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Arrested Development: Too Big For Niche, Too Small For Mass?

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I loved the first season of Arrested Development in ’03-’04; the particularity of its absurdity was sharp and richly detailed rendering its inventive satire on American values, the idle rich, the formerly idle rich, the formerly rich but still idle, and intra-family relationships telling as well as hilarious. The show was somehow scabrous but ingratiating at the same time; portrayed by an exceptional ensemble cast headed by a reemergent Jason Bateman. And it perfectly capped off the Fox Sunday night-o-comedy, preceded by The Simpsons, Bernie Mac, and Malcolm In the Middle.

The critics and the industry loved the show as well, awarding it with glowing reviews and Emmys. But it never found an audience, at least one large enough to sustain it on the “mass” end of mass media, network television.

We remained enthusiastic into the second season, but felt the connection slip away as plotting meandered, characters became parodies of parodies, and relationships crossed the line from the pointedly absurd into the pathetic.

When Fox moved the show to Mondays for the third season, we simply lost touch, and now Fox — after threatening the ax nearly from the beginning — has lowered the boom and is finishing out the reduced, 13-episode string opposite the Winter Olympics; which, unless you are American Idol, is like being buried without a funeral.

And yet others remain just as fervent in their support and want to see the show picked up another network or by cable: Arrested Development is dead. Long live Arrested Development. Our coverage has been dense and passionate all along:

The Arrested Development Bluth Family Deserves Bin Laden
Hey, if I thought the Bluth family was anything like representative of America, I’d vote to turn the keys over to Bin Laden.
Posted to Video by Al Barger on February 18, 2006 12:07 PM

A Television Viewer’s Diary and News: 2/5-2-11: Arrested Development
Before jumping into my viewing of last week, thought I may add some television notes for last week. Superbowl XL Tops the Charts. The championship game, in which the Steelers defeated the Seahawks 21-10, topped the Nielsen ratings with a 41.6…
Posted to Video by Chris Beaumont on February 15, 2006 12:53 AM

Arrested Development: “A very heavy nap”
A fond farewell that is hopefully premature.
Posted to Video by Tom Johnson on February 14, 2006 01:43 PM

TV Review: Arrested Development Series Finale
My people are from Kentucky, but even I’ve never seen as much damned incest as the Arrested Development series finale having sex with itself.
Posted to Video by Al Barger on February 11, 2006 12:58 AM

Possible Series Finale Of Arrested Development Airs Tonight
The Winter Olympics come every four years. However, tonight could be your very last chance to see new episodes of Arrested Development … ever.
Posted to Video by Sterfish on February 10, 2006 04:54 PM

Arrested Development – Not Dead Yet, But …
The show hasn’t been officially cancelled, but the remaining episodes are suspiciously absent from Fox’s schedule.
Posted to Video by Diane Kristine on January 9, 2006 06:03 AM

A Television Viewer’s Diary: 12/11-12/17: Arrested Development
Weekly round up of television
Posted to Video by Chris Beaumont on December 18, 2005 10:27 PM

Writers Guild Awards Nominate Best in Television
Favourites like Lost, Desperate Housewives, Arrested Development compete with newcomers like Grey’s Anatomy and My Name Is Earl
Posted to Video by Diane Kristine on December 16, 2005 12:05 AM

Arrested Development to Stop Developing
Damn it. That was my first reaction to reading the news that Arrested Development was being canceled. What were they thinking? What could possibly have been going through their tiny little minds when this decision was made? It is just…
Posted to Video by Chris Beaumont on November 12, 2005 10:00 PM

End of the Line for Fox’s Arrested Development?
The smartest and funniest show on television — cable or network — is clearly nearing its demise.
Posted to Video by Michael J. West on November 12, 2005 01:57 PM

Arrested Development: why? why!?
If I could make it rate with just the awesome power of my mind, I would.
Posted to Video by teletart on September 27, 2005 02:14 PM

Premiere Round-up: Haiku Reviews
Arrested Development, The Office, Kitchen Confidential, My Name is Earl
Posted to Video by teletart on September 23, 2005 04:40 PM

Sitcom Death and TV Comedy Rebirth: Single-Camera, Multi-Camera, and a Breathtakingly Brief History of Comedy
“The sitcom is dead.” I hear a good deal of this nowadays. Indeed, I must admit that when I flip through the sitcom-laden channels of an evening, hoping against hope for a laugh, I’m tempted to say, in the same…
Posted to Video by Eric Berlin on August 19, 2005 02:31 PM

Good news for fans of Fox’s Arrested Development and NBC’s The Office
Fox and NBC wisely renew their best comedies.
Posted to Video by Tom Johnson on May 14, 2005 11:13 AM

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV – 4-8-05
Several shows trended to the dark side this week (The Shield, Lost), but what was really dark was the news that Peter Jennings has lung cancer. Check out Eric Olsen’s piece here. As always, I take on the shows I…
Posted to Video by Eric Berlin on April 8, 2005 11:03 AM

Cathode Ray Fray: The Week in TV
I’ve changed the name of my weekly television column from The Week That Was, which was a little boring, to Cathode Ray Fray. Please note some other changes as well: I’m still talking about all of the shows that I’ve watched…
Posted to Video by Eric Berlin on March 25, 2005 03:17 AM

DB on TV: The Week That Was – 3/18/05
Hey kids – I’m instituting a new column that I’ll hope to pump out just about every week and that will get posted somewhere in the Friday through Sunday corridor. The plan is to do a recap, review, and breezy-like…
Posted to Video by Eric Berlin on March 18, 2005 04:28 AM

Dumpster Busting TV: What the hell is wrong with Fox Television?
First Firefly. Then Wonderfalls. Now Arrested Development? To quote the blond chick who buys it in the original Matrix flick: No, not like this… Not like this. Did Fox lose all confidence in Arrested Development…? As far as I know, Fox…
Posted to Video by Eric Berlin on February 14, 2005 01:48 AM

Save Arrested Development
The best show on TV is on the chopping block. Do something about it.
Posted to Video by Tom Johnson on February 10, 2005 02:08 PM

Show Alert: Arrested Development
This is a ringing recommendation for you to watch the sharpest, smartest and most unconventional sitcom not on HBO — Arrested Development on Fox Sunday nights. Like most sitcoms, Arrested Development is about a family, the Bluths. However, unlike most sitcoms Arrested Development has no audience laugh track, no wacky neighbors, no cute kids and no fat guy with a hot wife (aka the CBS network’s sitcom blueprint). It is much smarter and weirder than that
Posted to Video by Chip Ross on November 7, 2004 04:15 PM

Emmy a mix of surprises and snoozes
Angels in America takes home everything as expected, but the hilarity of Arrested Development surprises.
Posted to Video by John Lars Ericson on September 20, 2004 12:49 PM

Can Arrested Develop An Audience?
I love Arrested Development: the particularity of its absurdity is sharp and richly detailed, rendering its satire on American values, the idle rich, the formerly idle rich, the formerly rich but still idle, and intra-family relationships…
Posted to Video by Eric Olsen on August 2, 2004 07:30 PM

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    I only ever caught the show on DVD, and yet my wife and I had the same reaction: the first season was brilliant, while the second lost focus and wandered off-course, before finally picking up near the end. I haven’t yet watched any of the third season, but I don’t know what to expect.

  • Eric Olsen

    I sense that this is a pattern – hence their problems

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    No, I disagree — I think it has been consistently brilliant, but apparently it’s more of a “niche” comedy that only resonates with a certain portion of viewers and not the massive (bland!) tastes of the American public. I hope and pray it makes it to paid cable, where I predict it will live a long and fruitful life !

  • Eric Olsen

    as mentioned we haven’t seen season 3, but we both had the same reaction to seasons 1 and 2

  • http://counter-point.blogspot.com Scott

    I thought both seasons were brilliant, through and through.

    And season 3 was wonderful too. But with Arrested Development, I can usually only fully appreciate it after watching it on DVD a few times.

  • pepper

    hay scott rember me babby