By: Melissa Levin
It was Saturday, May 25, 2013, 7:15 p.m., Eastern Standard Time in New York City. I should have been out celebrating Memorial Day Weekend with friends and family. Or, if I was just going to sit here in an empty apartment I might as well have gotten a jumpstart on the pile of work I brought home this weekend like many other thirty-something lawyers.
Instead, there I sat, alone in my quiet apartment stealing furtive glances at the clock like a five-year-old on Christmas Eve, secretly hoping that when I checked the time again it would be Sunday morning.
But it’s not December. And I can’t exactly say I’d pass for a twenty five-year-old these days, let alone a kindergartner. Except the Christmas analogy is not a total reach. I was actually waiting to celebrate a kind of holiday of sorts – a holiday with a family that I know and love and have missed dearly for what feels like years.
Because at 3 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in New York City I was in front of my television, sporting my “Bluth’s Frozen Bananas” T-Shirt and cut-offs (yep, I’m that kind of nerd), watching the first episode of the new season of Arrested Development.
Even the thought of this happening made me want to yell “Annyong” from the rooftops while doing a chicken dance (Note: Gob’s may have come first, but Lindsay’s was always the best) and pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t actually dreaming. And yet, Sunday was THE DAY! After beating the AD drum since the inception of the show back in 2003, futilely attempting to convince everyone I knew to watch the funniest show of all-time, Mitch Hurwitz has delivered the most coveted early Christmas present this girl could ever ask for: all 15 episodes of Season 4 of Arrested Development available instantly on Netflix.
Yes, instantly. As in, hook me up to a feeding tube and get me a bedpan because I’m not getting up from the couch until all 15 episodes are fervently consumed. At least, that’s how I was tempted to do this thing. However, this surreal experiment that Netflix is partaking in creates a problematic quandary for the avid Arrested fan: Do I give into temptation to compensate for years of withdrawal by watching the entire season as quickly as humanly possible? Or, do I watch the episodes at a controlled, unfrenzied pace, parceling out each episode in daily or, (God help me), weekly viewings?
After reading many articles on the topic and spending months of planning how many times I can watch each episode in a row before my fiancé calls the psych ward to have me committed, I am now of the school that believes binge-watching the new season would be a tiny [huge] mistake.
Part of the reason this show stands alone to me as the epitome of a perfect TV comedy is because it is and always has been so different from everything else on television. To say the writing, cinematography, editing, style, layered-story telling and subtle punch lines combined to make the show years ahead of its time would be understating the novelty and uniqueness of the experience. It was one of the first critically acclaimed shows to stray from that fixed-set, studio audience/laugh track style that long-dominated comedic television. When Arrested Development premiered, there was no 30 Rock, The Office or Parks & Rec to model itself after. It became the standard of how to make the smart, stylistic, fast-paced, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of sitcom that exists today. You didn’t need a laugh track to know when something was funny about the show. You simply knew you’d be laughing for the entire half-hour.
However, the most appealing difference to me was also the most problematic for the show’s survival: Arrested Development developed a unique self-referentiality through use of in-jokes that evolved over multiple episodes. This became a sort of reward system for longtime viewers, giving avid fans who would watch and re-watch episodes ad nauseam a payoff for being one of the few on the inside. Sadly, this same reward system arguably made the show too “insidey”, deterring new viewers from tuning in and ultimately contributing to the show’s cancellation.
But I digress. My point is: Arrested Development rewarded those fans who stuck with the show…over time.
Time is what made the show that much better.
Time is what it took for a random throwaway line in season one to be even more hilarious when subtly referenced two years later in season three.
Time is what was needed each week to watch and re-watch each new episode to help you realize that there were jokes that you missed during your first and second viewings.
Time is what brought the show its gradual, yet inevitable cult following. There’s no way this new season could have happened without the passage of the seven long years it took for the masses to catch on and realize how incredible this show is.
And time is what the show was way ahead of when its first three seasons premiered years ago. Now, a decade later, I think it’s time that Arrested Development has finally gotten its due.
And as anxious as we all are to consume this new season in one sitting, I can’t imagine the viewing experience being any better than by really taking the time to enjoy each episode as it should be. Piece by piece, episode by episode, cornhole by cornhole.