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The Arrested Development of Arrested Development: The Original Series and Beyond
I first started watching Arrested Development with the premiere of the second season on Fox in 2004. Strangely enough, I was prompted to do this by the massive tie-in the series had with Burger King. In my younger days, I enjoyed eating at that establishment, and in the early fall of 2004, each of the tables was adorned with a promotional paperboard stand-up for the relatively new series. After hearing all the positive buzz, I decided to give the second season premiere a try, and almost instantly I became a fan.
Looking back at the show's three-season run now, one can easily draw comparisons to similarly produced comedies currently airing. But at the time, a "single-camera" show that shot on location as much as in a studio and contained no laugh track was a rarity in American television. The situations it depicted were far from the cut-and-dry sitcom plots of decades past, and it seemed that no real “lesson” was learned at the end. Rather, many elements of the plot were continuous throughout the run of the show. No episode was self contained, yet a new viewer could be easily caught up on the central family's antics through narrative breaks and flashbacks. These breaks rarely overpowered the current plot, but instead they often added even more humor and amplified the entertainment factor. Nearly every occurrence depicted was so bizarre, yet somehow believable, that the show felt truly original.
Of course, something that entertaining and unique at that time was destined to be cut short.
Fans and critics fought for a third season, besieging Fox with letters and petitions until a third season was finally confirmed. Eventually, it appeared in a truncated 12-episode run, and the last four episodes were aired back-to-back against the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympiad. Needless to say, they ranked last in the ratings that night, giving Fox's cancellation decision a concrete excuse.
After the show's demise, word of mouth actually grew, but by then it was too late. Still, through DVD, cable, and internet streaming, a new audience for the show was born, and now even more fans began clamoring for the movie version alluded to by Ron Howard himself in the show's final episode.
Rumors of a movie version persisted through 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Each year, someone associated with the show would claim that shooting “could start” later that year. The latest semi-formal announcement came in 2011, and now millions of fans are awaiting a new miniseries and a feature film. But we are now five years out from the series' conclusion, and network and cable programming slates are currently cluttered with shows arguably inspired by Development. Each of these has its own dedicated fanbase, and while fans of Arrested would still certainly welcome further episodes and a film, they now have more to fulfill their appetites for single-camera comedies. Recent developments have indicated the new miniseries will premiere in 2013. Still, each year that passes without the semi-promised film leads to more disappointment amongst fans, and one begins to wonder just how long they will wait before interest wanes.
As with all works of art, however, we still have the original. There are still millions who have not seen the show, leading their friends who have seen it to find yet another excuse to re-watch the three-season run on DVD. Those 53 episodes still hold many charms and on each subsequent viewing there seem to be more hidden allusions and morsels to discover. Regardless of how long it takes for the new miniseries and film to come to fruition, at least we still have those three seasons of unique hilarity to entertain us for decades to come.