Sunday, May 26, 2013

With Arrested Development Back; Five More Shows We Need To Return

We all had our doubts.  We wondered if it could be true; right up until we saw our friend Gob doing the promos, and even then, we - I - felt like it was just magic.  Or, an illusion.

Gob.  Not Job - Ed.

Arrested Development has returned, thanks to Netflix!  What's more, although I'm only six episodes in and it's sort of a compromise of my values as a critic, well, it's good.  It's damn good.  It's coming together so beautifully that, well, I'm a bit wistful for other shows I loved as a kid.  Or, in Arrested's case, discovered something like nine years after it was cancelled.  So, here's five other shows that need to return - either on TV, on Netflix, or just somehow.

They aren't in any particular order.  I thought about quality-wise, but many of them are different styles of show, so that wouldn't help.  I thought about doing things chronologically, but that's not helpful; do you go with starting date, or cancellation date?  So, this is just five shows in a (mostly) non-deliberate order.  If you disagree...Hey!  I'm just some guy.  You're you!  Surely you have your own view!  And, surely, you've dedicated hours to writing editors and producers like I have.  Right?  No I'm not rabid!

Candidate Number One:  Firefly.
Chance Of Return:  Medium.
Fan Devotion:  Slavish!

Probably the most critically acclaimed and well-known of the shows on this list, I've written about it before.  Is it my personal favorite?  Probably not; but it had some nice stylings, it got a pretty decent movie conclusion in Serenity, and it has a fan-base which is pretty dedicated.  Dedicated fan-bases are important, but there are two problems blocking it's revival.  First is Serenity, itself; in getting that as a wrap-up, it essentially wrote major characters out of any potential new series.  Bringing dead people back, or "having it all be a dream," or whatever?  Not going to go over well, though I suppose it would be forgivable.

Second, and worse, is the very savior of Arrested Development itself:  Netflix.  On May 1st, in the full and raw light of Arrested's return, Netflix bigwig Ted Sarandos said to Stuff.TV:  "..."  Okay, he gave us a paragraph which didn't quite say "No," but he said that Firefly's fan-base had, in his opinion, shrunk down.  I already cited low viewership as a cause for it's original demise.  If that problem is exacerbated, well, I can see Summer Glau needing something else to do...

Candidate Number Two: Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Chance Of Return:  Low.
Fan Devotion:  Medium.

Oh boy.  This is perhaps my favorite sci-fi show, aside from one I'll mention (but decidedy not nominate) later.  I loved the Terminator series as a kid, and boy did I love this show!  Summer Glau did a great job as Cameron, Thomas Dekker did a great job as John Connor, and Lena Heady as Sarah?  Yeah.  It kicked serious ass.  So what happened?

Well, Season One was crippled by the infamous Writer's Strike.  Season Two, besides being poorly promoted, broken up into two halves as TV shows are wont to do (complete with shifting the night it aired), and having an admittedly drunken stupor for a middle-of-the-season, well...I guess that's a pretty complete list.  It's pending death was well known by the time the final episodes were written and aired, which is a damn shame - and it wasn't really well capped off, if only because there were hopes of it being picked up.  And it was - By Syfy, which didn't actually do anything with it.

Of course, the rights to the Terminator series have since fallen into a nightmarish maze of auctions and purchases, and the epic failure of Terminator 4 (That one Bruce Wayne bought his way into) really just kind of left the whole franchise under-ground.  This show was great, with an awesome storyline, very well developed characters, and a devoted fanbase at the time.  Now, however, "the resistance" has proven futile.

Candidate Number Three:  Undergrads
Chance Of Return:  Low.
Fan Devotion:  Canadian!

Well, wouldja look at that!  Another show I did a "Cancelled Before Prime Time" for!  This animated TV show retains a fairly strong Canadian following, vis-a-vis Teletoon.  And that's, honestly, quite awesome.  I try to introduce my friends to it, and they tend to love it, but that doesn't contribute to the still-flagging revival movement.

However, what gives this show a chance of being picked up is the fact that series creator Pete Williams keeps himself engaged with the fan-base, even myself.  Fans produce videos trying to egg the show back into existence, and it still comes up as a leading topic at conventions.  Up in Canada.  Is it forgotten in America?  Not quite; but in Canada, it certainly still lives quite well!

I know, scary - I've actually had, like, something resembling a conversation with a television guy!  Maybe he can help get Physics Incarnate made into a movie...If he can get his own TV show brought back!  Oh!  And speaking of people who ramble on as if talking to a computer screen while they type, but are constantly outrunning the speed of their brains with their fingers!

Candidate Number Four:  Homestar Runner
Chance Of Return:  High.
Fan Devotion:  Crazy-Go-Nuts!

If you don't realize that the above picture is not of Homestar Runner, but of Strong Bad, then you just don't understand, and must immediately go to the linked text within this sentence.  Homestar Runner was one of the biggest things on the internet, pre-Youtube.  Regular Flash animations uploaded once a week, often in response to fan e-mails?  Musical collaborations with They Might Be Giants and others?  A whole five-part video game created by Telltale Games?!  Oh, god, yes!

Homestar Runner is, and was, probably the best free show on the internet.  Yes, I am including The Angry Video Game Nerd.  H*R started off as just something small and fun, but ballooned into a series with inside jokes contained inside of other inside jokes.  It hit on literally dozens of TV tropes, like when a TV show would replace one actor with another without explanation; or, on other, more mundane topics like time capsules.  All you have to do is mash the "random" button about a thousand times a day and you'll understand.

But what happened to it?  Well, after more than ten years of content creation, The Brothers Chaps (and Missy Chapman, and others I'm sure) probably just burned out.  Up until a couple years ago, they'd occasionally drop a new bit of content onto the site, but the latest official update (as per the Homestar Runner Wiki) came via twitter over a year ago, merely teasing another Strong Bad Email that has yet to be made.  There's word that, as Matt Chapman has worked on shows like Yo Gabba Gabba, the "time versus money" equation has led to the need of H*R's creators to focus on real jobs in the face of independent projects, and that would make sense.

But, then again, sooner or later I expect at least one more cartoon to come out.  Or, for all we know, maybe something even crazier - after all, a tremendously huge adventure game was probably never in the original offing!

Candidate Number Five:  Arre--WAITWHAT?!  Arrested Development?
Chance Of Return:  Very high!
Fan Devotion:  Insomniac, today.

Okay, look.  We went from hoping to just get a movie made, to having something like ten episodes on the slate, to what we've eventually gotten:  Fifteen!  I'm six in!  I'm taking time out of my Arrested Development viewing to write this article!  And for what?  Because I am so impressed with what I've seen thusfar that I am confident that any more AD they make will, in fact, be also amazing.  And, frankly, because we have no guarantee that more will be made.

People like to forget that, as explained at the end of Season Three, one of the reasons the show was originally cancelled was that it was not exactly a show which could be carried on indefinitely.  And, people like to forget that writing anything is difficult - writing it at the caliber AD's Mitch Hurwitz and crew do?  Well, Hurwitz himself had said he was exhausted.  Unfortunately, television production is hard to "take a hiatus" from.  Let's mention T:TSCC - Lena Heady played Sarah Connor, but now she's playing Cersei Lannister on Game Of Thrones (an awesome show, by the way!).  So even if she wanted to go back, she's got a whole new contract on a whole new show to soak her life up.  Did I mention Homestar Runner addressed replacing an actor?  This was not an accident.

Moreover, I want to look for a moment at Lost.  Lost was an awesome show.  A lot of people didn't like Season Five, or how it ended, or that it was ever ended at all!  But Lost was the kind of show with a "closed plot," so to speak:  It had an ending which the creators surely had some ideas on, even if they weren't fully formed at the onset of the show.  And even though many hated the ending, and even though I kind of felt a little wonky about it myself, the DVD extra "The New Man In Charge" really gave it a nice cap.  To bring Lost back would probably hurt the series, not help it.

But Arrested Development is not Lost.  Lost is serious - AD is, well, not serious.  Not seriously serious.  True, there may be limits to what the show can become.  And, true, their writing staff is good enough to know when enough is enough!  But here's the trick:  Season Four is proving, so far, that Arrested is a real contender to be more than just fifteen episodes released on one day to temporarily nudge up Netflix subscriptions.  I don't know how Season Four ends yet, and it might end in such a way that the show couldn't possibly go on (for another half a decade, anyway!), but it's good enough that, if the writers wanted, they could always find a way to make it work!

And I think, as long as the writers have faith in what they're coming up with, that we need Arrested Development to serve as a benchmark for other shows which have returned from the cancellation void (Family Guy), and even ones that subsequently failed again (Futurama).

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