The story of a TV show that lost everything and the fans who kept it together


“Hey, you are watching Arrested Development, aren’t you?”

There was a demonstrably arrogant tone in the question, thoroughly at odds with the person asking it.

He was a middle-aged newspaper editor who sincerely wanted to know if I was watching the new sitcom that was all the rage in 2003 among TV critics, the East Coast elite, himself, the hipsters who claim to have watched a show when no one else did, and no one else.

I replied that I’d watched Arrested Development once but didn’t care for it.

The truth, however, was that I’d never seen the Fox series and had no intention to. The buzz surrounding the show as “must-see television” I found to be a put off. I was resisting the suggestion from others about how funny and cool the sitcom was because of the fact others were telling me how funny and cool it was.

Cool, I’ve always thought, doesn’t need a grass-roots PR campaign.

A year later, though, I finally sat down to watch Arrested Development during a mini-marathon, one of the network’s desperate attempts to get viewers to tune in to the low-rated show, and I realized how wrong I was.

The series was cool and it did need help. And lots of it.

By now in its second season, Arrested Development was a frequent inclusion in the “needs help to avoid network cancellation” category of shows facing the axe. And so I did my part and doubled my household viewership by getting my wife hooked on the show.

I also became an Arrested Development missionary, and spread its message of double entendres and hidden jokes, witty dialogue and genius casting to the masses. I praised it as the best sitcom since Seinfeld and the most subversive since the glory seasons of The Simpsons.

Even calling Arrested Development a sitcom is insulting, like calling a Ferrari a car. It’s so much more than that. The “... story of a wealthy family who lost everything, and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together ...” changed television, and for three not-quite full seasons it was proof positive of the brilliant possibilities of network television.

How often do “brilliant” and “network television” appear in the same sentence?

As with many things ahead of their time — Hormel’s short-lived, brilliant, and delicious Frank ‘n Stuff, which put chili or cheese inside a hollowed hot dog, comes to mind — Arrested Development never found the large audience it deserved and was rushed to a premature burial in early 2006.

Rumors persisted for years of a feature film. While we’ve suffered through TV-to-movie revivals like Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched, Starsky & Hutch, Beverly Hillbillies, Car 54, Where Are You?, and most recently Dark Shadows, the return of Arrested Development has dragged on longer than a Midwest winter.

But on Sunday the dead shall rise again with 15 new Arrested Development episodes streaming on Netflix, as series creator Mitch Hurwitz pulls off the greatest resurrection since a certain man in sandals 2,000 years ago. He even managed to return the entire cast to the project — though not all at once.

“There was no reality where we could get everybody for a full seven- or eight-month period,” Hurwitz recently told the Associated Press. “That gave birth to the form we came up with for the new series.”

Each episode will focus on individual Bluth family members and update fans on what’s happened to the characters in their seven-year absence from the airwaves.

“I started thinking that one of the compelling attributes of the show will be, ‘Where have these people gone?’ ” Hurwitz explained to Rolling Stone. “Now the story has changed from what happens next to what happened in the last six years, and what happens next?”

What happens next, fans hope, is that the series is a huge hit for Netflix and that Hurwitz will get the green light to make the Arrested Development movie as a continuation of Season 4.

And that is cool.

Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.