The arrested development of Arrested Development


Over the past decade, Fox Broadcasting Company has become somewhat notorious for axing shows in their prime, or even before they get an opportunity to reach their prime. Firefly was cancelled before all 14 episodes in the first season were aired, despite a die-hard community of fans who fought to keep their beloved show on the air. Futurama aired on Fox from 1999 to 2003 before Fox cancelled Matt Groening’s second animated series, set in the year 3000. It was later picked up by Comedy Central in 2008.

Hell, even one of Fox’s main Sunday night attractions, Family Guy, was originally canned after only three seasons before syndicated reruns on Cartoon Network and DVD sales convinced Fox executives that maybe they should give the show another shot.

But, in my opinion, the worst move that Fox made over the past decade — besides keeping The Simpsons on the air — was their decision to cancel possibly the greatest American comedy series ever written: Arrested Development.
Arrested Development was on the air for three seasons — a much longer life than Firefly was ever afforded — but never caught on with mainstream audiences during its first season, despite high critical praise. Fox cut back on episodes for the second and third seasons, and continued to shuffle it around to different time slots. For the third season, Fox aired it opposite of Monday Night Football. As a final “fuck you” to the show and its fans, Fox aired a hasty two-hour series finale special — featuring the last four episodes that essentially wrapped up the series as effectively as possible — opposite the 2006 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. Come on!

Just thinking about how Fox mishandled one of the best shows of all-time — a claim backed by Time Magazine — makes me blue in the face. I can’t understand how a show with so much talent and such witty dialogue and writing could be discarded so easily, like throwing a letter into the ocean.

For those unfamiliar with the premise behind the series, Arrested Development focuses on Michael Bluth — perhaps the only sensible member of his dysfunctional family — as he attempts to keep the Bluth family company afloat while his father serves time in prison for illegal accounting practices. Michael is forced — seemingly against his better judgment and will — to keep his family together no matter what.

The family is made up of all sorts of awesome character-types. First there is Michael’s conniving, heavy drinking mother Lucille (Jessica Walter) and his imprisoned father George (Jeffrey Tambor). Then there are his siblings: the womanizing older brother Gob (Will Arnett) who happens to be a struggling magician, and younger brother Buster (Tony Hale) who is a man-child still living with his mother and suffering from anxiety attacks. Finally, there is his sister Lindsay (Portia de Rosa), an immoral socialite stuck in a sex-free marriage with Tobias Funke (David Cross), a failed analyst-therapist turned failed actor who steals scenes by saying the most suggestive innuendos ever conceived while remaining completely oblivious.

The family is rounded out with Michael’s son, George Michael (Michael Cera) and Maeby (Alia Shawkat), cousins whose weird and incestuous sexual tension is used for for great comedic effect.

On top of the incredible job done by all the main cast, Arrested Development featured perhaps the strongest supporting cast and cameo list for any show ever: Henry Winkler, Liza Minnelli, Ed Begley Jr., Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Charlize Theron, Amy Polher, David Thomas, Ben Stiller, Martin Short. Seriously, I could go on, but just believe me when I say that the show was never short of talented guest appearances.

So, if you haven’t seen Arrested Development yet, you’ve made a huge mistake. Go watch the three seasons on DVD and catch up on the most brilliant show that no one watched on television. Perhaps the only unfortunate part about watching the series retroactively is the fact that it constantly references relevant news stories from 2003-06. This, of course, would not have been a problem if Fox had allowed the show to continue to live and grow, but I’m not bitter.
Not at all. Really.

Recently, the widespread rumours of an Arrested Development movie were confirmed during a recent cast reunion at The New Yorker Festival earlier this month. Series creator Mitch Hurwitz stated his intention to release a nine or 10 episode season to set up an eventual movie. It seems this is contingent on Fox giving both projects the green light, but if they’re still willing to put out new seasons of The Simpsons and Family Guy — despite the dull, repetitious nature of these shows — surely they can allow for a proper send off to one of the most ingenious comedies that was ever cancelled.

And if Fox won’t pitch in to make it happen, there’s always money in the banana stand.