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The Arrested Development Bluth Family Deserves Bin Laden

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A week ago, the Fox network played out the last new network episodes of three seasons of Arrested Development. For my money, the show had obviously imploded creatively. It started out pretty strong, but it turned out to be, as my hero would say, a brilliant mistake. Ah well.

The show was given great, incredibly adoring press, and ultimately several seasons to develop, but it just flat wasn’t going over with the general public. Now, the fan base of the show is understandably disappointed that their show never caught on, but some of those people seem a bit stuck on their sense of superiority.

Judging by AD fan comments on my review of their finale, many fans of the show cite its failure as evidence of public stupidity. Anyone who doesn’t see that Arrested Development was pure artistic genius must be a Skating With Celebrities or Everybody Loves Raymond-watching retard. Heck, even the Simpsons are hardly in a league with this achievement.

I have an alternate theory: people – including the smart end of the public audience – hated the Bluth family, and didn’t wish to spend time with them. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that anyone would do so, but some fans of the show obviously identify personally with the Bluth family. They seem to take the failure of the show as a personal affront from all the big stupidheads out in TV land that don’t appreciate the (extremely overhyped) supposed brilliance of the show.

For one thing, a lot of them seem to think that getting the convoluted show biz in-jokes that others don’t makes them some kind of Hollywood insiders. But getting the gag about having Henry Winkler playing jump-the-shark in invocation of his infamous Happy Days incident makes you a Hollywood insider in about the same pathetic way in which Tobias was an “actor.”

Still, the series did start out pretty good, and a LOT worse stuff has been a big hit. Plus, audiences aren’t that stupid. Even a fairly dark, quirky family sitcom such as Malcolm in the Middle has done quite well on the same network in the same era. Plus, of course, there’s always The Simpsons.

Now, these shows are not just beacons of bliss, and these are not entirely admirable characters. You might have to think a bit to see the good points of Homer, let alone Reese or Nelson Muntz.

But the Bluth family was just pretty nearly wholly despicable. There’s very little nice to say about most of these characters. Okay, let’s leave the kids out of it. George Michael and Maeby weren’t so bad.

But nearly everything about the adult members of this family was rancid and contemptible – with very little sweetening to make them a palatable continuing presence in your living room. Basically, the Bluths are Enron incarnate, ruthless and worthless rich thieves that cared little about anyone else, and didn’t care who they hurt. That was the whole premise underlying the show, and the principle storyline of the patriarch’s ongoing prosecution for corporate fraud.

Make that corporate fraud and TREASON. Ha, ha, ha. What a lovable old treasonous bastard. George Bluth, Sr. was specifically cleared of legal charges of treason in the finale, but ONLY legally. That he was not in fact colluding with the Hussein regime was purely accidental on his part. Also, it was hi-lar-ious that they were actually trying a Saddam look-alike, and the real one was running free. But I digress.

In addition to being crooked, they’re a ridiculously weak crew. There was some disgustingly pathetic neediness coming out of some of these characters that could get real old with a quickness. You might want to be a bit sympathetic to Buster on the grounds that he wasn’t so purely crooked as other family members, but by the post-seal period, shut up with it. By the time of the closing episodes with the fake coma, I’m ready to put him down for a mercy killing.

But for disgustingly weak and unappetizing, Buster had nothing on Gob or Tobias. These were both pretty loathsome personalities. Perhaps some folks would start to find Tobias’ whole “never nude” persona simply repulsive.

Worst of all, these characters – particularly the matriarch Lucille – were distinctly malicious. They didn’t just not care who they hurt in getting their money, but routinely gravitated to taking distinct active pleasure in the suffering of others – especially their own. Consider for example Lucille Bluth in the final episodes renting out the not-really-comatose son for medical experiments.

When the writing was at its peak, a broad minded viewer might overlook the repugnance of the characters to see the joke. But as we spent more time with the characters, and the writing started to come apart, the innate distastefulness of the characters did the whole thing in for being a watchable TV show – particularly the incest theme. It eventually devolved into the aristocrats joke week after week after week.

Ultimately, the Bluths were basically a liberal sendup of Enron America. I don’t know what kind of people would identify with such a crew, but I’m glad they’re not MY neighbors. They would represent a pretty fair version of some of the worst things the most fanatic Muslims would like to accuse US of.

Hey, if I thought the Bluth family was anything like representative of America, I’d vote to turn the keys over to Bin Laden. They richly deserve him.


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  • Ron Hildebrand

    I think the fact that nearly the entire family did consist of “loathsome personalities” was the core of the joke. Of course Lucille would rent out her comatose son’s body! The Bluth family was selfishness and venality taken to extremes, ranging from cunningly devious to idotiotically self-centered. Perhaps some of the concepts weren’t always hilarious in themselves, but the execution often saved them.

    If characters really need redeeming qualities to make a viable television series, which character had any of those qualities in Seinfeld? Which one was most admirable? Probably no one, while AD at least had Jason Bateman’s character and his innocent, floundering son, George Michael to play off.

  • Vcalzone

    OK, so your argument is that about 80% of television critics, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, quite a few writers and performers which I won’t list here, and just about anyone else who has created anything good does not comprise the smart end of the viewing public, and yet YOU do.

    OK, I have a better solution, one that matches reality. YOU comprise a member of the portion of the population (gaining in numbers) that thinks they have good and cool taste, but really was just spoonfed whatever the cool kids liked 10 years ago. Not saying that anyone who didn’t watch this show had this problem, but the ones that actively bash it kinda do.

    Shame on you. You give Elvis Costello fans a bad name.

  • Fair enough, Ron. The Michael Bluth character didn’t particularly strike me as all that great a literary thing, but he was not just completely nasty like most of his family. And again, George Michael was an ok kid, probably the best person in the family.

    And I don’t entirely expect easy lovable characters for comfort. That would be pretty artistically narrow minded, and would cause you to miss out on some good work. Seinfeld is the obvious example, as you point out- though even those purposely unlovable characters were not anything like as wicked as the Bluths.

    But if you want people to watch such ugly people as the Bluths week after week, you’re going to have to absolutely keep up that quality control. Archie Bunker was such an endearing character that hanging out at Archie Bunker’s place was like visiting with an old friend, though they were pretty well played out creatively by that point.

    But that writing was devolving rapidly at Arrested Development this year, and it’d take a whole lot more than the unearned sense of smug superiority exhibited by Lucille Bluth and her admirers to draw an audience.

  • Vcalzone

    Oh, and I didn’t miss your point or dodge it, it’s just that the concept that characters have to have positive qualities to be likeable or to be in a quality television show is ludicrous, as is the way in which you completely ignored any positive traits that the Bluths ever displayed to prove your own point.

    And the way you tossed in terrorism to try and drive your point home? Priceless. Bravo, sir.

  • We don’t think we’re “insiders” because we get the jokes. Fans of this show just tend to pay a bit more attention at the jokes.

    So what if we get the “Happy Days” reference? It doesn’t make us smug, it means we get the joke. Are you charging us for paying attention to the many layers of jokes that this show requires you to pay attention to?

    Not every family comedy has to be likable, either. Not every show is a “Brady Bunch”. From the beginning, the Bluths are an unholy, unlikable bunch. The only redeeming factor of the family was Michael — his determination to keep his family together. If that’s not a redeeming quality, I don’t know what is.

    His overprotection of his son was his only downfall, something that can’t be complained about but I’m sure George Michael wouldn’t have minded had he let off a bit.

    George is ignorant to his surroundings, as his controlling wife Lucille runs and operates out of her villainous contempt for anything below her supposed social graces. Buster is a product of his mothers self absorbtion, and has become the sheltered mothers boy we all know.

    Lindsay is the sister — adopted or not — and is the byproduct of being well versed in snobbery. When they lose their money, she snaps out of her delusion and realizes her marriage isn’t what she thought, but she, together with the gay-oblivious Tobias decided to stick together for the sake of their daughter, Maeby (isn’t that keeping family together a theme?). Their devotion to their daughter may extend to them seeing other people, but they’re doing it for her. Even when they attempt to get divorced, they end up back together, realizing thats all they have.

    Maeby is what happens when a child raises herself and is shy of parental affection. She bluffs her way through life and is forced to con the world into believing things she puts up. Her rebellions lay in her getting her parents affection, but that doesn’t work the way she wants usually.

    George Michael is, as mentioned before, the overprotected son. Much like Buster, he can’t really express himself and has curious desires — his cousin (Buster and his attraction to persons like his mother).

    GOB is an empty-shell of a man, shown the least amount of love of the bunch. He looks out for himself, as he’s been forced to. True, he doesn’t care who he hurts along the way, but thats capitalism, baby.

    True, the Bluths are holy unlikable on the surface. But deep down, the characters have a niceness we can’t disagree with. You criticize them as if they’re real, then you criticize us for buying into their situations.

    They’re a dysfunctional family — a sitcom norm. What makes this show remarkable in its three seasons is that even with their grossly exaggerated negativities, a few Americans bought into them. The fans aren’t to be criticized for this, because they found something unique and helped make it stay for 53 episodes.

    All without being ‘likable’.

  • Oh, honestly. Another review? You’re just doing this to get a rise out of people. Such an attention whore…

  • AztecTomb1

    “Someone’s a grumpy Gus.”

    First off, how can you possibly defend the Seinfeld characters as being less morally repugnant? I recall George pushing women and children out of his way as he tried to escape a kitchen fire in an apartment. Or there was the time Jerry stole a marble-rye from an old woman. Or when Jerry dated a woman whose boyfriend was in a coma. Or the time George’s fiancée, Susan, died as she mailed out their cheap wedding invitations, and then how George used her death to help him score dates as a bachelor. I’m sorry, but Seinfeld was devoid of any redeeming characters, yet they were loved because of how funny they were. This same principle applies to the characters in Arrested Development, although that humor was clearly lost on you.

    In addition, the Arrested characters are at least balanced by the moral compass of the show, George Michael Bluth. Despite his incestuous urges, George Michael displays the sort of values we as a society strive for in the face of increasing moral turpitude. He is devoted to his family, he works hard, and always does the right thing, aside from getting to second base with his cousin (speaking of which, how could you not laugh at the Pete Rose photo? C’mon!!!). It is through George Michael’s enduring innocence that his father, Michael, was redeemed from the questionably moral conduct his family regularly engaged in. Michael’s redemption culminated in the finale when he raced to his son’s aid. Michael finally realized that all that had gone on for the past three years meant nothing compared to supporting and caring for his son. He had lost sight of this basic truth as he sought to keep his other family members together and the business afloat, but in the end he got it right. That scene captured the essence of these two characters and the true depth of the show.

    Most importantly, however, is the fact that this show was as funny as anything that has ever been on television. Sadly, as you are clearly an example, if a person were to get hung up on how the characters were behaving then that person would most likely fail to see the wealth of humor being flung at the viewer in varying layers. Actually, anyone who cannot get over the ridiculous antics of these characters ought to take a deep breath, and realize that they are watching TV CHARACTERS!!! Why in the world would anyone watch a sitcom to see a collection of morally righteous stiffs? In fact, as we saw in an episode of Seinfeld, when Elaine associates with Bizarro Jerry and his friends, the only reason they were funny in the least was because they were the opposite of Jerry, George, and Kramer. Last I checked, we watch these shows to laugh and escape our day-to-day lives for half an hour, not to be preached to or be bored to death.

    This is where Arrested Development came in. From blue paint on the walls, shark jumping, Motherboy XXX, Poof Magazine, school election videos, to drug-dealing on a boat to teach a boy a lesson, this show found more inventive ways to make a person laugh than most shows will discover in a 10-year run. The show required a viewer to look beyond the one-liner a character uttered in order to see all the humor that the writers, actors, and creator put into each scene. Joke on top of joke on top of joke filled each show and made even the lesser episodes a joy to watch, at least for those of us who dared to ignore the morally flawed characters that inhabited the show.

    I don’t have a problem with you sharing your opinion that the show was “over-hyped” or that it was a “brilliant mistake.” I simply feel sorry that you were unable to unclench and enjoy 53 episodes of absurd, comedic bliss.

    Anyway, when I start to look to sitcoms to provide morals and characters of uncompromising values that is when I will know that I have lost all semblance of a sense of humor. I’ll look for you if I get there.

  • David

    Do you think that the characters of Seinfeld (one of the few shows I would put in front of AD, but not by much), possibly the most popular sitcom ever, were not mallicious or unlikeable? Jerry mugged an old woman, George felt relief after his fiancee died, etc. You seem to turn your rants on Arrested Development into mini psychological lessons. I can’t wait until your next blog, what will it say? ‘I don’t think the audience could connect with Buster on a personal level.’ I find it funny that you use reverse psychology as well. You only seem able to catch a few of the jokes in the show, so you try and lash out at people who do get these jokes as if you are too smart to pay attention to the “smart jokes.” Face it, you don’t get this show. I’m not judging you, but come on, how can you say this is creatively imploding. If Arrested Development lost the creative spark, then what about your garden variety shows, such as Everybody Loves Raymond? How many times is Ray going to do something stupid, get in trouble with his wife, and then be coddled by his mother who then insults his wife? Keep in mind, AD had episodes this past season where Michael’s love interest was mentally handicap; but you are right, we see these kinds of plots every week on sitcoms. You nitpick at this show to try and make yourself feel smart, purely for the fact that you don’t get it.

  • Triumph

    I like your reviews of Arrested Development–but then again, I eat my own crap.

  • I find it very interesting that you started to lash out against Arrested Development after the season was done and when the future of the show is uncertain. It makes me wonder if you actually were a fan of the show. It’s very easy to criticize the show once it’s off the air. I think you’re attacking the show just because you are angry that you never understood the show yourself. Please don’t call yourself a one-time fan of the show ever again. It makes me cringe to think that it could possibly be true.

    Oh yeah, I absolutely loved the way you used Bin Laden and terrorism to drive your point home. I find it to be a great gimmick. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of that in whatever crap you write in the future.

  • LovePump

    Al, you write this drivel just to get a rise out of AD fans. You are pathetic

  • You clearly didn’t “get” the show, so why do I care about your opinion? I just signed up for Google news alerts, and if this drivel is representative of the “news”, I’ll be unsubscribing quickly.

  • Constantine Peterson

    MR Barger, all I can say is well done.

    Your poorly written little blog has recieved a massive amount of hits, and only because you decided to attack a sinking ship.This work does not deserve the circulation it got, but I suppose that was your intention when you penned this drivel. Your bosses must be over the moon.

    I am not a massive fan of the show, but I have seen enough of it to recognise it as the best sit-com on Television.

    You really should try to make a career out of attacking this show, cause it seems that it is the only work of yours that people will actually read.

    Grow uo Barger. The fact that you wrote a completely unaccurate article about a show you seemingly know noting about, just because you think somebody might actually read it, is pathetic. I’d call on all AD fans not to respond to this article. Why lower yourself?

    Mr Barger is destined to write these Blogs for the rest of his ‘career’. I wonder why a major publication hasn’t acquired his services yet? He’s so wise

  • Dave Ryan, thank you for your thoughtful comment #5. That’s definitely the best, most considered answer I’ve had to either of my two AD columns. I’m not sure how much of your argument I’m buying, but I can almost kind of halfway see some of your defense of a couple of them- though I’m still failing to see the point of identification.

    Noting this, I have to temper my criticism at least a bit. You seem like a reasonable fellow who identifies with characters that just ain’t making it with me. General criticisms do not apply to those to whom they don’t apply, and that definitely includes you.

    But some of them anklebiters running loose here, what do you think you’re accomplishing? I’ve made detailed and carefully considered critiques of a scripted fictional tv show, and you respond with dumb personal attacks on me. Do you think that random insults against me in some way would offer persuasion to someone else regarding the merits of this show?

    Now, besides being more personally pleasant, Mr Ryan has actually made some bit of positive defense of these characters and their show. That kind of approach might get you somewhere.

    And really, some of you need some new material. You keep insisting that I’m just a big old stupidhead that didn’t understand. No, I’m a member of Mensa- I think I understand your little sitcom. I GOT the jokes- I just thought they were rapidly becoming more repetitive and less funny. Yes, of course cruel Lucille Bluth would rent her not-even-comatose sone out for medical experiments, but that obvious play was not executed with any significant creative wit. I’m not buying it for funny.

    But pay attention, cause THIS column was not particularly a “review” of the show- note that it’s not labeled as such. It was an explication of the negativity of the underlying characters.

    Did it not occur to you that when you start carrying on with dumb attacks on me like these that you’re just re-enforcing the point of the negativity of the characters and some of their fanbase?

    On the other hand, at least one of y’all from the other thread thinks that playing on the names with William Hung and Judge Reinhold means that the writers are just like Shakespeare.

    How could I possibly argue against that?

  • Vcalzone

    No, it occurred to me that attacks would be wasted on you. But you didn’t strike me as having an argument that was subject to reason, particularly since you just wrote something expressing your distaste for the show a week ago. And I somehow doubt that anyone looking to get into the show would check first here for an opinion.

    That said, the reason the writing was kind of off this season was because they had to hire an entirely new writing staff after the combination of fear over cancellation and strenuous working hours made several key writers leave. So if it seems like the show changed this year, you’re right.

    However, your argument is with the characters in general, not just this year. And while nobody could argue that the character of George Sr is completely self-absorbed and corrupt, you’d be hard pressed to say that none of the others have ever exhibited any positive traits whatsoever. Actually, I’d argue that they all want to be good people, and often make an effort to make moves toward that goal, but their own fear and insecurity brings them back to being safely oblivious to their own problems.

    So to demonstrate that just because I think you’re a moron doesn’t mean that I’m one or that I can’t defend my point:

    Lindsay is a wanna-be activist, and perhaps at one point in her life, she really was one, but years and years trapped in a marriage completely devoid of sexuality and respect have left her in a state of complete denial and a constant longing to escape her own responsibilities, even though she knows she can’t.

    As for Tobias, I have no idea why you would call him a loathsome personality. Part of that might be because you gave him nothing more than a cursory mention, but even though he’s oblivious to most of what’s going on, at least he cares for his family. Even if he’s checked out emotionally, he’s always there for them when it really counts, and they know that.

    GOB is a pretty clear-cut case of a guy who just didn’t get enough love from his dad, so he’s imitating all his dad’s bad habits: womanizing, lying, manipulating. However, when he realizes that he might actually hurt someone in the family (George Michael, Michael, Maeby), he backs off instantly. And when he had to choose between turning in his brother or his father, he made the right decision.

    Maeby has been emotionally orphaned for a long, long time, and so now she looks out only for herself, and doesn’t really recognize the damage she’s doing to other people. It’s called antisocial personality disorder. And while it certainly doesn’t make her a good person, she definitely has been shown to feel remorse from time to time, even if she immediately runs away from those feelings.

    Lucille is clearly very resentful of her children and of George Sr, for making her give up her own dreams and ambitions in favor of a family. She was revealed to be the one running the show, but never gets any recognition for it. She’s a horrible person, but you can understand how she got that way.

    Michael might display negative traits from time to time, but he’s the only character that actually makes an effort to do the right thing, even when it’s really damn hard to do. With the exception, of course, of George Michael, who ALWAYS tries to do the right thing, ALWAYS puts his family before himself, and NEVER asks for credit for it. And he was taught to do so by Michael.

    In summary, you can make the argument that these characters are extremely flawed, and you’d be correct. But since when is that what matters? The bottom line is that you can determine the reasoning for what made every single one of these characters the way they are, and why they continually fail to evolve. Which is more than you can say for ANY other TV show you named. Even Simpsons just had Bart pop out of the womb as a total bastard, and Lisa pop out as a goody-two-shoes. Seinfeld never made any character analysis at all. Can you say you know what made them the way they are, or did they just pop out fully-formed and completely devoid of conscience?

    And BTW, you won’t get anywhere with me by name-checking Mensa. You had more credibility when you said you were an Elvis Costello fan.

  • Acrylamid

    “the innate distastefulness of the characters did the whole thing in for being a watchable TV show – particularly the incest theme.”
    Your point is that TV shows with unlikable characters and incest themes can’t attract many viewers.
    Although I think that most of the characters are likeable (as explained by Vcalzone) and the themes are much more multi-layered than just incest jokes, the assumption is simply not true.
    What about Married with Children and War at Home? These shows have only unlikeable characters without any redeeming features. George Michael alone shows more heart and sensitivity than both casts together.
    And the incest theme was heavily used on Friends, which was one of the most successful (and mainstream) sitcoms ever.

  • Professor Chaos

    I started reading this second article of yours, and at first I couldn’t even finish it and wanted to jump down for the angry comments. But I held off and went back to re-read the article because I wanted something more effective than “Stop trying to get a rise out of such a loyal fanbase of people” like I was going to say.

    After you talk about how absurdly ravenous the AD fans are, you do get to making an interesting point about how loathesome the Bluth family is. When I started watching the show I could not have agreed more. I could not relate to a family that would stab each other in the back and maniplulate each other the way they did. Plus this show was on Fox whom had cancelled Futurama (and Family Guy) so I assumed the show was crap. I wasn’t reading all the magazines and online articles praising it because I generally don’t waste my time on TV shows like that.

    That might have been the end of it if it weren’t for some friends of mine growing quite fond of it in season 2. I hung around, watched parts of the episodes and I found it really funny. But you always enjoy things more when you are surrounded by friends that are enjoying it as well, so I was still cautious.

    Without having a TV connected to cable or antenna I have been getting TV DVDs from the library recently, and decided to try out this Arrested Development that everyone had been raving about. And watching the episodes in DVD format, chronologically is where the subtleties really started to come through. The characters are in a state of arrested development (to really run that theme into the ground). And you notice that while all these characters are greedy and self centered, its because they never grew up, being safely under the umbrella of the Bluth fortune. Realizing that then you begin to see that the characters have a certain innocence to all of them (except maybe George and Lucille).

    Gob is a magician because it serves his needs for attention and he is always just trying to impress everyone. He’s like a kid going off a diving board demanding that his mom look at him.

    Tobias, despite all his homosexual tendencies really believes himself to be heterosexual (at least until into the third season it seemed, new writers, gah). Its not like he’s trying to hide a secret, because he just doesn’t believe it himself.

    Lindsey I always found to be more of a charicature, but she really is just used to getting everything, but at the same time she genuinely wants to help people. She just doesn’t understand that it hurts her credibility to do that without self-sacrifice.

    Hell, even Lucille isn’t as malicious as people classify her as. While she certainly looks out for herself first and foremost, when people mess with her family they often end up missing or passed out in a bar after a drinking contest. She’s a strong woman that will fight tooth and nail for anyone she deems to be “on her side” which I think is quite endearing.

    I think that the Bluths faced the same problem all good villians do. Many people are able to appreciate a good villian and enjoy the dynamics that go into creating and executing such great characters. Meanwhile others will simply take them at face value as bad people, and will often not even like the actors who play such great villians just because they leave a bad taste in their mouths.

    Now I only expect you to “almost, kind of, half-way” see my arguments (I’m sorry for the personal attack, it was childish) but I would like it if you would join me in calling a truce. People posting here think they are smarter than you, and you think you are smarter than the posters. You can see how this can only escalate. I am telling you right now that you are probably smarter than some of the people posting comments here, and you are probably dumber than some of them as well. Its nothing pesonal, its just that its kind of a big world out there. Its starting to become a battle of who can out-snob who and its tiresome.

    My opinion personally was that although a lot of the third season I found relatively dismal, the last four episodes (especially the last three) really did feel like the AD I knew and loved, and it was probably one of the best series finales I have watched.

    Professor Chaos

  • Professor Chaos, now you’re talking halfway sensible. Some of your defense I can see, but why do I want to bend over so far backwards to identify with these unsavory characters? After a certain point- which comes fairly soon- the utter shallowness of these people loses my interest.

    Also, don’t worry about giving me a little insult or two. It comes with the territory. A little of that is natural emotions, and that’s cool.

    Plus, there’s not really escalation to come with the silly AD fans. I’m restraining myself on grounds of not wishing to engage in battles of wit with the unarmed. Notice again that despite some provocation, I’m really trying to address myself to the actual artistic artifact- the show itself- rather than silly folks who seem intent on taking my comments on the Bluth family personally.

    But going back to my first story, the actual review, I just don’t see how anyone not absolutely chauvinistically attached to the show could think it was much good. A notch up from Raymond MAYBE, but that’s setting the bar very low.

  • Vcalzone

    You’ve done nothing BUT insult the fans. How are your first 5 paragraphs not insulting and disdainful? I have no problem with people who don’t see the humor in the show, but when people start to make generalizations about the show and its fans, it pisses me off.

    Even in your last comment, you didn’t say, “I just didn’t see what was so great about the show”, you said, “I don’t see how anyone could think it was very good”. That’s an insult. So I hope you’ll forgive me for taking it personally.

    As for the last episodes, I think you had to be a fan of the show to really get them. They weren’t made for other people to enjoy. And realistically, they were made by people who had been on the brink of cancellation constantly for three years, all while making a rather innovative and amusing television show, at a time when almost every sitcom on the air was pure crap. And now they have to sit back and watch The Office succeed where they did not. If anyone in the world deserves to be spent artistically, it’s those guys. Did I find those last episodes funny? Absolutely. Would I expect anyone to find them as funny if they didn’t know the show very well? Absolutely not.

    But again, the idea that it didn’t succeed because people didn’t like the characters doesn’t hold water. It just wasn’t the right time, and Fox hasn’t been able to market an intelligent comedy for years. Even Family Guy only took off because Adult Swim did all the work for them. Every other comedy they’ve had in the last five years has either flopped or has been a success because it was tagged along to American Idol or been nestled between Simpsons and Family Guy.

  • Brian

    “You keep insisting that I’m just a big old stupidhead that didn’t understand. No, I’m a member of Mensa- I think I understand your little sitcom.”

    I think Mensa just lost some of it’s luster.

  • Vcalzone, you try my patience with comment 19. You’re such a big fan of a show that made a big point of finding humor in cruelty, yet you come with

    “I don’t see how anyone could think it was very good”. That’s an insult. So I hope you’ll forgive me for taking it personally.

    Oh, the tender sensitivity by which you found the pea of an insult under seven mattresses of me making nice.

    Alright fine, I’ll be direct. That’s just the kind of hurt feelings over NOTHING that makes me want to slap the taste out of the likes of Tobias or Gob. But I don’t think that even the mama’s boy Buster would be that pussified over so little a bit of nothing as me saying I don’t see why anyone would like some and such show.

  • Vcalzone

    I wasn’t hurt, I was pissed off. And only pointing out that your previous statement that “I’m really trying to address myself to the actual artistic artifact- the show itself- rather than silly folks who seem intent on taking my comments on the Bluth family personally.” was not really true.

    Had you not MENTIONED the fans in your article, I wouldn’t have cared. I didn’t say word one about your review, even though I didn’t agree with it. But when you say something like:
    “For one thing, a lot of them seem to think that getting the convoluted show biz in-jokes that others don’t makes them some kind of Hollywood insiders. But getting the gag about having Henry Winkler playing jump-the-shark in invocation of his infamous Happy Days incident makes you a Hollywood insider in about the same pathetic way in which Tobias was an ‘actor.'”
    or “Ultimately, the Bluths were basically a liberal sendup of Enron America. I don’t know what kind of people would identify with such a crew, but I’m glad they’re not MY neighbors. They would represent a pretty fair version of some of the worst things the most fanatic Muslims would like to accuse US of.”

    That’s not insulting the show, that’s insulting the people who like the show. And in an extremely dismissive fashion. So forgive me if I responded in an equally dismissive fashion.

  • James

    I think the generalizations made in your review have really missed the point, and really the genius, in Arrested Development altogether.

    Forgive me for being blunt, but it seems like all the critics of AD have really jumped on the same bandwagon. As a fan, I can say I don’t watch the show because I identify with Michael Bluth’s situation, or even really associated anything with the Bluth family. In fact, I don’t even really care much about the content of the show, as long as it doesn’t get old and stale.

    I like Arrested Development because it’s great humor. The juxtapositional irony, the fast paced, rapid fire situations, the spontaneity and random events, and numerous other elements which you don’t see in your average, run of the mill comedy. Arrested Development is fairly unique in this aspect.

    It seems to me that the only person who is really guilty of what you accuse the fans to be is yourself. Step off the pedestal and enjoy Arrested Development as the rest of us — a simple comedy.

  • Jake

    What exactly do you mean when you say “For my money, the show had obviously imploded creatively.” Are you referring to the show imploding over the course of 3 seasons? or are you referring to how it closed season 3? If it’s the first, that’s a ridiculous comment, because the show was by far the funniest show on television. If you are saying that it imploded creatively based on the 4 finale episodes, then think about this: The writers had to cut down the number of episodes from 22 to 13, which means they have to pretty much scrap their planned progression of the season and adapt to a timeline considerablly shorter. Add to that the fact that they had to come up with a possible series finale, but still leave an opening in the event that another network picks up the series. I agree, there have been funnier episodes, but given the circumstance, the writers delivered.

    What do you suggest AD viewers watch now??? A show like Freddie? Please. The reason that AD did not attract the audience is not because viewers “hated” the Bluth family, but because FOX did NOT care about the show. You will see promos for American Idol and 24 all day long, but how many teasers do you see for AD? Barely any, if any. Had I not read online about the season 3 finale, I would have missed it…why? Because I did not see 1 single promo for it at anytime on FOX…terrible. Also, look at how they would show 1 or 2 new episodes, then take it off the air for a month while baseball is on…terrible again. I don’t know who is making the programming decisions over at FOX, but I’m certain I could do a better job.

  • Hounsy

    To each there own but I don’t have to like characters personas to find them funny and watchable. In Arrested Development I believe the malice and distaste of so many of the characters is what made it for me.

  • Sam

    I would have to disagree with your assessment as to why they show has not caught on. I think that the average American does not want to think while watching half hour comedies. They expect the comedy to be handed to them on a silver platter, whereas it doesn’t always work that way with the Bluths. Dont’ get me wrong; I’m not saying that Americans are stupid or don’t think while watching TV at all. Procedural dramas like Law & Order and CSI dispute that. They just don’t like to think while watching comedies.

    And by the way, the show’s quality has not diminished one iota since it’s premier.

  • Billy Charlston

    The idiot who wrote this article should be shipped off to Afghanistan and left to fend for himself.

  • Nelson Wade

    I agree with you that many fans have a hard time taking any criticism of the show. I think many of us Arrested fans blindly follow the show, and defend it rabidly. However, if it is done tastefully than I’m all for a good discussion of the show’s strengths and weaknesses.

    I disagree with your point that it was how loathsome the family was that made it hard for the show to succeed. There was a variety of factors that made it rough for the show from the beginning. The show was so layered with jokes and story lines if you were a new viewer tuning in halfway through a seaon, you would be lost. I think that while this made it harder to find a larger audience, Arrested should be congratulated for not comprimising it’s artistic vision. Even though it did the shark…
    it did so on an episode that was origionally entitled the “Chicken Tender-Crisp Comedy Half Hour.” If you don’t watch the show alot it’s these kind of things that you miss and don’t get the full brunt of the jokes.

    The creators and writers did their part of making a show that was hilarious and brimming with genius. However, even though fox did keep allow it to run. They never gave it a real chance. If they had given it a chance they would of taken a look at the shows strength and came up with a marketing strategy that would of emphasized them. Even though it ran for 3 seasons people still assumed that it was a cable show. Fox left most of the promotion efforts to word of mouth from the fan base.

    I think that the point has been made that there is a market for unlikable characters throughout history. The series finale of Seinfeld ended in a simillar vein, with all of them getting arrested for violating the good samaritan law, and the subsequent trial testifying how bad of people they are.
    You can look at the Arrested’s season (hopefully not series)finale the same way. Sadly Seinfeld’s stood as a widespread cultural event, due to the fact that that it was promoted effectively finding a large and loyal audience. While Arrested will be remembered as a shamefully underwatched gem that ended tragically

  • DaveBluth

    Once again, a review that just proves more about who YOU are and says very little about the show. Each paragraph can be broken down into this:

    **Extremely funny example of how great the show was, and yet, in your view, shows how repugnant it is and then you back your view up with another example of how great the show was.**

    You will never change minds with that kind of argument, and I think you know it. Why? You are not making sence to anyone but the people who think like you. And the people who think like you dont care about AD so they wouldn’t bother reading this blog entry. So what ARE you trying to achieve?

    Don’t lie… Fans of AD don’t blame “people” – you are. Just read paragraph four. We blame FOX. We blame crappy ratings systems. Eveyone I ever presented this show to got hooked as quickly as I did. People are not to blame.

    Don’t insult us… specifically the last two paragraphs. Just because we are happy, and we express that, doesn’t make us evil. We get a joke, we laugh, we feel good.. It’s simple. And we want that feeling to continue for as long a possible. But somehow, to you, that makes us the evil portion of the US. If fanatic Muslims hate us for that… then fine, let em. But don’t forget, you are hating us for the exactly same reason. Again… that says A LOT about YOU, not us.

    Now, I don’t claim to see myself in any of these characters, but I can relate easily to anyone who is tring to do the best they can, like the central figure, Michael, which the knowledge and experience given to them, and battling against others (including family members) who are doing the same thing, but their knowledge and experience gives them wholly contrary ideas. Michael, for the most part, has honorable goals and tries to achieve them the right way. The others.. not so much, and they insult and lie to get on top. It’s exactly like this blog entry… same show results in different views… WE love it. We dont have to put people down to love it, we just LOVE IT. Period. YOU, on the other hand… YOU say this show sucks… You insult us by calling us snobs… You flat out lie… so, you really have to ask yourself, what in your past has made you so bitter? Why do you have to insult and lie to get on top? Why do you try so hard to be like the Bluths you say you hate? Why can’t you just let us love this show? Why cant you follow the rules pointed out on this page and stop with the personal attacks? Like I said, your reviews say SO MUCH more about who you are than what you think you are trying to say.

  • Steve

    If a lack of likeable characters is to blame for the show’s demise, then how do you explain the popularity of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Seinfeld,” or even “The Office”? I have to disagree. I even think that at their core, the characters are humane and ultimately concerned with one another. But regardless, the pretzel-plots, unorthodox editing, and no-punch-line/laugh-track humor was not palatable to a mass culutre dumbed down by lowest common denominator jokes.

  • titus

    as a wise man one’s said:
    “You’re just doing this to get a rise out of people. Such an attention whore…”

  • K

    Why are you such an attention hog?

    … Really, why? This show was cancelled awhile ago, and you still waste your (and our time) whining about it?

    Whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

  • For the longest time, I considered ignoring your articles all together because I honestly believe you’re just trying to get a rise out of people. After doing some research, I have found that your other articles (the review of the Shield, for example) get little feedback. The first time you write about Arrested, you get over 100 replies…

    So, a week later you decide to do it again – sticking with what works best, eh? No worries, as a fellow television critic (411mania.com) I can relate, because any attention is good attention. As someone who has defended Arrested countless times (and to a much larger audience, no doubt) I really do not feel like getting into why this show is the funniest show on TV, because most people who have replied have beat me to it.

    Anyways, just wanted to point out I see what you’re doing here, and while it’s a tactic that works, I think even you could do better.

  • Michael Heumann

    “the series did start out pretty good”

    Yep, with solid writing like that, how can you possibly be wrong?!

  • Dear Steve Murrey, I’m sure my half million page views on MoreThings this month could in no way compare to your mass audience, but what’s your point?

    Some of y’all little whining bitches need to give it a rest. Also, you’re welcome to quit deluding yourselves. The show was NEVER all that.

    Further, quit making excuses for the FAILURE of this show. It had every break and every opportunity. It got one of the sweetest comedy spots on television, Fox Sunday next to the Simpsons and Malcolm. The show WAS promoted- it just never took off.

    In fact, a good chunk of audience saw the ads and the show itself- and REJECTED IT. You might kid yourselves that this is evidence that the public is stupid. Fine. Only a big stupidhead would disagree with you. But they did. Deal with it.

    You also need to quit deluding yourselves regarding me. I wrote a review of this much hyped show on the big occassion of its demise- but not particularly because it was going to get me any special big bunch of traffic. In fact, my big draws are The Shield and especially Johnny Cash- not this half-assed sitcom that never caught on.

  • IgnatiusReilly

    “I’m sure my half million page views on MoreThings this month could in no way compare to your mass audience”

    Your supposed to block your own IP address.

  • Alright Ignatius, I’ll bite: What do you mean “block your own IP address”? I have no idea what you even mean. What do you mean by block, who decided I should be doing such blocking, and why?

  • James

    Al, he means that trackers are not supposed to log hits from computers with the same IP address of the originating site. Basically a sarcastic way of saying “most of those half million page views are yours.”

    I also like how you selectively reply to comments with ad hominem attacks and reiteration of what we all know to be true. “AD is dead.” Stop beating a dead horse. Instead, try replying to more intelligent comments which point out why your review is flawed. Not the ones calling you an idiot, because both you and I know that there is no point feeding the trolls. Unless, of course, you just want to generate more hits. Because then that half a million becomes a pretty useless number.

  • Yes James, I know I should not feed the trolls, but then I wouldn’t get to respond to you, and your obviously purposely dishonest remarks, as for starters it is clear from the record that I have in fact responded to a number of actual critical arguments- not just you hatas.

    But perhaps you have somehow mistaken me for Gandhi. You can come in and say pretty much what you want to- but so certainly can I. People don’t need to think they can come up in my house being directly personally hateful to me on the assumption that I am somehow restrained by protocol from bringing down the pimp hand. I am not, and I will do so at will if it amuses me.

    You know, if that damned Tobias even HAD a pimp hand, maybe there’d be a marriage there. For that matter, George Bluth Sr could certainly have used a pimp hand. And a surrogate wouldn’t do.

  • Nelson Wade

    “The show WAS promoted- it just never took off.”

    Maybe this might have some basis for the first season. But after that Fox never really gave it a push and just expected it to find an audience.
    As i said previously. Fox was never able to create a big buzz around the show. Just like they failed with Family guy the first time around. They made Adult swim and DVD sales do that for them. Now FG is back as one of it’s flagship shows.

    A show like Arrested that is innovative fast paced and edgy needs people to hear how it is an hilarious emmy winning show. Fox is only able to promote shows that have a built in audience.. Action series (24, prison break) Reality (skating, American, Simple life). Comedies take a different approach. One that Fox is not skilled at employing.

    I watched fox alot during the first season it was on, and never even heard of the show. I only found out about it cuz I rented disc 1 on dvd at blockbuster.

    I don’t think that it is necessarily the case that it didn’t catch on because of the intelligence level of the American public. It is a combination of factors that the series takes a committed viewer to get the full effect, combine this with the fact that there was never alot of hype around the show to get viewers involved annd you have your problem. If someone watches the show starting at the pilot i think it’s very accessible. However if one was to start it at another episode they would be lost in the call backs, and the continuity of the plot line.

    You can criticize this and say that this is why America never liked it because of all the insider jokes. That made us fans feel like regular hollywood insiders. (sarcasm) Yet, why should the writers be penalized for trying to elevate a genre.

    Even if the jokes weren’t your cup of tea, i think you have to concede that it was constantly experimenting and finding ways of using innovative filming, and story telling techniques.

  • jeadly

    It is better to be loved than hated but better to be hated than ignored. Your lack of apathy is more compliment than all of your dissuasions.

  • LickMyLovePump

    Half a million hits, and you use this considerable platform to acclaim the “subtle touches” which made ‘Bringing Down the House’ the “Funniest movie [you] seen all year.”

    I fail to see the subtlety in racial stereotyping.To quote you, Mr Barger, I “get it”. Uptight WASP has life turned upside-down by brash, streetwise African-American, WASP learns to loosen up etc.This movie is as subtle as a sledgehammer.

    “Steve Martin’s performance at the Down Low Club particularly merits repeat viewings.” Is this what merits great comedy for you? A middle-aged white man trying to dance to Hip-Hop. If so you should just bin your TV and come to my local night-club with a camera. On any given weekend I’m sure you could capture hours and hours of such footage. Tragic, yes, but subtle? I’m not so sure.

    Mitch Hurwitz and the writers of AD go to great lengths to mask the humour of the show, so in this case repeat viewings really are essential.For someone who appreciates subtlety, I thought you would recognise this. I’m still getting new things from this show many viewings down the line. I have only seen ‘Bringing down the House’ once and didn’t like it very much, but obviously it’s more complex plot-points may require me to watch it again.

    I want to reiterate that personal attacks on you are wrong.You have every right to publish your opinion of the show.To be fair, though, you have attacked the fanbase of this show, and deserve everything you get. You are unwilling to actually engage people who have made valid points about your article, and instead pick on comments which have no bearing in a sensible discussion of the show. You obviously want to prolong the exposure you have gotten from this, and I suppose that’s understandable.

    I also find the way you see fit to comment on the people who watch this show deeply offensive.

  • IgnatiusReilly

    “Half a million hits,”

    We’ve already determined the inaccuracy of this claim, so can we please stop perpetuating it. Since Mr Barger counts all his own activity to his website, there’s no telling what other settings he is abusing.

  • Jeadly, this was a very reasonable statement, “It is better to be loved than hated but better to be hated than ignored. Your lack of apathy is more compliment than all of your dissuasions”

    Yes, that is correct. It took a pretty fair creative effort for them to positively annoy me as they eventually did. Raymond or Friends never annoyed me much, other than just generally by being around. The AD crew though did communicate something- even if I ultimately found it unpalatable.

    Ignatius, I’m glad to see that your life of leisure allows you the time to be concerned with the integrity of MoreThings server stats. Do you get paid for that somehow, or is it just a hobby?

    Those are just standard stats that come with the site hosting package. All I did was turn the Webalizer on. I wouldn’t know how to go about doing all that clever abusing you accuse me of. I’m too busy generating new content.

  • N Bluth

    The beauty of this show was that the Bluths were who they were.
    You really missed the boat. It’s not your fault though and it makes sense, if you don’t “get” something it can’t be good, right?

    If you’re one of those viewers who don’t want to think when you’re watching TV well then I think American Idol or skating with Celebrities will be right up your alley.

    One more thing, you had written that “the show never took off”. Have you seen the DVD sales for this show?

    You just didn’t get it did you? I guess that’s why they call it a smart comedy…

  • IgnatiusReilly

    “I’m too busy generating new content.”

    Which shouldn’t register as a hit, yet it does. It is not standard for someone to count their own activity on their web site as traffic. Feel free to contact your tech support.

    “the time to be concerned with the integrity of MoreThings server stats.”

    I wasn’t concerned with it until you started to throw around your illegitimate figure of half a million. A simple question was raised and you proved that the number is skewed. Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble.

    “Do you get paid for that somehow, or is it just a hobby?”

    Wow, with wit like that anyone can see you have much more talent than those hacks who write for AD. When do you pitch your show?

  • Gaz

    I having been reading all he bitching and back biting so far, and it is all infantile and meaningless.

    What I have to say is largely about the show.
    I am one of the few fans there are of this show in England, and the reason I liked the show, from the very 1st episode was it unlikeness to anything I’d seen previously. It was the only show that could spontaneously cause me to laugh right from the pit of my stomach. I was intrigued with its brash attitude. Nothing was considered too taboo for this show, which, I personally, found so refreshing. I was laughing at subject matters that I had never seen covered in any other comedy. Yes, I agreed, these subjects often made the lead characters the villains, but I wasn’t looking for a hero in this show, I was looking for laughter, and I wasn’t disappointed! No-body seems to have touched on the main source for jokes in this show; Misunderstandings! They so cleverly managed to construct situations where characters were talking cross purposes.
    Ok so you didn’t like the show, that’s fair. Each to his own. When they were writing the AD scripts they wouldn’t have been fully aware they weren’t going to please everyone, especially when considering some of the subjects they would be covering. I can sympathize with some of the other fans though in terms of a few the ‘swipes’ being made in their direction. We’re allowed to like the show, and don’t deserve the following (ok, maybe some of them do!):

    “They seem to take the failure of the show as a personal affront from all the big stupidheads out in TV land that don’t appreciate the (extremely overhyped) supposed brilliance of the show.”

    “a lot of them seem to think that getting the convoluted show biz in-jokes that others don’t makes them some kind of Hollywood insiders. But getting the gag about having Henry Winkler playing jump-the-shark in invocation of his infamous Happy Days incident makes you a Hollywood insider in about the same pathetic way in which Tobias was an “actor.”

    “Also, you’re welcome to quit deluding yourselves. The show was NEVER all that.”

    “No, I’m a member of Mensa- I think I understand your little sitcom.”

    Just because you don’t like mushrooms, don’t criticize other for liking them, or singing their praises. (a simile of course)

  • Gaz

    ….When they were writing the AD scripts they wouldn’t have been fully aware they weren’t going to please everyone…..

    The word ‘wouldn’t’ should have read as ‘would’

    type error, sorry.

  • Gaz- Buddy, you’re totally cool. I was not aiming at you. My criticisms are meant only where they apply- and that is not to you, nor to every single fan of the show. But I hope you can understand how I would think these comments perfectly applicable to some of these participants. I mean, some of these rude and frankly surprisingly seemingly not very bright AD fans come in here just BEGGING for a slap down. I’m simply trying to oblige my readers.

    But if you read either or both of my AD stories halfway close, note that to a significant extent, I did in fact like the mushrooms. It’s just that they left them on the buffet too long, and they were getting yucky and old.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to clicking on MoreThings. It’s a pretty big job for me to generate a half million page views in a month- particularly considering that I’m still stuck on dial-up here in the country.

    Actually Ignatius, that’s a half million month to date- and I’ve still got a week of traffic yet AND this is the short month of the year. That 1000+ page views/hour that I’m serving up a lot of the time now keeps me a might busy clicking, yes it does.

  • ‘Nuf Said

    Selected Shorts presents:
    “Portrait of a Simple Mind, or, The Blogger Doth Posture Too Much, Methinks”
    Being a selection of quotes from our supposedly gifted host, with internal commentary.

    by ‘Nuf Said

    “I’m a member of Mensa – I think I understand your little sitcom.”

    [[ I pray no Mensan would show such a face, ]]

    “Did it not occur to you that when you start carrying on with dumb attacks on me like these that you’re just re-enforcing the point of the negativity of the characters and some of their fanbase?”

    [[ Nor struggle with syntax – so lacking in grace!! ]]

    “Oh, the tender sensitivity by which you found the pea of an insult under seven mattresses of me making nice.”

    [[ Again, this seems English, but only just near, ]]

    “I’m sure my half million page views on MoreThings this month could in no way compare to your mass audience”

    [[ And what anatomy lack you, that you must compensate here? ]]

    “Some of y’all little whining bitches need to give it a rest.”

    [[ *Sigh* And so rises Mensa, the best of the best… ]]

    “Alright … I’ll bite: What do you mean “block your own IP address”? I have no idea what you even mean. What do you mean by block, who decided I should be doing such blocking, and why?”

    [[ Their wit, their intellect, proven by test… ]]

    “People don’t need to think they can come up in my house being directly personally hateful to me on the assumption that I am somehow restrained by protocol from bringing down the pimp hand.”

    [[ Their calm, their patience born of wisdom so true… ]]

    “I mean, some of these rude and frankly surprisingly seemingly not very bright AD fans come in here just BEGGING for a slap down. I’m simply trying to oblige my readers.”

    [[ It would only be boasted by an impostor — and fool. ]]

  • Nuf Said- Thank you for comment 50. Now THAT represented a decent thoughtful comeback. You made specific quotes with specific retorts, rather than just saying I’m a big old stupidhead. I’d say some of them zinged me better than others, but this was a pretty good creative retort.

    Thank you sir, may I have another!

  • I just finally watched the third season, and I have to disagree with you, Al. I thought that this season, and in particular the last few episodes, featured some of the best writing of the series. It was the first half of season two that I felt was the low point.

    The writers’ willingness to mock themselves made the last few episodes a delight for me. As when Tobias made a reference to a name I didn’t recognize, and then all of the family member present stopped and said they didn’t “get it” either. A brilliant response to the folks who’ve complained that they can’t follow the pop references!

    So yes, there are tons of in-jokes, and you can’t miss an episode. No, nobody actually lives like that. I hope. But it’s funny!

    The sympathetic characters, by the way, are the kids, especially George Michael. We’re not supposed to sympathize with the rest of them!

    I think that’s why the second season dragged near the middle. Too much time spent on the weirdo adults, not enough development of the kids.

    In any case, it seems Showtime might be picking up AD for two seasons, and I’ll be delighted if that’s the case.

    It needs to be watched on DVD, not on television, in my opinion.

  • Dynamo of Eternia

    I really enjoyed Arrested Development, and I hope that Showtime picks up new episodes. I don’t currently get Showtime, and I don’t know if I would go out of my way to get it if the show ends up on there, but I know a the very least it will eventually be on DVD and I can see it that way.

    I think that Phillip Win’s comment in post #52 saying, “t needs to be watched on DVD, not on television, in my opinion,” is pretty much right on the money.

    The show is great, but the problem with it is that if you miss an episode, you miss a lot of information.

    I’ve noticed a lot of people comparing the character personalities of this series to that of Seinfeld. And there is another comparison that I would like to make. In Seinfeld, typcially, each episode would have a few different plots/sub-plots going on, each would be building to something, and often times they would merge and cross over in the end, creating one heck of a punchline. But the thing with Seinfeld is that it was all contined within one episode for the most part (unless it is a 2-parter). In most cases, you could probably watch any epiosde of Seinfeld without having seen any other specific episode and pretty much be able to enjoy it and know whats going on. There are a few exceptions to this, as in some cases they would refer to things that happened in previous episodes, but not many (and in most of those cases, they would still give you enough info that if you hadn’t seen the previous episodes being refered to, you could still pretty much get what’s going on).

    With Arrested Development, it tended to have a similar manner of building jokes and plotlines up to various punchlines, but they would sometime take several episodes to happen. So, you had to watch the show consistently. Any one episode may have the punchline of a joke that was set up in a prior one, and then they will likely be setting up a new joke to have a pay off in a future episode. So, its not really hard to understand why the general public didn’t get into it. Someone who just happens to catch a random episode here or there is really not going to have much of an idea of what is going on and probably won’t enjoy it, and therefore will have little reason to want to tune in again.

    One joke that I loved was with the one blank VHS tape that the family kept reusing and taping over. It had video of George Michael with a metal pole or something pretending that he was fighting with a lightsaber in Star Wars. He used this tape for a school project, showed his presentation, and right where that presentation ended, the video of him battling with the saber kicked in and everyone laughed at him.
    Then, a few episodes later, there was stuff going on about George Sr. being involved with terrorists and what not, and then the government found what they believed to be a terrorist training video, and once again it was George Michael’s lightsaber video. I was cracking up at that one, but I could see where someone who hadn’t watched the show before would be completely lost.

    I personally am a huge fan os this series, and so is my fiance. I watched the show from the beginning of the series (I just happened to tune in when the first episode aired) and have watched it pretty consistently ever since. I also bought the both DVD sets that are out so far (and will get #3 when it is released). I didn’t know my fiance when the show first started, and she hadn’t watched much of it, but after I got the first DVD set and had her watch the first few episodes, she was hooked.

    And we are pretty average people. We do not feel that we are ‘superior’ to anyone because we like this show. Obviously the talks of cancelation have concerned us quite a bit (and the whole Showtime thing is still up in the air and may not happen). But, I can see the reasoning for it.

    Frankly, I am grateful that the series lasted as long as it did. They really tried to keep it going. I’ve seen Fox just royally sabatoge other shows (i.e. Firefly by not showing the episodes in order, when seeing them in order is rather necessary to enjoy it, and Tru Calling, which they put on opposite Friends and expected it to do well – morons). But in the case of Arrested Development, which got a lot of great reviews and had a small, but otherwise strong following, they really did what they could to make it last as long as possible. Most shows that got its kind of ratings wouldn’t have made it past season 1, let alone to a 3rd season.

    The writing on the series had its ups and downs, but all in all it was good. The fact that the family was so ‘dispicable’ isn’t much of an issue to me. There have been plenty of characters like that on TV over the years on very successful shows, so that’s not really an issue. Jason Batemen’s character was redeaming and just all around entertaining and excellent. He was perfect for his role.

    As far as the final episod of season 3 is concerned (and possibly the final episode of the series if Showtime doesn’t pick it up), I liked it a lot. It was really funny how it paralleled the first episode, and it gave enough closer on everything to be the end of the series, while still leaving it open enough to be able to come back.

    I hope it continues, but if it doesn’t, at least I can enjoy what there was on DVD. It was a great series, despite what anyone else says. If some people don’t like it, that’s fine, everyone has a right to their opinion. But, I do feel that for someone to really make a balanced opinion, they have to at least watch several consecutive episodes of the show to get a good enough taste of it to make a reasonable judgement. One episode is not enough to truely come close to understanding what makes this show so great to its
    audience. Maybe some people still wouldn’t like it, and that’s fine. All that I am saying is give it a decent chance before writing it off as not being worth while. I for one enjoyed the show, and I’m glad to have had it, even if others feel differently.
    And here’s to hoping that Showtime picks up this show.


  • Mark James Meli

    I got laughs from ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, but for me the show just wasn’t enough for me to bother to tune back in. If I watched it, I’d get a chuckle, but then I wouldn’t really assign couch time to catch it the following week. After watching it, I couldn’t (still can’t) understand what all the critical hoopla was about it. I mean, this is only a FOX show we’re talking about people!

  • With so many comments, perhaps this is getting old, but I read about the first half and just wanted to add some points in response to both your article and your responses Mr. Barger

    First, never in my life have i seen fans that defend a show with such vitriole. I know other shows that have been cancelled before their time (namely Family Guy before its revival) and it was defended, but the fact this show is passionately persued I just find fascinating and perhaps does speak to the show and not just towards the negativity of the characters. There has to be something special in the personal defense of this show.

    In addition, I would agree with your point to some extent of the degenerative writing in the third season. It was good in my opinion but the jokes were starting to repeat. If i may defend this, it could be that having the show’s fate in constant question might have affected its writing. I believe Mitchell Hurwitz has been cited as feeling quite a bit of personal stress due to the show’s conflicted future. Also this was another trademark of the show, to thread jokes over each season and each show. It could be that in a hope to retain its fanbase, the show stopped trying to completely revolutionize itself, as Family Guy in my opinion has done since its revival.

    In my opinion the problem with the show had nothing to do with your articles critique. I tend to agree with some of the comments i have read. Plenty of shows have unlikeable characters and it is true that you seem to have forgotten many of the redeeming scenes between them. To point to one moment, when Michael and Gob free their father and actually bond for a minute when Michael says he actually helped, or Gob’s cd in its own twisted way was very much endearing. I think that often the characters WERE likeable, but merely fluctuated between the follies of the rich, and their own hubris, and really what the show is about (ie family (which was said before))

    I think that the only real issue with the show, that is what gave it such a rabid fanbase and perhaps makes it seem so bad to the unitiated is that the show must be watched in order, from episode one to final. My impression is you are writing this for any joe shmoe (myself included) and perhaps just popping into the show somewhere in the 3rd season i would have just said ‘what is this?’ and changed the channel, but the show’s brilliance really comes not so much from the characters, the scenario or anything, but what it does as a show in general, that is able to so manipulate and revolutionize the sitcom comedy by making it something completely different where a joke in season 1 (Gob’s chicken dance) can be continued and expanded to the beginning of season 3. You may not like this show because of many aspects, but you simply can’t deny the ingenuity of its manipulation of the form. Personally i loved the characters, but can see their flaws, but what kept me watching was to see just what they might do next and especially in the last season they did start to explore this (the save our bluths episode in particular)

  • anonymous loser

    Okay guys, I admit it. I’m a fucking idiot.There. Happy now?

  • edd

    I respectfully disagree. THis show was great. Every inch of it. The problem was that you had to watch all of them, serialised, and consistantly to get the most from it. Half hour a week allotments do not cut it. This show was made for DVD.

  • Brandon

    Its not that the viewers relate to the characters
    the show is a Freudian Analysis of a dysfunctional family
    The Viewers Like the show because of the witty revelations through out the show the plot twists and running jokes i used to get chills at how well thought out this show is
    Arrested Development is a modern day Shakespeare compared to a lot of the bullshit out right now for example Two and a half Men

    do me a favor and google Freudian analysis of arrested development the show goes alot deeper than you think

  • Georgia

    Your analysis sucks. Arrested Development failed because it required a little more loyalty, a little more patience from its viewers than your average garden variety sitcom. You were rewarded if you remembered a line said in a previous episode, or noticed an off-handed comment that later turned into a minor storyline. There were many ‘aha’ moments, which made you want to keep watching it. It is an international hit and merely failed because Americans lack both patience and loyalty for something new and a little different, which is a fault of the viewers themselves and not that of the creators.