through three is the breadth and scope of its interconnected plot. While the previous show’s episodes were 22 minutes long and neatly capped at the end with a culmination of the day’s comedic insanity, season four’s episodes span years and tie together a multitude of events, jumping back and forth through time as it follows single characters to build comedy in a symphonic way. It’s one that ultimately brings the season to its satirical, burlesque-induced crescendo. Picture Beethoven’s Fifth symphony composed with laughter.

The end of season four is one of the most rewarding TV experiences I have ever had. There are no spoilers here, but I will say that I have already began to rewatch in an attempt to piece together the comedy crumbs sprinkled throughout by the show’s creator, Mitchell Hurwitz.

You may hesitate to watch when you hear people complain that the show’s not the same — that they butchered the “Arrested Development”-ness right out of it. They are not completely wrong: It is different — but for the better. What Hurwitz did was a nod to his fans, and he wanted to give them something special, artful and twisted beyond all reason. And that he did.

He did not resuscitate “Arrested Development” — he created something new, just for us. A friend of mine who watched the new season said, ever so eloquently, “Anyone who hates on this is an idiot. This is the most brilliant writing I’ve ever seen.” Granted, this is the same friend who texted me after watching “Shame” and said he might be a sex addict. But there’s one thing I can’t disagree with: The show’s writing is brilliant — addictively, compulsively so.

Happy watching.

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