Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Love Arrested Development; as a Writer, and a Fan!

I'm gonna cut to the chase; I'm not much of a comedy writer.  Oh, I can throw out some funny characters from time to time, but situations which are funny are hard for me to figure out.  Even some of the best situation comedies (that's what "SITCOM" means; it isn't a U.S.  Military Command based around sitting!) seem droll to me at times.  My girlfriend, for instance, introduced me to "Friends."

It was good, don't get me wrong; but so many of the characters (Ross fucking Gellar) made me want to throw my TV set.

So that's why I'm so impressed with Arrested Development; and so stunned, happily, that the folks at Netflix are finally making a fourth season.




Making Every Character Count


The truth is that I didn't even watch Arrested Development until a year and change ago.  Now I've watched the three seasons of it about three times.  Not bad for a show that stopped running in 2006.  Also not bad; it won an award from IGN in 2011 for being the funniest show ever.  Yep; it beat out I Love Lucy, The Simpsons, and even one of my favorites, South Park.  And yet it was relatively short-lived?

See, here's the thing - Arrested Development works because each of its characters are funny, easy to relate to, and - most of all - has a place.  Even my least favorite characters (Tobias, I hate you so much!) have qualities which make the viewer know exactly how to feel about them.  You're supposed to hate Tobias.  You're supposed to hate Buster.  You're supposed to hate Lucille Bluth!  And, while the show clues you in on the fact that they aren't the ones you're supposed to relate to, they don't beat you upside the head with reasons to hate them as told by the characters to the viewer.

They simply are hate-worthy!


As it stands, the characters you are supposed to sympathize with are in fact sympathetic.  And as a result, you laugh at it all!  You laugh at their suffering because the show does a great job of blending the consequences of the real world with, well, the consequences of being able to get away with shenanigans.


Arrested Development from a Writer's Perspective


Comedy writing for a television program is all about knowing how to get piece A, piece B, and the set to interact in such a way as to make the viewer laugh.  If the viewer doesn't give a damn about the characters, then there's no reason to laugh.  If the viewer wants a character to suffer, chances are it's not that kind of laughter the writer is going for.  Most of all, if a viewer is too in love with a character to bear them suffering, it's not a frikking comedy.

Arrested Development relies a lot of referential humor, both to the goings-on of the world (such as the Iraqi plot), and to the characters' history (Barry Zuckercorn, for example; brilliantly played by Henry Winkler, AKA The Fonz).  When the viewer recognizes that something is going to go horribly wrong based on an obvious precedent - Lucille causing in-fighting between her children, for instance - it's funny because the characters don't realize until that split second when they can go, "oh, not again," and everyone watching can laugh.

In a show with no long-term consequences (being in jail is frequently just a laughable punishment in this world), where the police act in ludicrous manners (Richard Belzar's portrayal of "Professor Munch," a spoof on his Law And Order SVU Character), and where unemployment is more of an annoyance than a death sentence reminds me of a happier time when "get a job" was a joke, not an impossibility.

See, that was me trying to be both serious and funny.  And I probably failed!  Why wouldn't I; simply put, comedy writing isn't my thing, and it's an art which the folks at Arrested Development had damn near perfected.  They even knew enough to recognize that their show was suffering from serious weaknesses in its production.  A weekly show, the narrator (playing himself as a director) Ron Howard stated, just wasn't going to work - but a movie?

That was the plan!

And now, oh-so-happily, Netflix is going to produce a bunch of episodes in the true fashion of a resurrected TV show.  With Mitchell Hurwitz returning to write, and with Jason Bateman and Michael Cera returning to act, anything is possible as long as the plot is constructed in such a way as to make viewers completely buy into the show once more.


Season Four of Arrested Development - In Development!


The show did, in general, come to an end.  The plot, in effected, ended.  Moreover, it ended half a decade ago.  How are the writer's gonna catch the Bluths up to the modern day?  They were facing arrest and, moreover, wealthy folks living in the Pre-Great "Recession"-Era.  The marriage between Tobias and Lindsay was fucking doomed no matter how many times they puffed it up.  The hardest thing for me to believe is that they would still be together.  Without that dynamic, where would Tobias fit in?

What will the cinematography be like?  The handheld camera is a hard tool to film with, and Arrested Development did that perfectly.  The narration was amazing, but does Ron Howard still have it?  Well, I have faith!  If any show can come back and one-up Family Guy as the most successful "reborn" show out there, it's Arrested Development.  It's funnier, at any rate!

Then again, I've had faith in two other TV Shows getting renewed; underGRADS and Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  Both have rabid fan communities; the underGRADS one can be found here; the Sarah Connor Chronicles one here.  Will they be successful?  There are different issues with both shows.  But if Arrested Development is (finally) coming back, maybe they'll be successful, too!

Y'never know; I do have some openings in my schedule...

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